These are people from Central America arriving at the border one ordinary morning in November. They were claiming their spot to seek asylum in the United States, which is a right guaranteed to them by our laws. I saw this one morning after had gotten my tooth fixed in Juarez.
In this clip that I recorded for journalistic witness with thoughtful respect, I capture people as they are waking up after sleeping on the El Paso del Norte Bridge. It is filty because it is used so much for transportation by wheel or by foot.
These people have slept on the sidewalk are fleeing harm and seeking sustenance and safety in the United State. The harm is hunger and violence.
Another day when I was border crossing, I saw a group of people in custoday. I could see this from the bridge as I peered down to my right into the compound that is the the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Paso del Norte Port of Entry Building. The group in custoday -- some men, many women, many children, were confined and lined up at an outdoor section of chainlink fence. The sun was high and hot.
This clips also gives a sense of the daily scope of this. Although I'm not articulating it well these days, I think the problem -- and the extent of our ignorance -- is bigger than many of our small efforts. I don't have an answer and the clearest solutions are matters of moral imagination.
It is not the least bit imaginative to convey El Paso as an unsafe city at any point. The history, data, cultural are evidence to the contrary. Wikipedia: "...the binational region is the 2nd largest metropolitan area (San Diego–Tijuana being the largest) on the United States–Mexico border. The El Paso–Juárez region is the largest bilingual, binational work force in the Western Hemisphere."
El Paso is and has been safe. If it weren't it would make the fact that the 2nd largest U.S. Army installation in El Paso is irrelevant. Here's how it is not irrelevant (from Wikipedia):
"Ft. Bliss has an area of about 1,700 square miles (4,400 km2); it is the largest installation in FORSCOM (United States Army Forces Command) and second-largest in the Army overall (the largest being the adjacent White Sands Missile Range). The portion of the post located in El Paso County, Texas, is a census-designated place with a population of 8,591 as of the time of the 2010 census. Fort Bliss provides the largest contiguous tract (1,500 sq mi or 3,900 km2) of restricted airspace in the Continental United States, used for missile and artillery training and testing, and at 992,000 acres boasts the largest maneuver area (ahead of the National Training Center, which has 642,000 acres). The garrison's land area is accounted at 1.12 million acres, ranging to the boundaries of the Lincoln National Forest and White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
Fort Bliss is home to the 1st Armored Division, which returned to US soil in 2011 after 40 years in Germany."
There is a real problem on the border and it has nothing to do with the need for a wall. Simple factchecking proves this. There is a real problem on the border and it has everything to do with us getting out and getting together and making good news in large scale. Small gestures are not enough.
Every day I pray for clarity of purpose and compassionate curiosity.