Embroidered cloths hang with clothespins on a line.
Artisans Beyond Borders photo/Valarie Lee James

Finished Manta cloths from Mexico, hand-washed and dried on the line by Tucson’s all volunteer Friends of Artisans Beyond Borders.

Thousands of asylum seekers have spent months to years living in uncertainty in northern Mexico as they wait to enter the United States to formally begin the asylum process. The Biden administration continues to use COVID-19 as a pretext to prevent asylum seekers from entering the country, in violation of U.S. commitments to international treaties.

While reasons for leaving one’s country vary, many migrants experience stressful and traumatic events. To alleviate the stressors on mobile populations, West Coast MCC has worked alongside the binational migrant arts ministry Artisans Beyond Borders as they offer hope and healing through providing traditional embroidery material to individuals who continue to wait to enter the U.S.

With a “make one, teach one” model, participants themselves are coordinators and teachers. The program offers accompaniment, purpose and hope through the rhythmic act of embroidering manta cloths.

As founder Valarie James explains, trauma informed arts therapy presents “the opportunity to directly help these vulnerable families using the healing power of creativity to restore grace and agency through the work of the hands, solidarity among the artisans, and respect for cultural and familial arts across borders.”


Find more stories and resources in the Fall/Winter 2021 Washington Memo: Carrying heavy burdens: Trauma healing and psychosocial support.