The doctor came to the waiting room. Looking at Vidal, he said simply, “I’m sorry, but we can’t treat him.”
In the ensuing conversation, our team learned that the hospital could not treat Vidal without his papers, which would enable him to be registered in the system. When the team offered to pay cash in American dollars for treatment, the doctor insisted: “I’m sorry, but it’s not legal to treat him, even if you pay. We can’t take the risk.” The ride back was quiet, with Vidal and his mother asleep in the back row of the van as the team discussed options. Following a tip from our community liaison, a kindly private physician opened his door to us in the middle of the night. He provided x-rays, IV, and medication for Vidal’s multiple intestinal and bronchial infections, as well as malnourishment. Totaling $50, the cost of his treatment seemed a small sum to our team. But to Vidal’s mother, who supported her family by picking tomatoes for less than $20 a week, it would have been an insurmountable hurdle.
Our team had worked on short-term missions and community aid projects since 2002. But our experience with Vidal forced us to realize that although we had done some good, we had not done anything to change lives. We could do more—and do it better.
In 2011, we headed to a new labor camp, one that had never been open to missionaries or aid groups before. Through a local friend, we heard of Alberto Moreno, who had been born with a degenerative condition that left his bones extremely fragile and a neurological condition that caused seizures. After suffering many broken bones, Alberto was left unable to walk. While his parents worked in the fields all day, his younger sister would care for him and their four other siblings. Nevertheless, Alberto had a beautiful smile and a remarkable happiness that brought joy to those he met.
Getting to know the family, our team took on what we affectionately called The Alberto Project. A family from California donated a child-sized wheelchair, and Alberto was mobile again.
Working closely with his parents, we helped finance his healthcare and medication and connected him with specialists. Eventually, we helped the family rent a home in town so that Alberto could recuperate in more sanitary conditions after a difficult surgery.
Although Alberto passed away in 2013 at age 13, we had made his life and his family’s better: He had been mobile for two years; he regularly received medication; and his family lived in a real home, with enough beds for everyone.
The last two years have also made us more mindful of the broader picture of migration, the ebb and flow of human movement not just to and from harvests in Mexico but across the world. Realizing that the challenges in Baja California reflected challenges for all migrants, we sensed the world growing smaller and the work before us bigger. In 2016, we renamed the organization Inalienable, continuing with established relationships in Mexico with an eye toward global expansion
Regardless of country, Inalienable defends the rights and dignity of migrants to seek and secure their well-being. And it comes back to the story of Vidal—we are committed to doing everything we can so that no migrant mother ever feels powerless to help her dying child.