Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Border Crossing: reflections from Carol Leland on CPT delegation to southern US border

By Christine Sheller

May 3, 2019 people gathered at the Ivester Church of the Brethren to hear Associate Ivester church member Carol Leland, speak on her participation in March 2019 in the CPT delegation to the southern border.
  She began her presentation by saying the perspective she was presenting was neither political nor humanitarian, but a collision of these things.  She cited the term “Border Crossing,” which is also a book, about how it can refer to the spiritual journey.  We create walls in our minds that promote racism and other things that separate ourselves from God and ourselves.  She experienced “border crossing” in the literal and spiritual sense on her Christian Peacemaker Team delegation to the southern border. 

She shared information that many may not know.  According to, there is already 600 miles of border wall.  Barbed wire has more recently been added.  She said it “was disturbing to observe.”  Accordingly, to know the facts includes that the proposal by the White House is to add 200 more miles of wall.

The largest amount of people attempting to cross the border are families- mostly women with children.  They may be escaping threats from cartels because either their husbands have been killed by the cartel, or have joined them.  They are seeking “something other than daily fear,” as Leland observed.  Most are looking for asylum, a legal term, allowing a person or family to move into the US and find a job and live.  Hundreds are coming each day, and the US simply cannot process them all, so that is why we may see pictures of mothers with children sleeping outside customs.  ICE picks up people, no matter if they qualify or not for asylum; they take men to detention, and many times put women out to the street.  There are several cities where people are coming to in the US.  These women are put out on the street in whatever city they come to.  Shelters are trying to take care of this problem.  They are full.  Carol shared that there was a recent donation of a monestary to use as an immigration shelter.  It was filled in 48 hours.

Leland said ICE and border patrol are used interchangeably, but are working on different aspects of immigration.  Another problem Leland explained was that there are militia, on the US side, which she encountered with her group.  Americans have come to the border, upset about immigration, they set up camp, and threaten the people attempting to cross the border. 

Her group spent time in Tucson, and when they were there, they went to Douglas Center daily.  They walked along the border on both sides.  When she showed slides after the presentation, she shared some beautiful art that has been put up on the Mexican side.  Her slides also showed the terrain of where they were walking.  They had a long-time border-working volunteer who knew where to go.  They visited shelters in Mexico, too.

There are several kinds of cartels that are causing the violence people are fleeing from.  Some are drug, some sex-trafficking.  One cartel extort from people getting off the bus, taking money from the poor who have traveled by bus. 

Another facet of the problems in Central America is that they have had 10 years of drought.  Leland acknowledged that, farmers in Grundy County like who attend Ivester, would understand you can’t live on the land in a 10 year drought. 

Another aspect Leland pointed out was about the weapons which are in Central America, that the cartel use.  They are mostly from the US.  She also said there is some exploitation of doing ‘foster care’ of children coming with their families to the border- they charge much more to a private agency for foster care than what US families get paid for doing foster care.  It is another example of the permission of the US government to collude with the already wealthy, giving them more income than they need or deserve.  We, as tax payers, are paying for this.  Foster care happens because a lot of the time, women attempting to cross the border are told unless they forgo their request for asylum, they will not be able to see their children.  This issue is being worked on.

Carol also shared about the great hospitality her delegation received in the homes of people in and around the border. 

Borderlinks is an organization that has been working on the border since 2002, if one would like to research more work being done on the border.

Another troubling fact Leland shared is that there are places that people put out water bottles along the path to the border for those fleeing their countries.  Often, border patrol slits the bottles, taking away the gift of water to asylum seekers.  They also slice clothing that is left on the trail.  People have left clothing for those fleeing, too. 

At more isolated spots, drones are present, instead of border patrol.

A sad story is told also of a boy who was throwing rocks at the border patrol, they immediately opened fire on him, and shot 12 bullets at him even after he was dead after 1 bullet. 

A more uplifting story was of a coffeeshop along the border who sells fairly traded coffee. 

To close, Leland recited the quote, “God’s love does not stop at the border, neither should ours.” 

Carol is a licensed clinical mental health therapist and a nationally Certified Clinical Supervisor.  She works for Youth and Shelter Services (YSS) in Ames, Iowa, as well as providing therapeutic support for Christian Peacemaker Teams.  Carol serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of McPherson College.  Carol resides in Harrisonburg, VA.

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