In a little too deep in Juárez

I know I’ve been beating that swimming metaphor to death, but I couldn’t resist. 🙂 Unfortunately, I have some somewhat sad news to report, though I think in the long run everything will work out for the best. The news is that, in spite of my best efforts and the help of so many wonderful people, it turned out that my job as co-coordinator of the Construyendo Sueños project was a bit too much for me. Therefore, for the good of the project and of everyone involved, including myself, I decided to resign.

That, however, isn’t necessarily the end. I still believe deeply in the project and I’ve been a valued member of the team, so we’re going to try to create a new job that is more suited to my skill set. It will likely involve writing, translating, and public speaking. We want to take advantage of the one characteristic that sets me apart from all of my co-workers: I’m an American whose native language is English.

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Scott Warren to be retried in November

Sadly, my friend and colleague Scott Warren is not out of the woods yet. In June, his trial for giving humanitarian aid to two undocumented immigrants ended in a hung jury and therefore a mistrial. But yesterday (July 2) federal prosecutors announced that though they were dropping the conspiracy charge against him, they would retry him on two counts of harboring undocumented immigrants. The new trial is set to begin on November 12. If convicted, Warren could spend up to ten years in prison.

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Week 2 in Juárez: Learning to swim

I just finished my second week in Ciudad Juárez. I’m “swimming” a lot better than I did the first week, thanks in part to a wonderfully supportive team that has done everything to make my transition into this new job easier. And I have to say, the “sink or swim” approach has done wonders for my Spanish. I’ve lived in Mexico for almost eight years, but there’s nothing like being forced to use Spanish almost 24/7 to engrave it more thoroughly into my being. (Below is a picture of young men from a juvenile detention center called CERSAI. More on that below.)

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Good news (mostly): hung jury/mistrial in Scott Warren case

On Tuesday came (mostly) good news on the legal front: The felony trial of Scott Warren, the man who trained and led our volunteer team during my time with No More Deaths in January 2018, ended in a hung jury, which makes it a mistrial. Eight jurors voted to acquit and four voted to convict, in a case where the verdict must be unanimous.

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Thrown in the deep end in Juárez

As you all know if you’ve been reading this blog, I’ve gone to Ciudad Juárez to work on a new project created by the Salesianos, a Catholic group devoted to helping young people. Well, things have taken an unexpected turn for me. I had expected to be a simple worker bee, inserted into some appropriate slot. But on my very first day at work on Monday, my colleague Aarón (pictured in the car with me below) asked me if I wanted to be co-coordinator of the entire project with him. With a mix of excitement and terror, I said yes.

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June 1: Off to Juárez!

Well, it’s official: Everything has finally fallen into place, and I will be flying to Juárez on June 1 to work with the Salesianos there. I’ll be living in a house with my colleague Aarón and a few others. Good news: I’ll have my own private room with its own bathroom. 🙂

It is a paid position, and it will involve things like visiting young people in prison and working with other young people on the outside, project planning with Aarón, and translating reports into English.  Plus, there will be a lot more that we’ll figure out as we go along. We’re very much creating this job on the fly.

I’m excited to be getting started with this at last! Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

Bodies in the borderlands: The Scott Warren trials begin

Scott Warren’s misdemeanor trial for leaving “personal property” in the desert—in other words, leaving food and water for migrants in need—began on Monday. His felony trial for allegedly “harboring” migrants and engaging in “conspiracy” to smuggle them northward—charges that could subject him to twenty years in prison—begins on May 29.

The following article, written by Ryan Devereaux for The Intercept, is an excellent exploration of these trials and the background behind them. It is long, but the detailed account of Warren’s journey, the larger context of that journey, and the potential impact of these trials on humanitarian aid workers and the people they serve in the borderlands is worth the time.

Since I was there during the events that led to Warren’s arrest, the article and the accompanying photos and videos bring vividly to mind my memories of January 2018 in the Arizona desert. These are my dear friends, and my compañero Scott (pictured above) is one of the most caring and compassionate human beings I have ever met. I pray that God’s love and infinite care for all of our brothers and sisters illumine the hearts, minds, and spirits of everyone involved as these trials proceed.

Here’s the article:

Bodies in the Borderlands

Host or join a vigil for the disappeared Friday, May 3

While preparing for my new work in Ciudad Juárez, I’ve continued to work for No More Deaths from a distance. I’ve been working with the translation team, translating written communications from English into Spanish. I’ll be doing some phone banking soon to ask for support for Scott Warren in his upcoming trials.

In addition (sorry for the short notice), this coming Friday (May 3), No More Deaths is having a series of vigils all over the country “for those crossing [the desert], those who have died in the desert and all those whose lives are devastated by the detention and deportation machine.” For more information, and to host or attend a vigil, click here.

Note: If you want to participate in the phone bank I mentioned above, which involves calling No More Deaths supporters in the Arizona border region and inviting them to support Scott and No More Deaths in various ways (not fundraising), click here.