Before September 11, it was easier to cross between El Paso and Juarez. People’s families, jobs, and favorite stores existed on both sides of the border. It is closer to walk from Juarez in Mexico to El Paso in Texas than to walk from my high school to the house in which I grew up. For many there was no separation between El Paso and Juarez. You could spend all day in Juarez and return to El Paso for dinner and vice versa.
Now there is a border fence, long lines, infrared technology, sensors in the ground, and 600 new positions for Border Patrol agents in the El Paso sector alone.
I arrived in El Paso this past February carrying more than just my bags—I came carrying my identity as a third-generation Jew whose family escaped Eastern Europe during the pogroms. Traveling with a Fellowship of Reconciliation peace delegation, I came seeking to learn how the drug war, gun violence, and immigration are entwined. I came with stories of my great grandfather who left Latvia and landed in Latin America working in the copper mines until he made his way up north. I came with stories of name changes, walking great distances, being turned away from societies, and trying to escape violence and start a better life. I came wondering how El Paso, the “number one safest city in the United States,” is a ten-minute walk from what was for many years deemed the most dangerous city in the world: Ciudad Juarez.
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