August 31, 2011 | EL PASO, Texas (UMNS)
In her keynote speech to the 40th anniversary meeting of MARCHA, Bishop Minerva Carcaño told the story of an immigrant father and his children she and another church worker met at a border crossing near Nogales, Mexico.
“We were at a place called the Mariposa station where a tent has been set up over the years to receive immigrants who are detained in the U.S., and then dropped at the border like garbage and told to go back to where they came from,” she said.
At the station, the bishop explained, immigrants are given water, some soup and helped in whatever way possible by Christian and other aid groups.
“People wash the feet of the immigrants and cut away blisters from their feet. I have never seen more horrible blisters on a human body than the blisters on the feet of immigrants,” she recalled.
“The last bus had come and was leaving, but then someone shouted out, ‘There’s one more and he’s hurt, hurt badly,’” Carcaño said. “Bill and I began to walk toward the bus that had dropped off the immigrants when we saw him. He was a young man, and as he got off the bus we saw him struggle.”
The man was holding on to one of his legs, and the bishop watched as he hobbled toward the tent.
“He told us that he was exhausted from four days in the desert, and three days in detention with little food or water but that he was all right. One of us asked him about his leg and he said that he had been born with that bad leg. With that bad leg he had come all that way.”
Carcaño said the man’s two children were hiding behind him. They were a 10-year-old girl named Jocelyn and an 8-year-old boy named Melvin.
She said they took the man to the tent and she began to wash his feet. He told her he was a corn farmer from Chiapas, Mexico, but the North American Free Trade Agreement had undermined his farm and left him unable to feed his family.
He also told her his wife was critically ill and they had no money for food or medical care. Carcaño said the man said the only thing he could figure out to do was to join the immigrant journey hoping to find a way to provide food and care for his family. He brought his children with him because he had left his wife with her elderly parents and they could not care for the youngsters.
“At one point the father got quiet, and I watched as tears began to roll down his cheeks and then he said to me, ‘On the fourth day out in the desert without food or water my little boy fainted, and I thought I had lost him,’” the bishop said. “Jocelyn and Melvin were hanging on to their father’s shoulders one on each side, listening to their own story. I had to look away because the moment had to focus on this father and his children and not on me.”
Carcaño said she recovered emotionally and said to the boy, “Melvin, you are a very brave boy.”
Without looking at her, Melvin looked across his father’s shoulders to his sister and said, “I’m not as brave as my sister. She never fainted.”
The bishop explained that when she and the other worker left, they gave the man all the money they had with them.
They walked away looking straight ahead, she said, because they could not face the other immigrants with no money to give them.
“But then I began to hear those words that touch the heart,” Carcaño said.
“Gracias mi hermano…gracias mi hermano…gracias mi hermano.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she said, she saw the young father sharing what they had given him with the other immigrants.
“I am committed to working with and among immigrants because in the midst of it all, I always see Christ Jesus and every once in a while, I catch a glimpse of the reign of God,” she said.
Read Bishop Carcaño’s complete keynote address.
News media contact: Maggie Hillery, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.