The Artists Have Their Say

Visual and performance artists as well as writers and poets have much to contribute to our considerations of the border and migrant experience. Through their various art forms, they approach these subjects in a different manner than policy makers or advocates, touching our hearts and minds with their messages. 

The migrant experience, exile, and border life have long been rich subjects for artists and writers. Weaving together materials and images, language and music, choreography and conscience, these creative groups and individuals make strong and moving statements about migrant rights, loss of family members and connections, and in our current political climate, the urgent need for change to address the worldwide immigration crisis. Here is a sampling of various works, intimate and large-scale, local and international.

Visual Arts: Mexican-born, San-Francisco-based artist Ana Teresa Fernández and volunteers have painted sections of the border fence blue for her project Borrando la Frontera/Erasing the Border: http://anateresafernandez.com/1718-2/. Also using the fence as a canvas, United World College students from several countries crossed the U.S.–Mexico border earlier this year to turn a stretch of it into a massive mural: https://vimeo.com/158498038. At La Melgosa (an art space at 1026 Grand Ave, Phoenix, AZ), a 100-foot mural, designed by artist Mata Ruda and painted by local artists, activists and community members, draws attention to the tragic loss of life at the U.S.-Mexico border: http://www.blogher.com/mural-missing (English) or http://www.redfinancieramx.mx/index.php/internacional/item/20298-mural-en-phoenix-muestra-tragedia-de-miles-de-migrantes-muertos-en-desierto (Spanish). Oakland-based artist/activist Favianna Rodriguez uses butterfly imagery and metaphor of rebirth in her powerful projects about human rights and migration: http://endlesscanvas.com/?tag=immigration-issues. And in Saint Petersburg, Russia, street artists offer vibrant commentary on the global migration crisis in an exhibit called Crossing Borders/Crossing Boundaries, installed at and around an abandoned plastics factory: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jaime-rojo-steven-harrington/rafael-schacter-street-art-museum-russia_b_11066158.html. Working in a different format, graphic designer Karla Blanca Equeda, based in San Luis Potosí, conveys messages in a smaller, but no less, impactful, format: https://www.behance.net/gallery/36777043/Carteles-part1.

Dance: Many choreographers and dancers have incorporated themes of migration, separation and longing into their work. In Box Migration, a section of the larger piece Speak, Angels, choreographed by Janice Garrett and Charles Moulten, the dancers seem to create a wall with their bodies: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2q_BtjtdDU. La danza de Fernando, choreographed by David Fernandez and presented at the New York Latin Choreographers Festival, presents another border scenario: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNmTJw8Z7Xw. And Hogar, choreographed by Ballet Hispánico’s Artistic Director and CEO Eduardo Vilaro and performed by that world-renowned company, conjures notions of isolation, connection, flight and sanctuary: https://vimeo.com/96588676 (password: bhdance).

Music: An example of the power of music, the Chicago-based Mariachi Monumental de Mexico with singer Jesús Ramos play the Star Spangled Banner to open a local sports event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKfSBEeIho8. Columbian-American singer/songwriter La Muna (Natalia Serna who spent a year working with the KBI) uses her music to offer solace to migrants and speak to their plight: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLeDcYa79Zc. And in another genre and context, the Silk Road Ensemble, founded by famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma in 2000, endeavors to awaken curiosity, compassion and connection among the peoples of the world through their music. Enjoy a selection of their performances here: https://www.youtube.com/user/silkroadproject.

Poetry: Written in 1939 in response to the antagonism and indifference faced by Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany, W. H. Auden’s Refugee Blues is still relevant today: https://allpoetry.com/Refugee-Blues. Addressing more recent history, poet Marcel Hernandez Castillo, who migrated to the U.S. from Mexico as a child and is now among those granted deportation relief through Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA), turns to poetry to express his feelings about being undocumented, examine issues of identity, and critique how immigration is treated by governments and the media: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/poetry/how-poetry-helped-marcelo-hernandez-castillo-speak-out-on-immigration/. And a cellphone app combining GPS technology and poetry offers both navigation to water sources and lyrical advice to people crossing the treacherous desert borderlands: http://www.truthdig.com/arts_culture/item/transborder_immigrant_tool_series_poetry_survival_us_mexico_border_20160808.

Collaborations: Border issues have often inspired artists from different genres to come together. In Fatal Migrations, writer Daniel Alarcón and data artist Josh Begley honor the tragic deaths at the border in a stark, yet moving, interactive project of aerial images depicting places where lives were lost: https://theintercept.com/2016/06/04/fatal-migrations/. Now on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, DeLIMITations: A Survey of the 1821 United States–Mexico Border by artists Marcos Ramirez ERRE (from Tijuana, Mexico) and David Taylor (from Arizona) documents the historical boundary between the two countries with photographs and video taken as the artists journeyed along the route from the Oregon Coast to the Gulf of Mexico, planting 47 steel markers along the way: http://www.mcasd.org/exhibitions/delimitations-survey-1821-united-states-mexico-border. Also, landscape photographer Richard Misrach and composer and performance artist Guillermo Galindo have published a book of their joint project, Border Cantos, reviewed in this issue of Passages, which include photographs, musical instruments made from found objects left behind by migrants, and online video performances of Galindo playing his compositions on those invented instruments.

A 100-foot mural in Phoenix, entitled Colibrí (Hummingbird), raises awareness about the migrants who have gone missing or died while crossing the Sonoran Desert.

A 100-foot mural in Phoenix, entitled Colibrí (Hummingbird), raises awareness about the migrants who have gone missing or died while crossing the Sonoran Desert.

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A Collaboration at the Border

In their recent book, Border Cantos, landscape photographer Richard Misrach and composer and performance artist Guillermo Galindo offer a visual and online audio reflection about the border through their respective media. Here is a review of their collaborative monograph by photographer and writer Karen Jenkins, with our thanks.

By Karen Jenkins

Richard Misrach and Guillermo Galindo first crossed paths in 2012 at the line between the United States and Mexico, as ramped-up border politics continued to exact a heavy toll in lives and the landscape, and the wall between there and here, them and us, felt more mute and impenetrable than ever. Border Cantos is the culmination of their subsequent artistic collaboration, building on Misrach’s photographic exploration of the American West and expanding Galindo’s work as a composer and performer. Galindo created musical instruments from objects left behind by migrants, and later gathered by Misrach. He also created musical scores using the photographer’s images of the vast border region as raw material and points of departure. Visual languages play off of sound and music in this multi-media project and texts are presented in English and Spanish, running parallel down opposite sides of each page. Separately and together, Misrach and Galindo’s work deftly reckons with both the powerful physicality of the wall and the artifacts that surround it, as well as the numerous conceptual ways into and through its politics, economics, ideologies and aesthetics.

Border Cantos. By Richard Misrach and Guillermo Galindo. Aperture, 2016.

Border Cantos. By Richard Misrach and Guillermo Galindo. Aperture, 2016.

In sweeping, large format photographs, Misrach depicts the wall as seam and scar, stitched up and spiked, part and protrusion between two sides. Yet these are not necessarily views of an imposing obstacle (he points out that the wall is in fact, relatively easy to climb or circumvent). In shifting perspectives, this barrier is also seen as incomplete, nonsensical and inadequate. The obstacle is in the journey; approaching the wall and leaving it behind, passing through desolate, dangerous desert and mountains on either side of the line. Border control meticulously surveils this illicit movement, while migrants attempt to cover their tracks. Certain modes of this precarious symbiosis are decidedly low tech, such as the appropriation by border control of the Native American tracking technique “cutting for sign.” Old chains or tires are dragged along the loose desert surface to make unbroken gradations of sand or soil, against which footprints and signs of travel can be seen. Misrach photographed these discarded tools and their traces, along with those make-shift shoe coverings crafted by migrants to disguise and deflect. He and Galindo perceptively seize upon the symbolism of the tires—discarded, inert and stripped of their forward motion functionality—reemployed to monitor and thwart the movement of others. In the striations and disruptions captured in Misrach’s photographs, Galindo saw the language of music. He created musical scores inspired by these images and other natural forms in the border landscapes that give these lines new form and expression.

Border Cantos. By Richard Misrach and Guillermo Galindo. Aperture, 2016.

Border Cantos. By Richard Misrach and Guillermo Galindo. Aperture, 2016.

A companion Border Cantos website contains videos of Galindo’s performances with the musical instruments created from objects left behind by anonymous migrants. He uses the loaded symbolism and intrinsic materiality of these finds to give voice and sound to those who took them on their border journeys. Josh Kun’s accompanying essays give rich context to the history of such reappropriation as a “strategy for cultural survival for the conquered and oppressed.” In book and website, we see Piñata de cartuchos (Shell Piñata), inspired by the West African gourd instrument, the shekeré. In Galindo’s version, shotgun shell casings collected at a Border Patrol shooting range replace the traditional sea shell covering, now hung off a spiky form inspired by a soccer ball found near the border. The casings are spent, and this ball won’t roll, but its sounds tell a new story. In Micro Orchestra, small belongings left behind by children become instruments in a tiny musical ensemble, with microphones used to amplify their diminutive sounds, while underscoring the failure to hear the voices of many thousands of kids who’ve made perilous border crossings. Misrach’s photographs of the same—mute, in situ—prime us for such a poignant reanimation.

Border Cantos. By Richard Misrach and Guillermo Galindo. Aperture, 2016.

Border Cantos. By Richard Misrach and Guillermo Galindo. Aperture, 2016.

Human encounters in Misrach’s photographs are rare and mediated, through distance, or the slats of the wall. The scarecrow-like effigies he discovered in the desert are jarring in the immediacy of their anthropomorphic presence and uncertain purposes. With none of the stuffed-shirt optimism of a sentry standing guard over a farmer’s lush field, or the unyielding authority of a border guard, these migrant stand-ins assume dramatic poses of warning and a last stand. They also echo the splintered existence of the border-crosser, both rooted in place and propelled forward. Galindo’s companion piece, Efigie, and others in the series, tap into the history of relic veneration, both indigenous and imported, in his use of discarded personal belongings found along the border in the creation of musical instruments that reanimate highly charged objects. In Efigie, resonating pieces of wood form arms and legs, dressed with a hoodie and pants, in a stance that signifies both protest and surrender. Red stains and splatter cover white pants, suggesting flesh and sinew, and bloody violence. The figure is strung up and splayed open; the instrument strings stretch across its body. It’s pounded and plucked; a bow slices through to create its sound, its voice. This, and Border Cantos’ every echo and reverberation between image and sound, inert artifact and its kinetic reboot, insist upon a reckoning with the wall’s many dark iterations and legacy of loss.

Border Cantos. By Richard Misrach and Guillermo Galindo. Aperture, 2016.

Border Cantos. By Richard Misrach and Guillermo Galindo. Aperture, 2016.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Border Cantos

By Richard Misrach and Guillermo Galindo.

Aperture, New York, USA, 2016. 274 pp.,

257 color illustrations, 13¼x10½”.

Available at: http://www.photoeye.com/bookstore/citation.cfm?catalog=DS614.

Border Cantos. By Richard Misrach and Guillermo Galindo. Aperture, 2016.

Border Cantos. By Richard Misrach and Guillermo Galindo. Aperture, 2016.

 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Karen Jenkins earned a Master’s degree in Art History, specializing in the History of Photography from the University of Arizona. She has held curatorial positions at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, AZ and the Demuth Museum in Lancaster, PA. Read more of Karen’s reviews at: http://blog.photoeye.com/search/label/Karen%20Jenkins.
 
NOTE: This review first appeared on photo-eye’s blog on May 23, 2016: http://blog.photoeye.com/2016/05/book-review-border-cantos.html.  It appears here with the kind permission of photo-eye and the author. For more information about this work in this volume and to view Galindo’s performances, please go to: http://bordercantos.com.

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KBI July Announcements

We share a recent U.S.-sponsored report about the deportation of potential asylum seekers back to their violent homelands, a crisis confirmed by the first-hand testimony collected at the KBI. In addition, we list the immersion groups who visited the KBI this summer, a KBI job opportunity, and information about an upcoming interactive event in Tucson, Stories from the Border, featuring journalists from Mexico and the U.S.

  • Report Confirms KBI Findings: A report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Barriers to Protection: The Treatment of Asylum Seekers in Expedited Removal, confirms what the KBI has also documented over years of migrant interviews—that migrants are being deported back to their dangerous home countries without exploration of their eligibility for asylum or an asylum hearing. Here is the KBI’s press release, summarizing the issues: https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/report-indicates-asylum-seekers-deported-danger-without-hearing/. And here is the full report: http://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/Barriers%20To%20Protection.pdf.
  • Summer Immersions: This summer, nine undertook KBI immersion experiences to learn more about the migrant experience and the reality of the border. We are grateful for their participation, commitment to immigration issues, and advocacy work they do in their communities, inspired by their immersion experiences.
Immersion Group # of participants # of days at the KBI
Saint Xavier High School
Cincinnati, OH
12 participants 6 days
Saint Ignatius High School

Chicago, IL

9 participants 7 days
Saint Ignatius High School
San Francisco, CA
11 participants 14 days
Salesianum High School
Wilmington, DE
10 participants 4 days
Jesuit Volunteer Corps
Tucson, AZ
12 participants 1 day
Georgetown Preparatory HS
Washington, D.C.
13 participants 5 days
Jesuit High School/Portland
Beaverton, OR
12 participants 4 days
Gonzaga High School
Washington, D.C.
12 participants 6 days
Jesuit Volunteer Corps
Tucson, AZ
10 participants 1 day

Stories from the Border: Don’t miss Community Interactive: Stories from the Border, a free event featuring a panel of noted journalists from Mexico and the U.S. and sponsored by Arizona Public Media and the Community Foundation of Southern Arizona. Attend in person at the Fox Theater in Tucson on Thursday, September 29, 2016, 6:30–8:00pm, or watch the program online (it will be streamed live and also available after the event). For more information, please go to: https://about.azpm.org/p/press-release/2016/8/2/92937-community-interactive-stories-from-the-border/.

During the summer months, many high schools and other groups (like the group from Georgetown Preparatory School, pictured here) participate in immersion experiences at the KBI.

During the summer months, many high schools and other groups (like the group from Georgetown Preparatory School, pictured here) participate in immersion experiences at the KBI.

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Support the Refugee Protection Act of 2016

In July, Congress introduced a bill to repeal some of the major barriers faced by refugees and asylum seekers as they pursue safety and protection in the U.S. The Refugee Protection Act of 2016 would increase protection of children and families as well as those facing gender-based persecution, and affirm the U.S. commitment to protecting and welcoming those who suffer persecution in their homelands.

Please join the KBI in supporting this new legislation by contacting your congressional representatives and adding your name to the online form provided by Jesuit Refugee Service/USA. Here is the link, with many thanks for your help in advocating on behalf of refugees and those in need of asylum: http://cqrcengage.com/jesuit/app/write-a-letter?4&engagementId=231633&lp=0.

Photo by Christian Fuchs. Courtesy of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA.

Photo by Christian Fuchs. Courtesy of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA.

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Immigration in the News

This month, many immigration news reports focused on detention centers and the wide range of concerns associated with them—the quality of medical and mental health care, facility conditions, and the private management of these centers. In addition, there are stories about the challenges faced by undocumented children as well as information about migrant risks and deaths—in detention centers, near the U.S.–Mexico border, and throughout the world. Finally, watch the heartening welcome of the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team at the opening ceremony.

 Refugee Olympic Team’s Rosie Lokonyen leads her delegation during the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 5, 2016.

Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty Images

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Report Indicates Asylum Seekers Deported to Danger Without a Hearing

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 3, 2016

Nogales, AZ and Nogales, Sonora – A report released August 2, 2016 from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Barriers to Protection: The Treatment of Asylum Seekers in Expedited Removal, confirms the first-hand testimony that the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) has gathered about individuals who are wrongly deported to danger. It shows that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) ignores migrants when they express fear and that they issue expedited removals to many individuals who should be afforded the opportunity to seek asylum. They deport these individuals back to the dangerous, life-threatening situations they fled without ever having a credible fear interview.

The USCIRF found through interviews and observations that CBP officers and agents often fail to ask individuals whether they are afraid of returning to their country, ignore migrants’ responses when they express fear, and are highly skeptical of migrants’ stories of the violence they flee. The report also found that Border Patrol’s internal guidance on their role inaccurately says that agents are responsible for determining whether and individual has credible fear, when that is in fact the role of an asylum officer. Many of the recommendations that USCIRF made in their last report in 2005 have not been followed, which is why these troubling trends continue and KBI constantly receives first hand testimony of individuals who have had their rights ignored.

HISTORY OF REMOVALS: The use of expedited and summary removals has been expanded several times between 1996 and 2004, allowing immigration agents to issue removal orders without an individual seeing an immigration judge. At the time of this expansion, both advocates and congressional representatives were concerned that the use of these orders would unjustly impact individuals migrating for fear of persecution.

KBI FINDINGS: According to KBI’s intake surveys, from January to June 2016, 5% of deported Mexican men and 7% of deported Mexican women in KBI’s aid center in Nogales, Sonora reported the violence they face in Mexico as their primary reason for migration. That means that every month this year, around forty Mexican individuals who were deported to Nogales, Sonora were entitled to have their cases considered by an asylum officer and an immigration judge but were not afforded that opportunity.

COMPLAINTS FILED BY THE KBI: Since November of 2015, the KBI has filed ten complaints on behalf of individuals who expressed fear of returning to Mexico, but instead of being given the opportunity to speak with an asylum officer, they were deported by Border Patrol agents, Customs and Border Protection officers, or Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. These complaints include the following cases:

  • A Mexican woman who fled her native country when she was threatened by the same group that kidnapped, tortured, and killed her brother. She crossed the border five times and every time expressed her fear to Border Patrol agents. Her concerns were consistently dismissed. One agent responded by saying that in the US there are school shootings, so there is no reason to think she would be safer here. On another occasion, an agent said that the kind of violence she described does not occur in Mexico City. Five times over the course of several months, she was removed to Mexico with no opportunity to seek asylum.
  • A Mexican man who fled due to persecution and harassment he had suffered on the basis of his sexual orientation. He said that when he was detained while crossing the border, he insisted for several minutes that he was fleeing persecution and would like to seek asylum. Instead he was given an expedited removal order.
  • A Mexican woman who fled because criminal gangs had infiltrated her town and were targeting and raping women. She reported that when she expressed fear of returning to Mexico, the Border Patrol agent responded that there are also gangs in the United States, so she has no reason to believe she would be safer here.

Under US law and international law, each of these individuals deserved to have their claims of fear evaluated by a qualified asylum officer in a credible fear interview. But that right was denied.

CONFIRMATION OF FINDINGS: KBI’s experience and the findings of USCIRF’s recent report are consistent with earlier reports, including ACLU’s 2014 report, “American Exile” and Human Rights Watch’s 2014 report, “You Don’t Have Rights Here.” These reports reflect a pattern that demands urgent action by the Department of Homeland Security and the US Congress. These injustices should be addressed by decreasing use of expedited removals, re-training agents on their obligations, and regularly recording interviews between migrants and Border Patrol agents to monitor compliance and address issues.

CONTACT: Joanna Williams, jwilliams@kinoborderinitiative.org, 520-287-2370

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The Advocates and Leaders of Tomorrow

High school students from around the country—moved by the migrant crisis and committed to change—gathered at the border for the first Kino Teens Leadership Days.

High school students from across the U.S. joined the KBI’s Father Pete Neeley, S.J. and Joanna Williams (far left) and Kim Miller from the Ignatian Solidarity Network (far right) at the KBI to participate in the first annual Leadership Days.

High school students from across the U.S. joined the KBI’s Father Pete Neeley, S.J. and Joanna Williams (far left) and Kim Miller from the Ignatian Solidarity Network (far right) at the KBI to participate in the first annual Leadership Days.

In June, eleven student representatives from eight schools across the U.S. participated in the first-ever Kino Teens Leadership Days, sponsored by the Kino Border Initiative. Part immersion experience, part symposium, training camp and reflection opportunity, the four-day gathering focused on learning more about the reality of the border; determining ways to accompany migrants even from afar and to work within one’s community to raise awareness about immigration issues; and building a network of young leaders throughout the U.S. dedicated to affecting change.

Starting and ending each day with a prayer or reflection, the students followed a full schedule of meetings, trainings, and visits, with meals and evenings for solidifying the friendship and solidarity developed during such concentrated work and thoughtful discussion. Many of the students had visited the border before or been members of their local Kino Teens chapter, and all came from schools who have sent immersion groups to the KBI over the past year.

Over the four days, the students served meals at the comedor and listened to stories directly from the migrants there and at Casa Nazareth, the KBI’s shelter. They visited Operation Streamline proceedings in Tucson, where group prosecutions of migrants often overlook potential asylum claims and result in expedited deportation and family separation. And they walked along the desert border in the footsteps of the migrants, a brief, but powerful, introduction to the difficulty and dangers of the crossing.

Back at Casa Saeta, the KBI’s lodging for visiting groups, the students discussed the border crisis, attitudes about migration in their schools and communities, and the struggle for immigration reform. In workshops, they learned about leadership tools and skills they could use to educate and advocate on behalf of migrants, developed a vision for advocacy moving forward, and laid out concrete plans for implementing that vision and staying in touch with other participants once everyone returned home. Drawing on work done before the gathering, they shared prepared presentations on topics such as the role of the U.S. Border Patrol, deaths in the desert, human trafficking, unaccompanied children, and the impact of drug cartels and violence on immigration.

The Kino Teens Leadership Days closed on a note of camaraderie and commitment, with a Mass celebrated by Father Pete and a chance for these young advocates to share what the gathering meant to them. Here are some of their thoughts about their life-altering experience at the border and their commitment, today and in the future, to accompanying the migrants who struggle for better lives and family reunion:

  • “This experience made me more knowledgeable about immigration issues, and made me want to be an advocate for change.”
  • “Hands-down the most memorable and worthwhile experience of my life.”
  • “I feel empowered and compelled to start a Kino Teens club in my school so that everyone can share in the experience.”
  • “It has given me more info and much more motivation to change the problem and make it better and advocate.”
  • “Seeing the faith in the comedor has impacted me to such great limits. I want their relationship with God, and after seeing everything, I can’t just go back to my normal life.”
  • “This program was amazing, awe-inspiring, and life-changing.”
  • “It has made me realize the difference we can make, and given me a sense of responsibility to improve the lives of these migrants and all others.”

THANK YOU: The KBI would like to acknowledge the efforts and commitment of the student participants and their schools: Alejandra Natera and Clarissa Martinez, St. Ignatius College Prep, Chicago, IL; Lauren Cueto, St Ignatius College Preparatory, San Francisco, CA; Michael Fissinger, Loyola High School, Los Angeles, CA; Duncan McDonald, Gonzaga College High School, Washington, D.C.; Juan Lopez Salazar and Matthew Zacher, Brophy College Preparatory, Phoenix, AZ; Nico Saavedra, Saint Augustine Catholic High School, Tucson, AZ; Pilar Cota, San Miguel High School, Tucson, AZ; and Ana Gonzalez and Yamelle Gonzalez, Lourdes Catholic School, Nogales, AZ. Also, heartfelt thanks to Our Lady of Consolation Commission on Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation for their funding; Kim Miller from the Ignatian Solidarity Network and Teresita Scully from Lourdes Catholic School (and the Kino Teens coordinator there) for assisting KBI staff Joanna Williams and Father Pete Neeley, S.J. in facilitating the experience; the parents of the Lourdes Kino Teens for preparing a Mexican fiesta night for the students; and Lourdes Kino Teens alumni for sharing their wisdom with this next class of leaders. ¡Muchísimas gracias!

Lourdes Kino Teens alumni share wisdom with the teens based on their experiences.

Lourdes Kino Teens alumni share wisdom with the teens based on their experiences.

A pancake breakfast prepared by three of the teens for the rest of their peers on Wednesday morning.

A pancake breakfast prepared by three of the teens for the rest of their peers on Wednesday morning.

The students plan how they will share the stories they have heard when they return to their campuses.

The students plan how they will share the stories they have heard when they return to their campuses.

Accompaniment is central to the KBI’s work; here students brainstorm ideas for accompanying the migrants from within their communities.

Accompaniment is central to the KBI’s work; here students brainstorm ideas for accompanying the migrants from within their communities.

Students make a list of ways they can defend the rights of migrants.

Students make a list of ways they can defend the rights of migrants.

Joanna leads a discussion about advocacy and ways to provide leadership about immigration issues in schools and communities.

Joanna leads a discussion about advocacy and ways to provide leadership about immigration issues in schools and communities.

An evening visit to Tumacacori Mission to explain the historical role of Father Kino, led by Father Pete (in white).

An evening visit to Tumacacori Mission to explain the historical role of Father Kino, led by Father Pete (in white).

Piñata fun on Tuesday evening, when the kids enjoyed a Mexican fiesta night.

Piñata fun on Tuesday evening, when the kids enjoyed a Mexican fiesta night.

A Mexican fiesta night celebrating new friendships and the good work accomplished at the KBI’s Leadership Days.

A Mexican fiesta night celebrating new friendships and the good work accomplished at the KBI’s Leadership Days.

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The Supreme Court Ruling on Immigration Relief

The Supreme Court split evenly on the legality of President Obama’s 2014 executive actions offering relief for 4.9 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. What now for these mixed-status families?

On June 6, the Supreme Court—a cohort of 8 justices with Justice Scalia’s seat still unfilled—handed down a 4–4 ruling in United States v. Texas, the case challenging President Obama’s 2014 executive order to provide temporary deportation relief and work visas to as many as 4.9 million undocumented parents of U.S. citizens (DAPA). The order also expanded a 2012 program which offered deferments to 730,000 non-citizen children who came to the U.S. while under the age of sixteen (DACA). The ruling leaves in place an earlier federal district court decision blocking the executive order, a result that undermines President Obama’s attempt to offer deportation relief, and leaves the future for millions of mixed-status families up in the air.

Among immigrant families and supporters of immigration reform, the decision is yet another disappointment. After years of Congressional gridlock and inaction, the order raised hopes that the plight of undocumented immigrants was finally being addressed and that the order would help keep immigrant families together. Now, the injunction against the executive order stands, at least until a new administration assumes control of the White House or, much less likely, Congress chooses to enact new immigration legislation. Another possibility is further litigation to challenge the injunction, and the case might even find itself before the Supreme Court once more, this time with a full complement of justices.

That is the legal overview of the situation. The human side is a more emotional and heartbreaking scenario. Individuals who have been in the U.S. for years or decades, raised children here, and contributed to their communities must continue to live in fear of detection and deportation. Without work visas, they are vulnerable to exploitation and abuses in the workplace, and their undocumented status also means they refrain from reporting crimes committed against them, such as domestic violence, theft or burglary, rape, to avoid informing government authorities of their presence. Most distressing of all, without the protection of the executive order, families are exposed to the very real possibility of being separated. Stories and statistics attest to the countless families who have suffered in this way—parents who have not seen their children for 10 or 20 years; adult children who cannot care for ailing parents; family members who have missed important family events—graduations, marriages, births and deaths. Though the injunction does not affect enforcement priorities announced in 2014 (namely, that individuals who have been in the U.S. for many years with a clean record are low priorities), fear of deportation infuses every aspect of life for undocumented immigrants, intensified by the high stakes of family separation.

The decision means that President Obama will leave office without accomplishing the major immigration reform he promised, and the media has reported on the impact of this decision on his immigration legacy. However, a more favorable decision would only offset other Administration policies that have harmed immigrants—years of ICE raids, most recently focused on Central American families; increased enforcement at an already over-militarized border; and the highest number of deportations and removals under any president in history. These are perhaps concessions to political leaders who do not favor immigration reform, but if so, they have not had the desired effect of finding a legislative compromise.

As President Obama acknowledges with a combination of pragmatism and hope, “Sooner or later, immigration reform will get done. Congress is not going to be able to ignore America forever. It’s not a matter of ‘if,’ it’s a matter of ‘when.’” The waiting continues with this most recent setback, as immigrants, advocates and organizations, the KBI among them, continue to work for migrant rights, the preservation of families, and a compassionate immigration policy.

NOTE: Please see the following Passages article from May 2016 for more background on this case: https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/the-supreme-court-and-immigration/.

The recent Supreme Court decision on immigration relief means immigrant families in the U.S. continue to be vulnerable to family separation. Photo by Larry Hanelin.

The recent Supreme Court decision on immigration relief means immigrant families in the U.S. continue to be vulnerable to family separation.
Photo by Larry Hanelin.

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Up Close: A Year at the KBI

KBI Staff Members Javier Fierro and Joanna Williams

Javier Fierro and Joanna Williams—Associate Director and Director of Education and Advocacy, respectively—began working at the KBI a little more than a year ago, contributing their impressive skills to the KBI team of staff, board members, volunteers and donors. Each has volunteered with the KBI in the past, and is deeply committed to the KBI mission of supporting migrants at the border, keeping families together, and working toward a more humane immigration policy. Here, after a year of service, they share some details about their KBI roles and reflect on the meaning of their work.

JAVIER FIERRO: As Associate Director since May 2015, Javier handles business and administrative matters for the KBI. While other staff members often work off-site—as close as Nogales, Sonora or as far as Washington, D.C.—Javier keeps the KBI offices running smoothly, the paperwork in order, and managerial and human resources tasks covered. In addition, he communicates regularly with volunteers on the U.S. side as well as vendors, donors and KBI partners in the U.S. and Mexico. His primary goal essentially matches his job description—to guarantee the sustainability and future of the KBI from the management side of things. In his words, he is “the person behind the scenes.” Even so, he can often be found in the comedor, helping to serve meals and offering support to the migrants there.

Javier is especially gratified that his work allows Father Sean (who used to handle these daily business duties before the KBI grew, year by year, in scope and outreach) to focus on bringing the KBI’s message to a wider audience. Father Sean’s September trip to Washington, D.C., to advocate before Congress during Pope Francis’s visit there was a particular highlight for Javier.

Though he has long been familiar with migrant issues and is an immigrant himself, Javier’s work with the KBI has exposed him to the ongoing, often unacknowledged efforts of the many agencies and organizations working on behalf of human rights and social justice. As he points out, news reports of deportations and family separation are distressing, but at the KBI he encounters the groups who are aiding migrants and advocating for policy change. “It gives me hope,” he says.

Javier (second from left) with volunteers who administer medical care to the migrants at the comedor.

Javier (second from left) with volunteers who administer medical care to the migrants at the comedor.

Javier at the comedor with Sister Alicia Guevara Perez, M.E., one of the KBI’s Migrant Aid Coordinators.

Javier at the comedor with Sister Alicia Guevara Perez, M.E., one of the KBI’s Migrant Aid Coordinators.

JOANNA WILLIAMS: With Joanna’s arrival in June 2015, the KBI merged its education and advocacy efforts under her direction. Building on the collaboration and communication so necessary to the KBI’s work, Joanna aimed to bring a more strategic perspective to education and advocacy planning. In the past year, the KBI board organized an Advocacy Committee and drew up strategic goals and plans for both sides of the border; Joanna has made several advocacy trips to Washington, D.C., and other cities; and organized the Kino Teens Leadership Days (see article in this newsletter) and February’s Walking in Mercy Youth Summit as well as numerous high school immersions to help to open the eyes of young advocates and future leaders.

A typical week for Joanna finds her in many places—meeting in Tucson with local partners; listening to migrant stories and documenting abuses at the comedor; participating in phone meetings with the Department of Homeland Security, the Southern Border Communities Coalition, or other organizations; and working on strategy, conducting research, developing curriculum, and catching up on correspondence back at the office.

Memorable moments from the past year include Joanna’s September trip to D.C., coinciding with Pope Francis’s visit, to call on congressional offices and share the findings of the recently released report, Our Values on the Line: Migrant Abuse and Family Separation at the Border, co-published with the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the U.S. (http://www.jesuits.org/valuesontheline). And during the Holy Father’s celebration of Mass in Ciudad Juárez and a live-stream of the proceedings into the comedor, Joanna was moved by his words: “This crisis, which can be measured in numbers and statistics, we want instead to measure with names, stories, families.” As she recalls, “I could see the names, faces, and families around me.” The migrants themselves—their experiences and stories—are the strongest reminder of the KBI’s urgent mission, and the critical importance of education and advocacy in defending their human rights and formulating a more compassionate immigration policy.

Joanna (second from right) with the Border Network for Human Rights delegation in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of the Office of Congressman Beto O’Rourke.

Joanna (second from right) with the Border Network for Human Rights delegation in Washington, D.C.
Photo courtesy of the Office of Congressman Beto O’Rourke.

Joanna preps the student assistants at the Walking in Mercy Youth Summit in February.

Joanna preps the student assistants at the Walking in Mercy Youth Summit in February.

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KBI July Announcements

The KBI is pleased that the 2015 Annual Report is available—in print and online—and humbled that we are being considered for a respected service award. Also, our summer immersions continue, and a visitor from an immersion earlier this year has written an eloquent reflection on the experience for Jesuit Refugee Service/USA. Finally, we remind you to keep up with our Facebook pages for the latest KBI news.

  • KBI Annual Report: The KBI 2015 Annual Report is here! Copies have been mailed out, and we hope you find its contents to be informative and inspiring. If you’d like to receive a printed copy, please email your request to Ivette Fuentes at ifuentes@kinoborderinitiative.org. For the online version, go to: https://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/annual-report/. Many thanks to all our donors, volunteers and partner organizations who made 2015 an eventful and successful year for the KBI.
  • The KBI Is Honored: The Kino Border Initiative is one of seven finalists for Catholic Extension’s Lumen Christi Award. Finalists are organizations or individuals who demonstrate the power of faith to transform lives and communities, bringing the “Light of Christ” to those who are marginalized and in need. Nominated for this award by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson, the KBI is honored to be among the finalists considered this year and awaits the result to be announced in the fall. More information about Catholic Extension and the award can be found at: https://www.catholicextension.org/lumen-christi-award.
  • Immersion Reflections: We invite you to read a three-part essay written by Bob Macpherson about his immersion experience at the KBI. He travelled to the border with others from St. Peter Catholic Church in Charlotte, North Carolina to learn more about the border first-hand, and shared his writings with Jesuit Refugee Service/USA as part of their Voices series.
    Part One: http://jrsusa.org/Voices_Detail?TN=DTN-20160520030652.
    Part Two: http://www.jrsusa.org/Voices_Detail?TN=DTN-20160527122424.
    Part Three: http://jrsusa.org/Voices_Detail?TN=DTN-20160603104123.
  • KBI Facebook Pages: Don’t forget to check out the KBI’s Facebook pages, in English and Spanish. They’ll keep you up-to-date on the latest immigration news and KBI activities.
    English: https://www.facebook.com/Kino.Border.lnitiative/?fref=nf.
    Spanish: https://www.facebook.com/KBI.migrantes/.
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Visitors from St. Peter Catholic Church in Charlotte, North Carolina during their May visit. Read their reflections at jrsusa.org.

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