Walking miles through desert in another’s shoes

Brother Brian McLauchlin SVD’s heartfelt account of his immigration immersion experience on the Mexican-U.S. border continues.

Monday, Sept. 14

At 7 a.m., the group participating in the migration immersion experience met for a discussion with the Samaritan Patrol. First, we gathered around and looked at a map of the several hundred migration trails, some more remote than others. After loading the cars, we set out towards a few of the trails. The Samaritan Patrol tries to rotate their monitoring of the many trails so that at some point they are able to cover them all.

In our group, we went to a remote area off Interstate 19. We traveled several miles on paved and unpaved roads. Because of the rain during the past days, several areas of the unpaved road were very bumpy and rough.

We traveled to Warsaw Canyon and hiked up one of the trails there. A few of us split off from the main group and hiked up into a more remote area. We did not encounter anyone crossing the desert, but we did find an area where a group of migrants had obviously camped.

As I reflect on the experience, I am most amazed by the beauty of the area. To me, it seems ironic that so much violence occurs in an area so beautiful and peaceful. The injustices of our immigration system are alive and well in the beauty of this cavernous environment.

The conditions in the desert are very treacherous. The landscape is dry and slippery. Without good shoes—and so many of those crossing have poor shoes—it is easy to fall and break bones. Also, the climate of Arizona is unbelievably dry, requiring frequent hydration. So many migrants who cross the desert are unequipped for the treacherous conditions of this environment.

In the afternoon we gathered for prayer and reflection after this truly moving experience in the desert. The other group, who traveled to a different area, saw the Border fence and also spotted a drone, which is an airborne device that detects the movement of people in the desert.

In the evening, we gathered for a prayer service with Rosa Robles Loretto, who is in sanctuary at the Southside Presbyterian Church. As I stated before, someone is always with Rosa so that she doesn’t encounter any problems from immigration officials.

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