When I opened the non-descript, government envelope containing my husband Billy’s green card, I felt a deep mixture of exhausted relief and wild celebration. No more hyper worrying about getting pulled over. No more awkward conversations with acquaintances who ask too many questions. No more silent but ever-present thoughts of “What if he gets deported? What will our life in Guatemala be like?”
After a fifteen minute interview, stacks of papers, and thousands of dollars, the US Government had decided our love was true and not, in fact, an immigration scam. They sent the wedding present of a lifetime in the form a plastic card of freedom.
So naturally, we did what any couple would do… we left the country. “To try it out,” Billy told me. A couple hours on the road, and we were crossing into Tijuana. We stumbled upon Friendship Park. It’s closed off now, but at the time we were there, there was a park area on both sides of the fence at the beach – the western tip of the US/Mexico border. We approached a circular seating area overlooking the ocean and took our places among others sitting quietly, watching the waves.
Suddenly, everyone around us began to stand up and walk towards the fence. Men and women hooked their fingers through the diamond shaped cutouts in the wire barrier. Border Patrol trucks idled on the US side. I was mystified by the sudden action. What was happening? On the US side, car doors slammed in a nearby parking lot. Men, women, and children walked quickly towards those waiting at the fence. Near us a Mexican woman with long, blonde hair stationed her camp chair near the fence and settled in. It wasn’t too long before a man on the US side parked his camp chair across from her, only the metal wires between them. She opened a thermos, poured a cup of coffee, and squeezed it to him through the small holes. They sat back and conversed.
I looked around and saw reunions and greetings all along the fence. “They’re visiting family,” I barely whispered to my husband. I felt emotional, but also confused. With Border Patrol so obviously present, I questioned how these immigrants, if undocumented, could feel comfortable being here. When my husband lacked proper paperwork, we rarely ventured further south than Los Angeles. And if they were documented, why not simply cross over into Mexico for the day to visit?
I knew I couldn’t ask these questions. My very presence felt rude and intrusive, so personal inquiries, not to mention my broken Spanish, would be too much. Tears began streaming down my cheeks, and Billy gently pushed me towards the car.
Just as we began to pull away, we observed another vehicle arriving. Three white men, armed with serious video and audio equipment, hopped out of their truck and hurried towards the fence. Naturally, we pulled right back into our parking space and got out again. We watched as they interviewed families on both sides of the fence. An uncle lamented that he was meeting his nephew for the first time through a barrier. “We have brought food to celebrate and eat, but,” he gestured toward the fence, “there is no place big enough to pass it.”
I approached one of the videographers standing back from the interviews. He told me they were German documentary-makers living in Mexico City and doing work surrounding the US/Mexico border issue. He pointed at the blonde woman. “That woman and her husband meet here every Saturday. She can’t join him because she can’t get papers.” The videographer then told me that her husband was living as an undocumented immigrant in the US. He also could not cross over to see his wife.
I grabbed Billy’s hand. He had possessed his legal documents for less than 24 hours, and my heart ached for the couple before me. Two people, sharing a bond and commitment that creates just one person in God’s eyes, are now separated by razor wire, watchtowers with night vision, and the expanse of the desert. It struck a deep chord within me.
Though my own family situation was resolved, I was visually reminded of God’s care for all families, regardless of race, language, or citizenship status. I don’t know this couple’s story or all the reasons how they arrived at this point in their family life, but I did see the small, blonde boy in a miniature camp chair next to his mother. I suspect that while this man who visits his wife and son every Saturday misses his family, he is taking any opportunity he can find to provide for them.
The documentary-maker tells me that the film he’s making will be viewed in Mexico and in Germany, but never in the United States. He looks at us.
“For us,” he tells me, “this is the Berlin wall. The difference is that there, we were clear enemies. Here, the United States and Mexico have free trade and they are said to be allies, to have a friendly relationship.”
His statement hangs in the air as more families arrive on both the US and the Mexican sides of the border and settle in for the day.
Sarah Quezada works with Mission Year, a year-long urban service program for young adults. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband Billy and daughter Gabriella. Stories and reflections on their cross-cultural life and ministry together can be found at her blog, A Life with Subtitles.
Please note that the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of everyone associated with G92 or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.
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