Arizona Day 3: The Day of No Pictures

"You can only tell your story.....what you have seen and witnessed." Those words were both encouragement and mentoring from our new friend Dottie as we unpacked the day with bowls of mint chocolate chip ice cream and the television on low in the background. I had been lamenting my lack of statistics and knowledge, how each experience adds more questions and wrestling. It was a good and full day....of which I have no pictures to document. :) Soul Cafe

We joined the pastors of Dottie's district for their monthly lunch and gathering. There we talked with the pastor of St Francis in the Foothills UMC where we will be visiting on Friday...and met Maritza who will be showing us around Nogales on Thursday. Darci and I also worked up a bilingual version of 10,000 Reasons which we shared with the group.... Dars has a beautiful voice...I'm glad we found a way to put it to use! We had to run pretty fast out of there to make it to the courthouse...

Operation Streamline

We made it to the courthouse downtown just after the afternoon proceedings had begun. We slid into a row with people who are on a delegation with Borderlinks. We meant to make it early enough to meet them....but alas, our timing was a bit off. So we sat in the midst of people who have similar heartbeats...watching.

Operation Streamline is currently how undocumented immigrants found along the border after crossing are processed, sentenced, and sent on to prison. There were somewhere between 60-70 men and 3 women, shackled at the waist, wrist, and ankles, no belts and no shoelaces, in the same clothes they had been picked up in....some since October 10 or 11th. There is a rhythm to the questions and answers, broken by the constant sound of clinking chains...

In groups of five, the individuals were led to the front of the courtroom to stand with their attorneys....whom they had met with for less than 30 minutes that very morning. It is widely known knowledge that the attorneys advise their "clients" to plead guilty and not fight the charges....and no one did that we saw. One woman, after sentencing asked about seeking asylum. The judge told her that after she served her two months in jail, then she could speak to immigration about the matter of asylum......

In less than 2 hours, the left side of the courtroom and the jury box, which began filled with defendants, completely emptied as everyone was sentenced ranging from 30-180 days. All carried a weariness about them, the humiliation and dehumanization cloaked in the name of justice and efficiency by the court. Somewhere around the 40's, I began to feel a heaviness in my chest; the weight of these unknown stories...their journeys, their hopes and fears. I prayed that God would protect these men and women, some who looked too, too young.


This evening, Darci and I met up with Pablo Peregrina, a local musician who writes music inspired by the "Border Movement". He is an activist and humanitarian, who was born in Mexico and moved right across the border into Nogales to attend school and eventually work. He told countless stories of people crossing the desert, of the prejudice he has experienced, about how necessary it is for him to write, sing, record, and share. He teared up when he talked about first learning more than a decade ago that women and children were crossing the desert, some not making it. We plan on listening to his music on the way to his hometown tomorrow, to let his words slip into our bones, to prepare our hearts to see the wall here in Arizona, to keep our eyes open to where God is moving around us.

I'll try to find some links for Operation Streamline....we read articles in the washington post and other sources that have seen similar experiences to ours. More to come....

Read More in the Arizona Series

Communion at the Border

Day 1: The Day We Probably Should Have Been Stopped By Border Patrol

Day 2: Settling in and Making Plans

Day 3: The Day of No Pictures

Day 4: Nogales, A Border Town

Day 5: The Reality of the Desert

Day 6: Water is Life

Day 7: Sanctuary at St Francis in the Foothills UMC