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Border Walls

Written by Doug Smith and Kate Moyer
July 22, 2014

With immigration law reform such a hotly debated topic in the U.S. these days, we want to describe our path to legal residence on this side of the border.  On May 2 this year we were granted “Temporary Resident” status in Mexico.  In approving our application for residency for the period of two years, the Office of Immigration wrote us the following:

“As a country valuing hospitality……Mexico is pleased to send you the enclosed card (green!) in approval of your stay as a temporary resident thereby signaling permission…..for unrestricted movement within the national territory, access to education and health services and to the justice system.”

We applied to the Immigration Office in San Luis Potosi shortly before the six month tourist visa we entered with had expired.  While waiting for the application to be processed, we received a “Departure and Reentry Permit”, valid for a 60 day period, and then left for a month’s vacation in the States.

Within a month of our return to San Luis Potosi, we celebrated our new legal status and the green card, bearing a hideous photo, now in our billfolds.  The whole process cost us $2,295 Mexican pesos or about $177 U.S. for each of us with no lawyer involved.  As what our Disciples/UCC Global Ministries Office terms “Service Volunteers”, we did not apply for a work permit.  The Office of Immigration did note on the application that we were in Mexico to serve Disciples of Christ and Congregational Churches of the Mexican Roundtable, “Mesa Conjunta”.

Throughout the process of establishing legal residence, we were of course mindful of the contrasting procedures for establishing residence in the  neighboring countries of Mexico and the U.S. There any so many barriers now in place, almost entirely on the U.S. side of the border, which impede or prevent relationships between people of our two countries.  The current application process makes even a short visit to the States a formidable challenge that is out of reach of most Mexican citizens.

While in Mazatlan recently, we enthusiastically talked with church leaders there about organizing cross border visits, particularly for youth, in the two countries.  Youth from the U.S. have been hosted by the Congregational Church in Mazatlan but it’s not so simple for Mexican youth to return the visit.  While a tourist card at the Mexican border costs a U.S. citizen around $22 U.S. now, a U.S. tourist visa for a Mexican will involve a processing fee of $160 plus around $40 for DHL delivery of the visa.  A Mexican youth will have to be interviewed at the nearest U.S. Consulate and in the case of a Mazatlan youth that would be in Hermosillo, a $3000 Mexican pesos round trip.  All this in addition to the cost of a Mexican passport of $955 Mexican pesos or around $73 U.S. make an almost insurmountable barrier for an exchange visit by Mexican youth.

But it isn’t only prohibitive costs and lengthy processing of applications for Mexican visitors, there are other walls that need to be scaled for closer relationships to exist between nationals of the U.S. and Mexico.  While most migrants from the south are no longer from Mexico, the talk about illegal immigration from Mexico continues to infect the attitudes and views of many U.S. citizens toward our southern neighbor.

We hope this artcile contributes not only to “erasing borders” but also to breaking down some walls of separation between communities of faith in the two countries.  Disciples and UCC churches in the U.S. have a history of more than one hundred years of service in Mexico.  As more and more Spanish speaking communities of faith affiliate with our two denominations, our relationships with Congregational and Disciples church members in Mexico represent a great asset and resource for a more inclusive Church in the U.S.

An excellent article on the real reasons, internal security is not among them, for the U.S. government constructing a wall on the Mexican border can be found at

Doug Smith and Kate Moyer serve as Long-term Volunteers with the Joint Table for Mission Development formed by the Christian Congregational Churches of Mexico, the Christian Church (DOC), and the Fraternity of Evangelical Christian Churches (DOC) of Mexico. Doug and Kate serve as Consultants for Mission Development. Doug serves with the emphasis in stewardship and resource development.  Kate serves with the emphasis on women’s development and theological education.l

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