Partners in Mission: Return to the Border

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In July 2023, Doctor Guadalupe Jimenez signed up for a Maryknoll immersion trip to El Paso, Texas. But it wasn’t her first time at the border. 

Thirty-nine years ago, her family crossed that same border after a perilous journey from Puebla, Mexico. Hunger, poverty and danger had driven them to seek a better life.  

“I was in my mom’s womb,” says Jimenez. “She had to sleep outside in the desert and go without water for days, but she knew the risks were greater in Mexico.”

The immersion trip was more than a personal endeavor. “I wanted to learn about what’s happening at the border,” she says. “The goal was to take that information and then be better able to help migrants.”

As immigrants, Jimenez’s family did not see their struggles end after settling in their new home, but their needs were assuaged by the generosity of Catholic and government organizations that provided food, clothes and community. Jimenez says she never forgot that kindness, nor her parents’ sacrifice. 

“I just want to give back. ‘Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40). That resonates in my head,” says Jimenez. 

The horrors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks set her on a path of service after graduating from high school. Jimenez served as a medic in three deployments with the U.S. Navy in Iraq and Afghanistan, after which she decided to become a physician to continue healing people. 

Today, she holds a master’s degree in medical science and a medical degree from the University of Indiana and is a resident physician for the New York Presbyterian system at the Columbia University Irving and the Weill Cornell medical centers in New York City. 

Her Catholic faith continues to guide her life and work. “When I’m taking care of people in need,” Jimenez says, “I try to see the face of Jesus Christ.”

The immersion trip was sponsored by the Mission Formation Program of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers and led by the Encuentro Project, an organization that introduces participants to the realities of migration. 

Jimenez and other participants also visited migrant shelters. At one shelter, she led the preparation of a meal for about 60 people. 

During her free time, Jimenez returned to one of the shelters, at Sacred Heart Church, to visit and talk with the migrants.

There, she says, she met other physicians, including Brian Elmore, an emergency medicine resident. Elmore leads Clínica Hope, a project run by Hope Border Institute to offer basic health care to migrants on both sides of the border. 

Elmore took Jimenez to meet a burn victim of the March 2023 migrant center fire in Ciudad Juarez that had taken the lives of 40 migrants. Some of the victims had been in such critical condition that they had to be taken to El Paso for life-saving treatment. 

“People are doing the impossible in order to have safety and a better life,” Jimenez says. “Access to health care, everybody should have that.”

Returning to the border in November, Jimenez volunteered again in the migrant shelters she had visited during the immersion trip.

Jimenez heard many stories. She spoke to a man who made the journey with a broken foot. She learned that many migrants do not seek medical help for fear of being deported. Some with chronic illnesses had their medications taken away in detention centers. 

Equipped with knowledge and inspired by the volunteers at the border, Jimenez, with the support of the Columbia University Irving medical center, is creating a telemedicine project for migrants. Through same-day appointments, providers will address physical and mental health needs, offer information about the migrants’ rights, and connect them with primary care doctors.  

“My family and myself were in their shoes. I know what the outcome could be if we take care of these people,” Jimenez says. “I see my family’s faces in them. They’re God’s children and it’s my responsibility to help them.”

Featured Image: Guadalupe Jimenez (front row, far right), Andrea Moreno-Díaz (far left) and other participants on a July 2023 Maryknoll border immersion trip meet with Mujer Obrera, a community-based organization in El Paso, Texas. (Courtesy of Guadalupe Jimenez/U.S.) 


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About the author

Andrea Moreno-Diaz

Was born in Bogotá, Colombia. She earned a master's degree in Hispanic Literatures from City College of New York. As associate editor she writes, edits and translates stories in Spanish and English. She lives in Ossining, New York.