Pope Francis Visits US – Mexico Border – New York Times

Seated near the front row of the stage for Pope Francis’ final Mass in Mexico, a cluster of migrants, many from Central America and wearing matching red hats, baked in the afternoon heat. They had arrived at 7 a.m. to get a good seat. All were temporary residents of the Juárez migrant shelter, which houses up to 100 migrants at a time and has become a warm transit point for those approaching the final phase of their journey to the United States.

Most of the men had been deported at least once from the United States, ejected back into Mexico, where they found little respite. With encouragement from their American counterparts, the authorities here have been cracking down on migrants, bringing to a close the once-easy passage through Mexico.

The men could all attest to this, at least those not of Mexican nationality. Now that they were at the border, they were taking a break to gather their wits and resources before the final pass. The papal visit was a diversion, of sorts, to break the monotony of the days waiting to cross.

But it was also a chance to bask in a message of compassion and righteousness after nearly three weeks of rugged travel.

“It was really hard, riding the train, walking, without food or water, trying to avoid the police and the thieves,” said Josue Daniel, 26, from Guatemala, who was on the cusp of making the crossing. “I hope the pope delivers a message that we are all humans, so the Mexicans can hear it.”

He said that in Juárez, the workers at the shelter had been kind, treating him with dignity and respect. “Elsewhere, we were very poorly treated,” he noted.

Guatemala, like its neighbors El Salvador and Honduras, is mired in an epidemic of violence that has forced hundreds of thousands to flee the region in recent years. Gangs are pervasive, extorting and murdering with impunity, while corruption tears at the seams of daily life. In this environment, families often feel they have no choice but to send their children on a 1,200-mile march by themselves in order to escape. More than 20,000 unaccompanied children were nabbed at the United States’ border with Mexico from October through January.

Mr. Daniel talked about this, too, as a band blared music from a stage and the crowd waved flags plastered with the face of the pope. He was 10 the first time he tried to escape, then 18, then 21, then 24, and now 26. Life in Guatemala, he said, had only grown worse in that time.

Mr. Daniel looked at the stage, where the dancing and singing continued. He would cross in the coming days, he said, and keep trying until he made it back into the United States.

How would this visit by the pope help his cause?

“We just want his blessing,” he said with a smile. “After this, it will go well.”


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