“Grito de las froteras/Cry from the Borders” reflection by The Rev. Luis-Alfredo Cartagena-Zayas

September 17th,2018 Categories: Latest News

While taking the subway home after attending the Northeastern Regions Assembly this weekend Rev. Stephanie requested me to write a short piece so that The Park and friends would be informed of my recent service in El Paso,TX/Juarex,MX. Original called “Grito de la frontera/Cry from the Border” but later expanded to “Grito de las froteras/Cry from the Borders” to accurately express the concern we have for immigrants, exiles and refugees throughout the world.

I was requested by Rev. Dr. Peter Hetzel to participate in an action being organized by theologians throughout the United States to be a follow-up of a letter they made public criticizing the US Policy of “Zero Tolerance.”   Words were simply not enough all involved felt that the Communities of Faiths had to provide what I insist on calling “Prophetic Push Back!”

Many of my Park family have heard me say, “I am not a Social Justice Pastor.” Rather, if I were to label myself I guess I’d say I do “Prophetic Justice” service for our beloved Park. Like most US Citizens, I pray, I was relieved when the news that the policy separating families when arriving at US southern borders was to end. Prior to my continuing I humbly ask you to ponder two simple, yet crucial, questions anyone can answer. First, “At what age did you learn your parents’ name were not Mami y Papi?” Second, “How old where you when you learned your family names?”

Your answer will inform you why I felt The Park should participate in Grito de las froteras! Along with our partners in the New Sanctuary Coalition NY it was decided we would bring children separated from their deported parents to Juarez, MX. Michelle and Juan Carlos along with Movimiento De Mujeres Migrantes y Sus Familias would be charged with this. I was charged with continuing to organizing Grito with Rev. Peter, preparing to lead a “Jericho Walk” at the El Paso Processing Center and to address the issues of Corporate Involvement and Responsibility regarding Zero Tolerance and immigration in general.

Yet all that I’ve informed you just touches upon The Park’s engaging in “Faith in Action!” At the end of the day, we will be judged as individuals, as Disciples, as Christians and as a nation by the degree to which we recognize the presence of God in the poor and vulnerable knocking on our doors looking for safety and refuge. Park participation in reuniting families and presence at the Border allowed us not to fail this basic moral test. It also allowed us to live into Disciples Polar North Star of Christian Unity. We joined with the Collegiate Church with Reverends Jacqui Lewis, Damaris Whittaker and laity from the Lower East Side and Fort Washington, the Lutheran Church with Rev. Juan Carlos Ruíz de Dios from Brooklyn, a host of Catholics from the Texas area including the Bishop of El Paso Rev. Mark Seitz, Fr. Robert Mosher of Centro Misionero Columbano, and Franciscan, Dominican, and Columban priests from both sides of the Texas Mexican Border.

However, the most important individuals I encountered were Catalina, her unborn child, and her son Juanito. Upon returning from Juarez as the members of the group hurried to the border to reenter the US our guide and administrative specialist Hope Border Institute, Ilka Vega noticed Catalina and Juanito waiting stunned and hopeless as US Border Agents told this Guatemalan refugee family, “There was no more room at the Border Center they would have to wait and return.” Ilka, filled with the Spirit of love and compassion, rushed to us on line to return and asked for our assistance. We gathered and decided to go back to the bridge. There was only one problem: there was an entrance door but no way we could exit and return. I looked at the young Latino Border Agent and informed him we had to immediately go back could, he open a door for our group, while one of us informed those who had already reentered the US of our decision to return to assist Catalina. They would later meet us on the Mexican side where we were confronted initially courteously by Latino Border Agents who informed us their hands were tied but they would contact their supervisor.

Upon the arrival of the supervisor the mood changed from courteous to aggressive. The supervisors, a mature Anglo male and a young Afro-American female, jumped from their vehicle to where we were waiting. The male Agent seemed to be the senior agent, & had his 16″ Sentry Expandable Friction Lock Baton ready for use and the Afro-American agent pushed passed everyone and came directly to me as I was recording the incident and grabbed my phone. I held it tight and asked her if I could help her. She had not noticed the senor agent collapsed his baton when he observed our Clerical Collars and Stoles. Rev. Jacqui attempted to explain the situation respectfully answering all questions. The group was told to move on but no one moved. As the conversation continued I was again antagonistically approached by the female agent who informed me if I did not stop recording she would forcefully take my telephone. She was clearly attempting to bait me to escalate the situation. I looked directly into her eyes as I slowly proceeded to comply. Eventually, after the arrival of two more hostel agents, the senior agent thought it best to allow Catalina and Juanito entrance into the processing area where they could legally apply for asylum.

Prophetic Justice like this allows us as individuals and churches to connect with the Spirit, courage and Power of God as we confront, not just human laws and injustices, but the demons and principalities responsible for such evil. Therefore, I am continually renewed as your servant and feel both humbled and blessed to serve both Christ and The Park congregation.