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2024 Carmelo Cruz Marcos ¡PRESENTE!

A Letter from Mark Adams and Miriam Maldonado Escobar, serving at the U.S. – Mexico Border

Spring 2024

Write to Mark Adams
Write to Miriam Maldonado Escobar
Individuals: Give online to E132192 in honor of Mark Adams and Miriam Maldonado Escobar’s ministry
Congregations: Give to D500115 in honor of Mark Adams and Miriam Maldonado Escobar’s ministry
Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery)


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Carmelo Cruz Marcos

Un hijo [A son]
Un hermano [A brother]
Un esposo [A husband]
Un padre de tres [A father of three]
Creado en la imagen de Dios [Created in the image of God]
Amado por Dios [Beloved by God]

Miriam holding Carmelo Cruz Marcos’ cross at the Healing Our Borders Prayer Vigil

Dear friends,

February 19 was the second anniversary of the day a border patrol agent shot and killed Carmelo Cruz Marcos—at 10 o’clock at night in the Peloncillo Mountains about 30 miles east of Douglas, Arizona. On February 18, 23 people drove over an hour on a dirt road, gathered near the site where Carmelo was killed and held a ceremony of remembrance for him: praying for his family, grieving the brokenness of God’s creation and the human family, and committing ourselves to work for a more peace-filled, loving and just world.

Two years ago, Carmelo’s mother had joined us at a weekly Healing Our Borders Prayer Vigil in Douglas from Carmelo’s home in Pueblo via Zoom when we added his name to a cross. With her daughter-in-law and three grandchildren by her side, she said through her tears:

“My son did not go to rob; he went to work to earn money to build a new roof for the house that wouldn’t leak and to provide opportunities for his children. I want justice for my son, and I want his body brought home.”

Yaqui elder and Catholic Deacon Gabriel Saspe after leading the Pilgrimage of Remembrance ceremony

The Mexican Consulate worked closely with the family to repatriate Carmelo’s body.

In March of 2022, we had had a similar Pilgrimage of Remembrance ceremony in the same place as we did on February 18, but that fall, Jack Knox, a great friend of the ministry, discovered that the cross had been vandalized, torn apart, and uprooted. He found only the horizontal cross beam of the cross that had been ripped from the vertical beam and split in two. Yesterday we found the vertical beam with the concrete ball it had been planted with, about 100 yards away down a little rock face in a creek.

Although the border patrol agent pulled the trigger four times and is directly responsible for killing Carmelo, the underlying and often invisible responsibility lies in economic conditions, trade, and other governmental policies that do not allow persons like Carmelo to raise their families with opportunities and without poverty, as well as an immigration system that uses deserts and mountains (and armed agents) as lethal deterrents to migration. 

If Carmelo had been able to cross the border legally—just as I, my family, and the majority of those reading this can—on his way to support the U.S. economy and his family, whether working in construction, agriculture, meat processing, landscaping or in the hospitality industry, he surely would not have chosen to cross through the rugged and remote mountains east of Douglas, indebting himself and his family to organized crime to smuggle him across.

There has been no significant change in U.S. immigration policy for almost 60 years. The last time the number of work visas increased was in 1991. The U.S. economy has grown dramatically in that time, as has the average age in this country and the retired population.

Preparations for the ceremony

However, instead of increasing legal avenues of migration, which would decrease the need for illegal entries and the need for the people-smuggling industry, the U.S. has chosen an “enforcement only” strategy for more than 30 years. This alone has created a fertile environment for organized crime to thrive and for the most vulnerable to suffer more.

We do not know if justice will or even can be done for Carmelo or his family. What we do know is that he was loved, that he wanted to help his family, that he was not welcome to enter the United States legally, although, if he had successfully run the gauntlet of our prevention through deterrence strategy, he would have been welcome to provide labor in our economy.

We also know that he died too early … before his mother, and before his children grew to adulthood. 

When I attended the vigil for Carmelo, I wore my dad’s sweater, shoes that my children gave me, and a hat of mine that I had shared with my dad on his last visit with us. I am so grateful that I was able to live to help care for my dad a little bit, even from a distance as he grew old, that I was able to hold his hand as he breathed his last breath on this earth and crossed over from life to death and into the eternal embrace of God.

Ceremony at the cross

Today my son Nathan asked me for help doing something. I said to him that I hope that one day he will be the one that is helping me, to which he responded, “That’s a long time away.”  I pray that he is right. 

In addition to continuing to pray for Carmelo’s family and for the border patrol agent who shot and killed him, we commit ourselves to working for:

  • the day when people can thrive in the land of their birth,
  • the day when, as our partners at Café Justo say, “people migrate if they want to, not because they have to,”
  • the day when our nations will no longer demonize persons who are migrating,
  • the day when we cease to use deserts and mountains—God’s creation—as lethal deterrents to migration,
  • the day when we recognize the image of God in, and the humanity of, each person.

“Danger, Do Not Enter” and “Posada Sin Fronteras” signs posted on the border wall.

We are grateful for Deacon Gabriel Saspe for leading the ceremony, for Judy Bourg and Lucy Nigh of the School Sisters of Notre Dame who began the tradition of “Cross Planting” in Cochise County, which they, in turn, learned from Alvaro Enciso, of Tucson Samaritans, and for the board of Mennonite Central Committee West Coast who joined us on the pilgrimage.

We are grateful for you, for your interest in, prayers, and support for our ministry and for all that you do to follow Jesus across borders and provide welcoming and safe places for the most vulnerable in your own communities.

Finally, we are grateful for being connected to people, churches and organizations who not only are present to the suffering of the world but are working toward the peaceable kingdom that God desires and is forming us together to be. 

Mark and Miriam

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