BY SARA RITCHIE | February 26, 2021
This week, I gave a presentation to Fairfield University about the realities of the border, and someone from the crowd asked, “how do you not burn out?” I am actively working on not reaching burnout as we speak.
The border is a harsh place to be. It breaks you down. And then it either burns you out or it builds you up.This work has most certainly broken me down. I have internalized the stories and the sentiments of migrants in a way that literally hurts—my body hurts sometimes to know of the suffering that migrants endure, first in their home countries and now at the border.
I am surrounded by people who are constantly breaking down as a result of their compounded desperation. However, that desperation takes on a whole new shape at the border, which I find hard to describe, partly because I don’t live it personally.
As I write this, I picture the faces of migrants and the stories they’ve told me—being forced to give the gangs the deed to their house, seeing siblings killed while walking through the neighborhood, watching the hurricane wash away their livelihood. The desperation they must feel to leave behind all they’ve ever known is mind-boggling. However, it certainly solidifies the notion that “no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark; you only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well.” [from “Home” by Warsan Shire]They are here at the border, literally able to see the United States. But the steel beams tower over the two countries, reminding us all that they are only permeable to a select, privileged few.
The country on the other side of the border said to “Give me…your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” And with exactly that on its doorstep, the U.S. has so easily tossed aside and abandoned that promise.
The relief that migrants thought arriving at the border would bring, instead, has only worsened their state of desperation. They are stuck, unable to return home and begging and pleading for protection. It seems like their options have run out.
Or so you would think. Just when I thought there was no other option than burn-out, they created a movement—the SaveAsylum movement. Out of their desperation, they have carved out their own agency and activism. I invite everyone to learn about SaveAsylum and recognize both the desperation and resiliency in the migrants who march and organize in Nogales, Sonora. For me, they have been of immense inspiration and truly built me up in my work.
Sara Ritchie is communications director for Kino Border Initiative.