What It Was Like on the Border When Title 8 Sunset Title 42
Editor’s note: When Title 42 was ended in May, missioner Mari Snyder and the organizations where she serves were preparing to support an influx of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border. She shares her reflections on the experience.
It’s been just a few months since the May 11th reinstatement of Title 8, with the end of the COVID-19 pandemic sunsetting the temporary need for Title 42. According to U.S. immigration law, U.S. officials are required to provide an initial asylum interview for migrants reporting that they are fleeing danger. For weeks, images of the anticipated asylum seekers reaching through the wall or packing El Paso’s streets and shelters were streaming into our phones non-stop. Yet the chaos and crowds that were predicted for the ensuing days didn’t seem to materialize as fully as expected there. And I can report that the same can be said for Douglas, Arizona.
My fellow missioner, Julia, and I were part of the city of Douglas’ preparations. About 30 faith community members were convened, briefed, and asked to provide shelter by the city’s leadership, namely the mayor, chief of police and emergency services. Setting up our parish hall with 50 cots and getting portable brown bag lunch items purchased, made, packed and in our parish refrigerator within a 48-hour deadline was so … satisfying! Receiving emergency provisions from handwash stations to Red Cross blankets and hospitality kits, then reporting to the group that we were “ready” was so … energizing! Getting the Chief’s daily updates, briefing our parish priest, preparing for longer-term meal donations and volunteers, all of it was so… meaningful, because “when I was a stranger, you welcomed me.” And this time, we Americans were going to do so in our own country!
It will likely surprise you that our efforts – like the four other times long-time residents could recall in the past 15 years or so – resulted in no guests – not one – having to stay in our shelter. This is good! It means that asylees were able to board the buses headed to Tucson within a few hours of processing through Customs and Border Patrol. Once there, staff and volunteers of Casa Alitas, a wonderfully effective Catholic nonprofit where we have volunteered, could book tickets for their flights out of Tucson and Phoenix to their sponsoring families within a day or two.
It seems quiet now, but we remain in a “ready” state here on the U.S. side. After all, an uptick is predicted. And on the other side of the border, a new “current” seems to be in the air, the effects of which we can see but can’t quite name.
Question for Reflection: What do you do to stay grounded in peace and presence, while experiencing cross-cultural currents?