I still remember that cold and rainy Sunday as we drove to the evening service at our church, Iglesia Mennonita del Cordero. As we drove past the immigrant-homeless shelter, we saw families gathering pieces of cardboard boxes on the side of the road, ready for trash pick up the next morning.
My dad slowed down, and I saw this young girl, about six years old. We waved at each other. I can still see her hand shaking from the cold, her clothes all wet, since it had been raining all day. Her family had arrived a few days prior from Guatemala, fleeing the violence of war in the 1980s. There was no room at the shelter, so they were making a shelter out of cardboard to keep warm through the cold, wintry night.
When we arrived at church, I could see this was weighing down on my father’s heart, as it was mine. I reached out my hand to him and he whispered, “We are going to do something to help them, mija.” He stood up and went to talk to the pastor sitting on the front pew.
The pastor stood up and stopped the service. He told the congregation of the need that was just down the street, and said that he could not be here to preach about God’s love when there was a need for us to put that love into action. The service stopped, and we opened the doors to house people seeking refuge and needing a warm place to stay, a hot plate of food, legal help and rides to the immigration offices. This event completely changed my life and sparked my passion to work in immigration.
Life on the Texas border is a bit different now – our whole country is very different now – but people continue to migrate to the United States just as they did in the 1980s, with the same broken immigration system in place. Policies have not improved, but rather, have become worse. Amid post-zero-tolerance policy, my hometown of Brownsville, Texas, continues to pick up the pieces.
[To read the full version of this post on MC USA’s Menno Snapshots blog, click here]
Ana Alicia Hinojosa is from Brownsville, Texas, and works for Mennonite Central Committee Central States as immigration education coordinator. She is a single, adoptive mother of three teenagers who have inspired her to pursue her doctoral degree in education organizational leadership.