A Visit to a Migrant Shelter Across the Border in Mexico

The Revs. Patricia O’Reilly and Julie Beals helping to distribute donated clothing to shelter residents.  (Credit: Tammy Smecker-Hane)

People often hear politicians discussing the immigration crisis at the border, but few actually know what that really involves. In November, I was among a small group of Episcopalians led by Reverend Patricia O’Reilly, who met up with Sister Suzanne Jabro, CSJ, who leads an organization called Border Compassion (https://border-compassion.org).

We visited Cobina Posada del Migrantes, a migrant shelter in Mexicali, Mexico, just across the border from Calexico, CA. Border Compassion facilitates church groups who cross the border to visit migrant shelters bringing aid, compassion and healing to people who have escaped violence, tragedy, or economic destitution in their home countries.

Most migrants have traveled extremely far on a perilous journey with the goal of seeking asylum and joining family members in the USA. Roughly half came from regions in Mexico and half from other Central American countries. Many are traveling with small children. At the time of our visit, the shelter was home to approximately 400 people, including over 180 children.

Despite the sparse facilities and sizable overcrowding, which requires some men to sleep outdoors on the concrete courtyard each night, I was impressed with the overwhelming feeling of safety and community that dominates there. In an open-air kitchen, women band together to cook delicious yet simple meals for everyone in the complex. Family groups eat in turns because of the limited number of dishes. In pairs, women take turns washing clothing and bedding in the common sink in the courtyard.  Men share guard duties at the gate to keep everyone safe. Despite the fact that families have been patiently waiting at this shelter – some for more than one or two years – for their immigration hearing which might allow them to cross into the US legally, a strong sense of hope abides here.

Border Compassion asks church groups to bring a donation to help purchase food for the shelter and to bring items of greatest need, such as used clothing, jackets, blankets, sheets, sleeping bags, etc. You come and share a meal and compassion with the people there. Listening to the migrants’ stories is healing for them and a learning experience for you. You can also come to bring gifts and celebrate major holidays with the migrants. Playing with the children offers their mothers a much-needed respite. Knowing that we care about them is a blessing to the migrants, but it also opens your heart and floods it with a powerful love that truly flows from God. If you are interested in getting involved, please go to Border Compassion’s website above to learn more. God’s love definitely knows no borders!

Tammy Smecker-Hane joins children in a lively tic-tac-toe tournament and in coloring United Thank Offering coloring pages written in Spanish. (Credit: Rev. Patricia O’Reilly)

Two members of the hard-working team of migrant women who cooked a delicious lunch of soup for 400 shelter residents.  (Credit: Tammy Smecker-Hane)