Reviewer: Phil Boonstra, AACRC Social Justice Team

Voices of the Border:
Testimonios of Migration, Deportation, and Asylum

Edited by Tobin Hansen and María Engracia Robles Robles
239 pp. Georgetown University Press, 2021

Reviewed by Phil Boonstra, SJT Immigration Leader

Who gets to tell your story? This is a question that comes to mind while reading this collection of first-hand stories of migrants’ travels between Central and South America and the United States. If you strip away the news’ abstract descriptions of these persons (“migrant caravan”) and go past the legal euphemisms (“Migrant Protection Protocols”, better known as “Remain in Mexico”), then what’s left is what’s in this book: the humanity of the people living through these circumstances. Each testimonio is a first-person retelling, both in the original Spanish as well as an English translation, and thus forces the reader to reckon with the speaker’s experience rather than our own explanations or assumptions.

The testimonios are all from persons who have, over the past 10-15 years, spent time in the cities of Nogales, Arizona or – just across the border – Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, home of the Kino Border Initiative, a migrant advocacy organization. Some migrants traveled from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, or farther south and were in limbo, waiting for the right time to cross into the US. Others were sent to this Mexican town from the US, deported after a few days or many years of living here. The book is organized around eleven different themes, including wealth inequality, organized crime, gender violence, family separation, governmental abuse and corruption, and migrant criminalization and deportation. Every chapter opens with some contextual information related to the theme and then gives the testimonio of two or three persons.

In each testimonio, the reader encounters a variant of the same paradoxical circumstance, in which the speaker had come to the conclusion that the best and safest option was to leave home, livelihood, and family and traverse hundreds of miles, subjecting themselves to risk of extortion, robbery, or sexual assault. From our perspective, this is unfathomable. Yet, each story shows that, indeed, it is the perfectly logical choice. In a haunting and – sadly – typical testimonio, Julieta Payán Urías shares about her childhood in Mexico City, writing that her children’s father began stalking her at 12 and repeatedly sexually assaulting her throughout her teenage years. Héctor Arturo, a father of two and a deep-sea fisherman from El Salvador, writes about being forced to give fish to local gangs, until such a point as he could no longer feed his own children. Upon refusing to give them any more, they beat him with an aluminum bat. They hunted him across the country until he fled to Mexico, alone.

The testimonios are not just about the circumstances that forced them to flee their home but also their encounters with gangs, cartels, and law enforcement during their journey. Rogelio Heriberto Montes de Ruiz shares about his encounter with US immigration officers upon jumping the border wall at Nogales: “One of them told me to put my hands on my head. I obeyed him. But just then, another one of them coming from a different direction ran at me and gave me a knee in the ribs on my right side…He knocked me to the ground with that knee. I couldn’t breathe” (p111).

Reckoning with such suffering, the reader is tempted to fall back on some variant of legalism (“why don’t they come here legally?”) or nationalism (“countries have borders for a reason”). And yet, these excuses fall short. These people have the legal right to have their asylum case heard without being treated as criminals. And an appeal to nationalism fails to recognize that US military and counterintelligence activities and US corporate expansion in these Central American countries have contributed or even directly led to the problems they are facing today (see Chapter 2 for more details). There are no easy responses here, and this book doesn’t purport to offer any. Rather, it seeks to illuminate and educate. As its penultimate sentence states, “[p]eople need to better understand the situation of those migrating, being deported, or seeking asylum in order to envision a world in which all people enjoy greater opportunity” (p197).

Ann Arbor CROP Hunger Walk

Many thanks to each of our 30+ walkers. AACRC had the largest team at the Walk, and it was truly inter-generational! Thanks to our youth and their leaders for the eye-catching signs which stood out as we walked the streets of Ann Arbor. A special thanks to our very generous donors who contributed $3895 (preliminary total) which exceeded our goal of $3000! May God bless our efforts in fighting hunger and poverty in our community and around the world.

Fall 2022 Programming Starting Up!

We are eager for many of our programs to start back up this Fall 2022. Check out what’s happening and see where you might fit in!
Questions? Contact: office@aacrc.org

September 7
5:45PM Pizza Night
6:15-8:00PM (NEW TIME!) Cadets (2nd-5th grade boys)/GEMS (2nd-5th grade girls)/Roots (all 6-8th graders)

September 11
9:15AM Youth Faith Formation Kickoff: Kid Connection (Pre-5th)/Middle school Class (6-8th)/Reach (High school)
9:15AM Adult Faith Formation: Big House Sunday with Jim and Ruth Padilla DeBorst
10:30AM Children’s Worship (3-5 years old) – dismissed during the worship service

September 14
1:00PM Gray Matters
7:00PM Choir Rehearsal

September 15
7:00 PM Friendship

September 18
9:15AM Adult Faith Formation: House Group Session #1

September 20, 21 & 26
Women’s Ministry Program – groups meet 2nd/4th Mondays, every Tuesday, or 1st/3rd Wednesdays

Ongoing
6:30 & 8:00 AM (Wednesdays) Men’s Bible Study
The TABLE – Young professionals, students, and anyone looking for a young adult community

Summer at AACRC

Gallup Park Gathering
Saturday, June 25

Join us Saturday, June 25, 10am-12pm at Gallup Park! This invitation is for everyone! We will be in the general vicinity of the large playground area. This is the first of three events which will occur on the last Saturday each month this summer to gather together as a community for connection, and for the joy of being together!  Sit and chat for a while and enjoy all the park has to offer: play areas, paths, canoes and kayaks, or just take in the beauty of the river.

2022 Spring Workday Report

Thanks to all who volunteered for the workday this past Saturday!  We got a lot done.

By the numbers:
8 pairs of hands
3 yards of soil distributed
2 wheelbarrows/garden carts
7lbs of grass seed sown
2 bales of straw scattered
3 picnic tables painted
4 benches refreshed
60 annuals planted
4 bags of weeds and trimmings
1 dog walked and petted
30 donuts (not all consumed)
1 pile of pruned branches

Annual Cadets and GEMS Pinewood Derby

Our 2nd-5th grade girls & boys enjoyed a night of fun competition as they raced their Pinewood Derby cars down the track. A variety of awards were given for speed and design but most importantly it was a night of connection and celebration.

   

 

Holy Week Services

We will celebrate Holy Week together this year with both a Maundy Thursday and Good Friday evening service. Easter Sunday will be at 10:30AM. All services will be in person and available through livestream.

Maundy Thursday, April 14 @ 7:00 pm
Good Friday, April 15 @ 7:00 pm
Easter Sunday, April 17 @ 10:30am

 

Lent 2022

Check out this video from Pastor Noah introducing our Lent 2022 series, “Turning Toward”

 

House Groups – Lent 2022

During Lent our House Groups will be reading The Love that is God by Frederick Bauerschmidt. If you are not in a group, you can still join for this session. Please contact Ross Weener (rweener@aacrc.org). If you are currently in a group, you can pick up your book in the church office.

Thanksgiving Resources

Hello dear church family,

I wanted to pass on a few resources to help us find our center in Christ this Thanksgiving. Though we’re not gathering in worship this year, there are many ways we can be encouraged to name our gratitude!

Here’s a resource from The Network that is geared towards families and kids, but could be taken up by anyone. It was published last year, but is still a great opportunity: https://network.crcna.org/faith-nurture/how-to-help-families-grow-gratitude-thanksgiving-and-beyond

Another resource from The Network, this is a really interesting project that attempts to translate the New Testament in the style of First Nations storytelling. Given the complicated relationship of Thanksgiving and First Nations and Native American peoples, this might be worth checking out this season: https://network.crcna.org/church-renewal/thanksgiving-read-new-testament-first-nations-eyes

Here’s a prayer based on Psalm 96 that I find particularly wonderful. I can imagine this being used around the Thanksgiving table: https://re-worship.blogspot.com/2013/05/thanksgiving-litany-reflections-on.html

This Thanksgiving Prayer is a modernized version of a George Webb prayer from 1625. This would also make a wonderful Thanksgiving table prayer: https://acollectionofprayers.com/2018/11/22/thanksgiving-prayer/

Finally, this blog post from 2010 has some really helpful reflections on how to take up the practice of gratitude in a deep and consequential way: https://day1.org/articles/5d9b820ef71918cdf2002c45/captured_by_gratitude

 

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