Tales From the Border: The Camp

Jul 20, 2019 | 2019 Articles, Helping Hands, Tales of Diversity

by Mark Redwine

At the end of this post is an update of even more changes at the border since the article was written.

I took today off. This part of the border has drawn international attention since the picture of the young father and his toddler daughter with her arm wrapped around his neck, who drowned together while attempting to cross the Rio Grande river, hit the news feed. Frankly, I don’t want to see any more pictures of dead children.

asylum seekers

The camp is located at the left side of the arch that welcomes you to Mexico.

?Brownsville is swarming with news media, politicians, activists, and volunteers. Some want to be stars, some have an agenda, some just want to help, and some focus on helping the organizations that are serving the immigrants. I am very thankful for Samaritan’s Purse Disaster Response Team.

?I needed to break away from all of that for a day, so I went to South Padre Island which is about one-half hour from here. While walking on the beach, I saw thousands of people setting up their camps on the shore, and I started thinking about our camp on the other side of the river at the base of the international bridge in Matamoros, Mexico. This is where asylum seekers wait to hear their number called to pass legally into the USA. Some wait a few days, some a few months. It is part of a crazy system called metering. No one really understands it. There are over 2,000 waiting in Matamoros. Over 9,000 waiting in Tijuana. I just saw on the news where the total number waiting is over 20,000. Some can’t wait. Some cross the river. Some die.

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Crossing the bridge to the camp in Mexico. The camp is located at those red stches you see in the distance .

?The man and his daughter in that picture left from our camp and washed up on the shore about one-half mile downstream. Today, July 16, 2019, five people from our camp decided to swim the river because of an announcement from the government which will make asylum seeking almost impossible.

?I see the beach goers setting up their tents, umbrellas, chairs, little stoves, plenty of food, and snacks, something friendly to lay on, knowing that at the end of the day, they get to go back to a nice room or a home with air conditioning, a TV, a place to shower, clean clothes to put on, and be able to relax and feel safe in their own little place in the universe.

?The heat of the sun on the back of my ears becomes uncomfortable, so I turn and head back to my room, and my mind turns back to our migrant camp at the base of the bridge in Matamoros. They have no safe comfortable place in the universe, and no place to return to. There are no showers, no bathrooms, no way to get away from the heat. Many sleep on the street, including women, children, and babies. Some have tents, nothing to cook on, and no money to buy food. Many only have the clothes on their backs and have traveled months in very dangerous conditions to reach this camp, believing and hoping they can reach the dream of all the oppressed people of this world…America. Never fearing that they may become an object of scorn, ridicule, and rejection from the very people who represent hope to them. Daily, it is becoming more and more difficult to reach this land of hope and freedom.

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A family living at the base of the bridge

?The Administration just released news about plans they have for changing the rules (again) for individuals seeking asylum. They are stretching an existing law to establish additions and limitations under which an alien shall be ineligible for asylum. These new rules go into effect as soon as they are published. These changes will be challenged in court. They go against commitments to international conventions which go all the way back to WWII.

?The new changes say that people who enter the US via the US/Mexican border are ineligible to request asylum if they passed through another country (i.e. Mexico, Guatemala, etc.) and did not first request asylum there and were denied asylum there. This basically excludes all Central Americans and others who have made the long journey through Central America and Mexico, including a significant number of Africans. Many of them have a clear strong case for asylum based on religious or political persecution. One personal observation is that many are Christians. This will also penalize those who have been waiting in the metering system for weeks or months to be granted permission to cross the bridge and ask for asylum…like the people in our camp. Neither Mexico or Guatemala have asylum systems capable of handling large numbers of claims. Guatemala has laws for asylum seekers, but no process to handle requests. Most people fleeing from Central America have families in the US, so this is where they would prefer to go because there are support systems here for them.


Cami (one of the asylum seekers Mark’s group helped), sick on the bridge about 20 feet from the US border and the guards keeping her out

?My immediate concern is for the great desperation this new regulation will cause among the people in our camp. And what their response may be. Once, all they had was hope. What do you do? Where do you go when there is no safe place for you in the universe…no place to call home?

UPDATE, JULY 19, 2019, THE CAMP (this is an update that happened since the article was written)

A new policy went into effect today. We saw a family return to the camp after crossing into the USA legally to seek asylum. I don’t know how long they were at the camp. Maybe six weeks. And now they will be sleeping on the pavement for several more weeks. This is under a new policy called Migrant Protection Protocols (see: Migrant Protection Protocols, Jan. 24, 2019).

Under MPP, immigrants who enter the US are returned to Mexico with a “Notice To Appear” at an immigration hearing at some future date, rather than being released into the USA. Unaccompanied minors are the main exception to this new rule.

When the immigrants reenter the USA to attend their hearing, the court can find their asylum claim meritorious or invalid. If found invalid they will be removed to their country of nationality or citizenship. For many, that will mean sure death.

No council will be allowed at the Immigration hearing. Not even anyone to explain proceedings to the immigrants, no one is allowed to assist them, and no one can assist the judge. Legal representation is only allowed for people with a removal order (Texas Tribune, July 19, 2019, Julian Agular).

We don’t know how all of this will impact our care for asylum seekers. One thing is for sure. Things are going to change. Will keep you posted

If you would like to know more about Mark and Marilyn’s work on the border, or how you can help, like their Facebook page or email Mark for more information at mtmasai@aol[dot]com. You can check out Mark’s previous articles about Cami (see photo above) in our Tales of Diversity section.

Mark and Marilyn Redwine are voluntary missionaries in Brownsville, Texas which is right on the border with Mexico. They have been ministering the love of Jesus to the people there for the last nine years. They have two ministries. Both are to the most marginalized. One is to the people living in generational poverty, and the other is to asylum seekers.
Mark is a retired chiropractor. They lived in Butte Montana for fourteen years before answering God’s call to missions. In 2000, a young evangelist named Christopher Lewis (who just happens to be Lorie Lewis Ham’s Brother), came to the church Mark and Marilyn belonged to and Christopher asked Mark to travel to Africa with him. Christopher and Mark have traveled all over the world planting churches, doing evangelistic crusades and compassionate ministry. In 2009, Marilyn went to Africa with Mark. It was there both Mark and Marilyn accepted the call to missions.
Their first assignment was in February of 2010 working with Christopher and his bride, Karen, in Rosarito Beach, Mexico. Then in September of that year, they were assigned to Brownsville…….where they hope to live happily ever after, or until God moves them someplace else.


  1. This is so sad. Thank you for all the work you’re doing to help people and for keeping the rest of us informed.

  2. This is so sad. And against justice in any form and against all common sense and decency. Now, maybe, people will understand better why trump pulled out of the UN humanitarian section and has started calling the UN our enemies.


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