I met my grandfather again yesterday. I met the gentle man who came to the United States about 100 years ago to provide a better life for his family. I met him and countless cousins, uncles, aunts. I met my family, Los Fierros, in the faces of those I encountered on the Mexican-US border.
As I traveled to the Tijuana port of entry with the Forum of Bishops and I engaged through the wire mesh with those at the border, I encountered children who have never met their grandfather or even their father. I heard stories of lovers separated by "paperwork" or the financial means to secure a Visa. I learned about thousands who have died trying to cross the border in hopes of reconnecting with those they love. How can this be?
I had the privilege of visiting with a gentleman who had a social security card, had copies of tax returns, who had worked most of his life in the United States yet because of an immigration mis-step, he is unable to regain entrance to the US. He is 68 years old, eligible for Social Security and now finds himself improperly documented to enter the United States and reclaim what is rightfully his. How can this be?
The Tijuana port of entry is the busiest border crossing in the world. I witnessed Mexicans walking across the border to come to the US to work. They pay taxes, they contribute to the US economy and yet while it takes a few minutes to cross from the US to Mexico, it takes almost five hours to cross from Mexico to the US. Imagine if your work day begins at 8 a.m.; you must queue up before 3 a.m. How can this be?
The Forum of Bishops' journey to the border was an outward and visible sign of the deepest desire for the people of God, in this case the Forum of Bishops, to stand for children of God who are separated from those they love. These are someone's son, daughter, sister, brother and yes, even grandfather. How can this be?
As we simultaneously broke bread on both sides of the border wall I saw the face of my grandfather, cousins and family - some whom I have been fortunate enough to know and still others that because of this person-made barrier I have never had the privilege of sharing a meal or a simple embrace. I encountered familiar faces but more importantly I came face-to-face with the living God. I realized yet again that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Neither hardship, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword, not even a 12 foot high border wall! Thanks be to God!
Cynthia Fierro Harvey