Analysis emphasizing the need to preserve the due process protections of children fleeing Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

Please find attached a letter Tom Smolich [President Jesuit Conference USA] wrote to Speaker Boehner (and delivered via carbon copying the 40+ Alumni of Jesuit institutions serving in Congress) outlining the analysis of our Central American Jesuit partners and emphasizing the need to preserve the due process protections of children fleeing Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

http://jesuits.org/Assets/Publications/File/Smolich%20Boehner%20final%20level.pdf

Please feel free to share.

Jesuit Refugee Service  also released a short video explaining the dire country conditions in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador as a tool that can be used to educate constituencies and galvanize grassroots action”  http://t.co/BsmNjqA1kM

Please promote these two resources!

Share this:
Facebook Email Twitter Pinterest

Recent Immigration News and the KBI

By: Roxane Ramos

Bishops on a Mission for Migrants

Following their April visit to the Arizona–Mexico border, members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration took to the road once more to draw attention to immigration issues and the struggles facing undocumented migrants. This time the destination was Capitol Hill. On May 29, six bishops celebrated Mass at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. In his homily, Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami called for greater understanding and a change in law, saying “[the migrants] only ask for the opportunity to become legal and have a chance for citizenship—to come out of the shadows where they live in fear of a knock on their door in the dead of night or an immigration raid to their work place.”

Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski celebrates Mass at St. Peter’s in Washington, D.C. Courtesy of USCCB Migration & Refugee Services.

Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski celebrates Mass at St. Peter’s in Washington, D.C.
Courtesy of USCCB Migration & Refugee Services.

In addition to a press conference, the bishops were also scheduled to visit with several House representatives, including House Speaker John Boehner. Boehner has refused to bring an immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in June 2013 to a vote, claiming that there is not enough Republican support to pass it. Advocates disagree, and a major impetus behind the bishops’ trip was to urge legislators to move on this issue. Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo of Seattle, chair of the USCCB Committee on Migration, highlighted the “moral urgency” of the situation, saying, “We need debate and vote on [immigration reform]. Inaction is equivalent to supporting the status quo, which Americans agree needs to be changed.”

The bishops processing after the Mass for Immigrants and Immigrant Families. Courtesy of USCCB Migration & Refugee Services.

The bishops processing after the Mass for Immigrants and Immigrant Families.
Courtesy of USCCB Migration & Refugee Services.

Call to Action: Check out the Justice for Immigrants web site, sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, for ways in which you can support more humane immigration reform and spur U.S. lawmakers to action.

http://www.justiceforimmigrants.org/index.shtml

Bishop Emeritus Ricardo Ramirez greets a well-wisher after Mass. Courtesy of USCCB Migration & Refugee Services.

Bishop Emeritus Ricardo Ramirez greets a well-wisher after Mass.
Courtesy of USCCB Migration & Refugee Services.

 

Children Detained at the Border

Unaccompanied migrant children escorted by U.S. Border Patrol agents. credit: James S Wood

Unaccompanied migrant children escorted by U.S. Border Patrol agents.
credit: James S Wood

With the recent entry of unaccompanied children at the Texas border, the KBI is staying informed about this troubling situation and investigating ways to be of service. Father Sean has attended meetings with various government agencies as well as church and advocacy groups, and toured the Nogales, AZ Border Patrol Station where some of the more than 1,000 children were transferred. He wrote in a June 12 KBI Special Alert that “most are teenagers but there are a smaller number of younger children. Based on the way they looked and on the facilities that had been set up, their physical needs seem to be met. Their psychological and spiritual well-being is less clear to me, due to the inability to speak and interact with the young people.”

The children are mostly from Central America, and have fled escalating gang violence and severe economic conditions in their native lands, crossing the length of Mexico to reunite with their families in the United States. The authorities have described the situation as a humanitarian crisis, and it is not likely to stop in the near future.

A young boy sleeps at one of the temporary detention centers. credit:  Michael Wallace AZ Red Cross

A young boy sleeps at one of the temporary detention centers.
credit: Michael Wallace AZ Red Cross

While the U.S. Border Patrol appears to be treating the children as well as possible, they are not equipped for the nature or magnitude of this task, and “warehousing” children while lawmakers consider how to address the problem has created numerous concerns, from the purely physical (can the children’s needs continue to be met?) to the psychological (how will ongoing separation from their families and lengthy detention affect these kids?).

Since the beginning of the year, more than 52,000 undocumented and unaccompanied children have entered the U.S. Numerous protests have called for a range of measures—better care for the children, reunification with their families, and more generally, immigration reform. At this writing, no solutions are forthcoming, though President Obama has issued a warning to the parents of these brave, vulnerable children: “Do not send your children to the borders. If they do make it, they’ll get sent back. More importantly, they may not make it.”

A migrant girl awaits resolution of this humanitarian crisis. photo by: Aldo Michelis.

A migrant girl awaits resolution of this humanitarian crisis.
photo by: Aldo Michelis.

The KBI will continue to monitor this crisis and keep you informed of the latest news. As Father Sean indicated in the KBI’s Special Alert, “The KBI remains very committed to collaborating with other churches and organizations to address the needs of these children. We will keep urging the federal government to work with us to provide direction and focus, so we offer assistance in the most effective way possible.”

Call to Action: Read more about the humanitarian crisis at the border at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) web site.

http://www.wola.org/publications/mexicos_other_border

 

The KBI Receives an Honorary Doctorate from Santa Clara University

Fr. Sean Carroll, S.J. holding the honorary doctorate from Santa Clara University, with SCU President Fr. Michael Engh, S.J. (l.) and Dr. Kristin Heyer, associate professor of religious studies at SCU (r.).  Photo by Charles Barry/Santa Clara University.

Fr. Sean Carroll, S.J. holding the honorary doctorate from Santa Clara University, with SCU President Fr. Michael Engh, S.J. (l.) and Dr. Kristin Heyer, associate professor of religious studies at SCU (r.).
Photo by Charles Barry/Santa Clara University.

Santa Clara University acknowledged the comprehensive work of the Kino Border Initiative “to help make humane, just, workable migration between the U.S. and Mexico a reality” with an Honorary Doctorate of Pastoral Ministry at their commencement ceremonies on June 14. Father Sean Carroll, the KBI’s executive director and one of its co-founders, received the degree on behalf of the KBI. In attendance, were several KBI board members—Board Chair Jane Lacovara and her husband Phil; past Chair Luis Fernando Parra, Esq., his wife Cecy, and their children Alan Fernando and Cristabela; Mark Potter and his wife Dr. Kristen Heyer, a theology professor at Santa Clara; and Lucy Howell and husband Steve. KBI staff members West Cosgrove, director of education, and Marla Conrad, migrant advocate/volunteer coordinator, were also in attendance as were Father Sean’s mother, Cathy Carroll and her husband Carl Walls. Dr. Kristin Heyer read the proclamation of the honorary doctorate at the commencement ceremony.

Recognizing that the KBI and Santa Clara University “share and uphold the same traditions, beliefs, and outlooks regarding social justice and concern for the poor and marginalized,” the degree honors five years of crucial and consistent work to “promote border and immigration policies that affirm the dignity of the human person and a spirit of bi-national solidarity.” The KBI does this through an extensive combination of programs—direct humanitarian assistance, education, and research and advocacy.

A very happy day for the KBI: (from left to right) past board chair Luis Parra, board member Lucy Howell, migrant advocate/volunteer coordinator Marla Conrad, current board chair Jane Lacovara, executive director Father Sean Carroll, his mother Cathy Carroll, board member Mark Potter, and director of education West Cosgrove. Photo by Steve Howell.

A very happy day for the KBI: (from left to right) past board chair Luis Parra, board member Lucy Howell, migrant advocate/volunteer coordinator Marla Conrad, current board chair Jane Lacovara, executive director Father Sean Carroll, his mother Cathy Carroll, board member Mark Potter, and director of education West Cosgrove.
Photo by Steve Howell.

Santa Clara University is a Jesuit, Catholic institution of more than 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students, and is committed to faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. Located in Silicon Valley, it offers undergraduate degrees in arts and sciences, business and engineering, as well as masters, Ph.D., and law degrees. Founded in 1851, Santa Clara is California’s oldest institution of higher learning and is distinguished nationally by the fourth-highest graduation rate among all U.S. masters universities.

A great source of support for Father Sean—his mom Cathy Carroll.  Photo by Jane Lacovara.

A great source of support for Father Sean—his mom Cathy Carroll.
Photo by Jane Lacovara.

Call to Action: To learn more about the Kino Border Initiative’s programming and its work toward a more humane immigration policy, see: http://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/ To learn more about Santa Clara University, its mission, and academic programs, see: http://www.scu.edu/

Share this:
Facebook Email Twitter Pinterest

Up Close: The People of the KBI

KBI Supporters

By: Roxane Ramos

This month, we profile the people who have kept the Kino Border Initiative active since its inception in 2009 and who have infused the national debate about immigration reform with compassion and thoughtful consideration—you, the supporters of the KBI. At the borderlands and throughout the country, your actions, prayers and donations—in direct and indirect ways—move us closer to instituting a humane immigration policy that allows families to be together, offers economic opportunities to those who seek them, provides a path to citizenship, and restores dignity to undocumented migrants, our neighbors who are fleeing violence and poverty to pursue a better life.

Together we can create this positive change. At a time when immigration reform is on the forefront of public awareness, we honor your commitment and work that helped get us here. And we encourage your continued support, action and prayers in this critical effort to humanize the border rather than criminalize it, and to open our arms rather than turn away. Here are some ways to continue this effort.

Donations to the KBI keep the doors open, and provide meals and support to the migrants who arrive our outreach center. Photo by Larry Hanelin.

Donations to the KBI keep the doors open, and provide meals and support to the migrants who arrive our outreach center.
Photo by Larry Hanelin.

Donate • To the KBI: Your donation feeds, clothes, heals and houses the migrants the KBI serves. In addition, contributions to the KBI fund educational programming as well as advocacy efforts on behalf of the migrants and research to provide concrete information to policymakers.

http://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/get-involved/donate/

West Cosgrove, KBI Director of Education, leads KBI visitors on a desert hike, a way to “walk in the migrants’ footsteps.” Photo by Marilynn Lorenz.

West Cosgrove, KBI Director of Education, leads KBI visitors on a desert hike, a way to “walk in the migrants’ footsteps.”
Photo by Marilynn Lorenz.

Take Action

• Visit the KBI and spend time with the migrants and the KBI staff at the outreach center and shelter. Day visits as well as immersion experiences (longer trips of 1–3 days) bring you right to the border to learn more about immigration issues first-hand. KBI staff are also available for presentations and workshops at your parish, school or local organization. http://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/fees-for-educational-programming/

• Help keep families together by signing the petition sponsored by United We Dream, a non-partisan, youth-led organization advocating for the dignity and fair treatment of immigrant youth and families, regardless of immigration status. http://unitedwedream.org/action/stop-deportations/open-cases/#

• Write House Speaker John Boehner and urge him to bring immigration law 744, to a vote. This bill was already passed in the Senate and addresses the issue of family reunification for migrants. http://www.speaker.gov/CONTACT

• If you’ve had an opportunity to visit the KBI, have had a transformative encounter, or wish to raise the awareness of others, consider writing an article for your parish newsletter or local paper. One of the strongest ways we can educate others about the critical issue of immigration reform is by telling our stories and sharing our views.

Becoming more informed about border issues reveals the urgent need for immigration reform. Photo by Larry Hanelin.

Becoming more informed about border issues reveals the urgent need for immigration reform.
Photo by Larry Hanelin.

Be Informed

• Read articles you may have missed from Passages, the KBI newsletter. http://www.kinoborderinitiative.org/category/news/

• Learn about the latest immigration-related news and ways you can get more involved at BorderLinks, a Tucson-based KBI partner that raises awareness about the impact of border and immigration policies through dynamic educational experiences.

• Rent Who Is Dayani Cristal?, a documentary by Marc Silver. Actor and activist Gael García Bernal retraces the journey of a migrant who died along the stretch of desert known as “the corridor of death,” providing a rare view of what migrants experience on el camino. Each year 400–500 migrants lose their lives during the crossing. http://whoisdayanicristal.com/

• Arrange for a screening of Documented, a film by José Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist. Migrating to the U.S. at the age of 12 from the Philippines to live with his documented grandparents, Vargas speaks out about his undocumented status in the hopes of illuminating the challenges of mixed-status families and advocating for policy change. http://documentedthefilm.com/

Share this:
Facebook Email Twitter Pinterest

Special Alert for Friends of the KBI

June 12, 2014

Dear Friends of the Kino Border Initiative:

As many of you are aware, a high number of migrant children, mostly from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, have been crossing the U.S.-Mexico border recently into South Texas. They flee violence and extreme poverty in their countries of origin, and many seek to be reunified with their parents in the United States.

Last Thursday, June 5, I found out that some of these children were being transported from South Texas to Arizona by plane, and then taken by bus to the U.S. Border Patrol Station in Nogales, Arizona. This decision was made due to the high number of children being detained and a lack of space to receive them. On the same day, I spoke twice by phone with a Border Patrol representative and asked for permission to visit, to assess the needs of the children. At that time, I was not allowed to have access to the children.

I have had a number of conversations with Rev. David Myers, Senior Adviser to FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) to request a plan to outline the needs of the children and a process to solicit and receive donations. While I have been promised that the plan is forthcoming, I still have not received it as of today.

On Tuesday, June 10, I attended a meeting with representatives of the Santa Cruz County Emergency Management team, to discuss the situation and to strategize ways to help.

Yesterday, Wednesday, June 11, I was granted permission to visit the U.S. Border Patrol Station, along with local and federal government representatives. We were given a briefing and were able to tour the place where the children are staying, though we were not able to speak with the children. However, we were able to see some of the young people going to lunch. Most are teenagers but there are a smaller number of younger children. Based on the way they looked and on the facilities that had been set up, their physical needs seem to be met. Their psychological and spiritual well-being is less clear to me, due to the inability to speak and interact with the young people.

It looks like migrant children will continue to arrive in Nogales in the foreseeable future. The KBI remains very committed to collaborating with other churches and organizations to address the needs of these children. We will keep urging the federal government to work with us to provide direction and focus, so we offer assistance in the most effective way possible.

I continue to be grateful for your prayers and generous support of the KBI.

God bless,

Rev. Sean Carroll, S.J.
Executive Director

Share this:
Facebook Email Twitter Pinterest

Walking the Walk

From the beginning, Pope Francis has led through both word and example, guiding Catholics—and the rest of the world—to the basic principles of love and compassion that Jesus taught.

By Roxane Ramos

The day before Pope Francis’s meeting with President Obama earlier this year, 10-year old Jersey Vargas from Los Angeles, CA rushed up to the pontiff as he greeted the throngs in St. Peter’s Square. She told him about the plight of undocumented migrants in the U.S., and the pain of being separated from one’s family during the detention and deportation process.

Pope Francis with President Barack Obama, March 2014. Public domain image from Wiki Commons, photo by Pete Souza.

Pope Francis with President Barack Obama, March 2014.
Public domain image from Wiki Commons, photo by Pete Souza.

Though young, Jersey could speak with authority about the heartbreak of these all-too-frequent scenarios—her father Mario was being held in a Louisiana detention facility, slated to be among the 200,000 migrants deported from the U.S. each year. Like 80% of the migrants detained in these centers, Mario, who has lived in the U.S. since the age of 16, was brought in for a minor infraction (typically, a traffic violation), and now faced the worst possible outcome—separation from his wife and daughter, possibly for years. Jersey, the youngest of a group of immigration activists visiting the Vatican that week, explained, “I went back to ask him to help us because it’s unfair that many children like me are faced with this situation, separated from our families. He blessed me, gave me a kiss and confirmed to me he would be seeing President Obama.”

Defending the rights of migrants, refugees, and other displaced people has been one of the hallmarks of Francis’s short papacy. His first pastoral visit outside the Vatican was to Lampedusa, a small island off the coast of Sicily and 70 miles north of Tunisia, where African migrants congregate, waiting for boats to take them to Italy and economic opportunities in the European Union. During his visit there, the Holy Father prayed for those lost at sea at a Mass held near a “graveyard” of wrecked boats, reassuring refugees and migrants, “The Church is near to you in the search for a more dignified life for yourselves and for your families.”

Pope Francis among the people of St. Peter’s Square in Rome, May 2013. Public domain image from Wiki Commons, photo by Edgar Jiménez.

Pope Francis among the people of St. Peter’s Square in Rome, May 2013.
Public domain image from Wiki Commons, photo by Edgar Jiménez.

Only eight square miles, Lampedusa functions as something of an unofficial Ellis Island for Europe, though the African migrants who pass through, like their Latin American counterparts entering the United States, lack what immigrants arriving in New York could rely on a century ago—a comprehensive and welcoming immigration policy that provides a legal route to citizenship.

Today’s migrants leave their homes of origin to follow much the same dreams as those Ellis Island entrants; they want to improve their lives and those of their families. Sometimes they are joining family members, sometimes they are fleeing violence, but always it is a serious decision to undertake such a journey. Migrants from both Africa and Latin America face numerous hazards (choppy seas or harsh desert terrain) as well as risks of exploitation, violence or death. In 2012, close to 500 Africans drowned en route to Europe, despite the Italian coast guard’s conscientious responses to calls for help, distressingly similar to the migrant death toll of 477 here.

And just a few short months after the Pope’s visit to Lampedusa, over 360 died when a boat carrying 300 migrants sank off the island’s coast, the highest number of fatalities from a single incident so far. Offering his condolences, Pope Francis called the tragedy “a disgrace.”

The Pope’s main agenda is three-fold: to draw attention to the suffering of migrants and refugees, the horrors of human trafficking, and the pervasive problem of poverty. The high profile nature of his office provides one of the most prominent “pulpits” in the world, yet the great moral force of his words comes from something very basic—his example of humility and his simple message of compassion and love. In this, Francis has not only captured the minds and hearts of Catholics, but of a wider world of people who are troubled by the inequities and injustices around us.

Much has been made of Pope Francis’s rejection of extravagance in his day-to-day life and on his overseas visits. (In Lampedusa, he rode in an open-top Fiat jeep loaned by a Milanese family with a summer house on the island.) Journalists seem surprised and amused by the absence of designer footwear, for example. But this particular sartorial choice resonates powerfully with the displaced peoples he champions, roaming the world with little more than the clothes on their backs. Their shoes are worn through, often held together with duct tape or reinforced at the soles with carpet remnants, as they tread long miles and endure life-threatening conditions, to seek a better life.

Pope Francis, welcomed by a crowd in Vargihna, Brazil, July 2013. Public domain image from Wiki Commons, photo by Tânia Rêgo.

Pope Francis, welcomed by a crowd in Vargihna, Brazil, July 2013.
Public domain image from Wiki Commons, photo by Tânia Rêgo.

By removing the pomp, Pope Francis has cut through to the heart of the seemingly impenetrable problems of our day, without any embellishment or comfort for the comfortable. “We are a society which has forgotten how to weep, how to experience compassion—‘suffering with’ others. The globalization of indifference has taken from us the ability to weep.” Who better than the Pope to remind us of the word’s Latin roots: “compassion” from com/with and pati/to bear. The simple message of economic justice and tolerance is getting through. President Obama quoted Pope Francis when addressing the debate about income inequality in December. And politicians in Washington, D.C., are also invoking the Pope’s sentiments as they consider the critical issue of immigration reform. Change—or at least a push for a House vote on immigration legislation passed by the Senate last year—appears to be in the air.

For one Los Angeles family, a small change has made a great impact. Mario Vargas was released from the detention center after a cousin, seeing Jersey interviewed on the news, helped with posting his $5,000 bail. An immigration judge will determine if Mario is to be deported. For now, he is reunited with his wife and daughter and, though the future is uncertain, Mario—and millions of people around the globe seeking refuge and legal recognition—have the most steadfast of friends and an eloquent spokesperson in Vatican City.

Share this:
Facebook Email Twitter Pinterest

A Priest Reflects on the Catholic Moment on Immigration Reform

Father Clete Kiley, a participant in the delegation of Catholic clergy visiting the U.S.–Mexico border in early April, reflects on his experience and addresses our failed immigration policy.

By Father Clete Kiley of the Archdiocese of Chicago and Director for Immigration Policy for UNITE HERE

By now, many of us have become familiar with the cold facts and statistics of our nation’s failed immigration system and the immense human suffering it causes. Twenty-five thousand Central American children cross our border every year trying to be reunited with their families. Ten million people live in our country without authorization and are exposed daily to exploitation. Thirty thousand people are detained, many sent to for-profit private prisons at a cost of over $2 billion dollars annually. And over 400 people, men, women and children, die in the desert just outside of this town of Nogales, alone and, too often, nameless. And 2.1 million people have been deported in the past six years breaking up families, disrupting the workforce, and damaging communities.

Cardinal O’Malley saying Mass at the border, with Bishop Kicanas (l.) and Bishop Elizondo (r.). Photo by Christine Krikliwy, Voice of the Poor, Tucson.

Cardinal O’Malley saying Mass at the border, with Bishop Kicanas (l.) and Bishop Elizondo (r.). Photo by Christine Krikliwy, Voice of the Poor, Tucson.

But in his powerful homily at a Mass where the altar abutted the hideous, rusting 30-foot high fence at the border in Nogales, Arizona, Cardinal Sean O’Malley reminded us that these are not simply statistics. Reflecting on the parable of the Good Samaritan he challenged every one of us in the United States to find a neighbor, a fellow human being, in each of the suffering people who risk their lives and at times lose their lives in the desert or in their efforts to be reunited with their loved ones, and to find a way to a better life.

The two-day delegation of U.S. Catholics bishops to Nogales certainly brought the human reality to the forefront. The journey, which I was privileged to make, was really more pilgrimage than anything else- a deeply spiritual encounter. At each stop on this pilgrimage, as Cardinal Sean urged, we found a neighbor, a fellow human being.

Walking through a dried riverbed, an arroyo, much used by the immigrants and the coyotes that lead them, we experienced just how brutal and dangerous this crossing is. I found myself stumbling through the soft sand. At another moment, someone yelled out to one of the bishops: “Watch out for that cactus, it is a Jumping Cholla.” This is a cactus with very painful needles that will actually reach out and attack you if you get too close. At another spot, we were warned the rattlesnakes were out early this year. They told us at night the temperature could be freezing and in the daytime in summer as high as 120 degrees. As we walked, we found abandoned water bottles, knapsacks filled with the few possessions someone carried, and torn shreds of jackets still hanging on long thorns. It was this human detritus that caused each of us to pause and consider: a fellow human being suffered through this. Did they make it? Did they die along the way? What was their name? Did they find their family again?

Breakfast at the KBI’s comedor (soup kitchen). Photo by Andrea Cauthen.

Breakfast at the KBI’s comedor (soup kitchen).
Photo by Andrea Cauthen.

We spent time with the Border patrol and found in them neighbors, too; fellow human beings whose compassion for the vulnerable was palpable, and whose experience of the cartels that control these parts was horrific. They explained the border strategy they must follow as a matter of U.S. policy. At another moment on the pilgrimage, we reflected on U.S. government policy. It seems the 1994 NAFTA treaty allowed goods to flow freely through this border. But it did not allow people to move freely with the goods. In fact, U.S. government policy clamped down on the movement of people, and forced those moving north through three zones along the U.S. border: near San Diego, near El Paso, and here in Nogales. The government didn’t even bother with a fence in many places because the thinking was if anyone wanted to try to cross the desert, they were free to take their chances with the cartels or with the desert. “If they die, tough luck.” Clearly, people desperate to rejoin their loved ones, or find work to care for them, will take just such risks.

We learned from the medical examiner that deaths in the desert rose from about 15 per year to over 400 per year- a direct result of this government policy. The medical examiner opened the freezer door and showed us the rows of body bags of the nameless dead. With great respect, he showed us the personal effects of those dead. Later we saw skeletal remains, which the forensic anthropologist was hoping to identify. Silence was our response, haunted by Cardinal Sean’s question: Who is my neighbor? You could not be in this place without asking who was this person? What was their name? Is their mother or father, or spouse still looking for them? And, perhaps, another chilling question for me as an American: how can it be that this person is dead and unknown because of a calculated government policy? It would be an underestimation to tell you of the layers of grief and sadness this stop on the pilgrimage raised.

We crossed the border into Sonora, Mexico led by Jesuit Father Sean Carroll, and accompanied by the Mexican Federal Police for our protection from the cartels, to visit a comedor, a sort of soup kitchen operated jointly by the California and Mexican provinces of the Jesuits. I could not help but think of the great image Pope Francis uses for the church- “a field hospital.” Here twice a day those deported, and those waiting to cross the border, come to be fed. They are much younger than they were three years ago on my first visit here. In fact, many are teenagers.They are overwhelmingly from Chiapas, and Oaxaca, heavily indigenous areas, and from Central America. They arrive exhausted, hungry, and already alert to the violence and dangers around them. The first feeding is not simple food; it is spiritual. Each guest is called by name and escorted to a table, and served. Volunteers abound and are joyful. The message is clear: You are my neighbor; a fellow human being; you have dignity. Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City and I were at a table talking with several of these young men. As we left, they told us they would go to the Mass the next day.

From the comedor we visited a women’s shelter run by Sisters of the Eucharist. The halcones, or “look outs” for the cartels watched every step we made. At the shelter, we met with women who had been deported in attempts to be reunited with their children in the U.S. One woman had fled her country when her husband threatened to kill her and her daughter. In another meeting nearby, the mothers of teenage boys from the Mexican side of the border shared their grief and anger at the killings of their sons by the U.S. Border Patrol. One teenager was shot through the fence from the U.S. side of the border fourteen times in the back. We were told the FBI has been investigating this case for the past year and a half. What happened to these neighbors of ours? What is being done about it? How does the human heart bear this? Clearly, this was another pilgrimage moment.

On another stop, we attempted to attend a session for the Streamline Court at the federal building in Tucson, where people are brought before a judge in shackles, consult for 2 minutes with an attorney, enter a plea, and are sentenced. Sixty-seven people were scheduled to be processed that afternoon. We arrived about forty minutes into the scheduled court session only to be told the judge had handled all these cases in 32 minutes. Some folks were sentenced to 60 days, others up to 180 days. Many were sent to a for-profit prison. Again a wave of shame and anger as I wondered: how can somebody make a profit on such human misery? What is wrong with this picture? Later we heard just how profitable a business this can be as the margin is made by an inflated bill to the federal government, and stingy rations and medical care for the incarcerated. For a number of years I walked past our Supreme Court every day. All I could image in my thoughts was the carving above the door: Equal Justice under the Law. What has happened to our legal system? To us as a people of law?

Hands reaching across the border wall. Photo by Christine Krikliwy, Voice of the Poor, Tucson.

Hands reaching across the border wall.
Photo by Christine Krikliwy, Voice of the Poor, Tucson.

Cardinal Sean said in his homily along the border fence: “we are here to discern our own identity as God’s children.” That was certainly an impact of the pilgrimage, but no more so than in the celebration of the Mass. Cardinal Sean lead the congregation gathered there on both sides of the border to affirm we are all the children of God, neighbors, fellow human beings. At one point, Bishop Wester and I looked over at the fence and we saw the young men whom we had sat with the day before at the comedor. They were smiling and waving at us through the slats of the fence. As Catholics, we proclaim the Eucharist is the source and the summit of the Christian life (Lumen Gentium #11). It takes us out into the world and brings us back to the praise of God and communion with one another. When I looked and saw Cardinal Sean and Bishop Jerry Kicanas giving communion to hands reaching through that border fence, I don’t know if I have seen such a Catholic moment in my 40 years as a priest.

This was an iconic moment, showing us who we really are before God and with and for each other. And it was a reminder of St. Augustine’s words: “we may live in the city of men, but we belong to the city of God.”

All of this then leads me to urge Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, and Catholics everywhere, and people of Good Will across this country to discern again “who we are before God”; “who we are as nation.” The moral imperative we will find woven into this identity will impel us to shake up every politician, both political parties, and our nation to act now and fix this broken immigration system.

Originally published in the Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good Newsletter, April 2014, and reprinted with permission.

Share this:
Facebook Email Twitter Pinterest

Up Close: The People of the KBI

The present-day story of migration has many faces… Photos by Larry Hanelin.

The present-day story of migration has many faces…
Photos by Larry Hanelin.

Migrant Stories

By: Roxane Ramos

Each year, 600,000 to 800,000 undocumented migrants are deported. Though their reasons for crossing center around reuniting with their families and seeking better lives, each story is unique. Here are some—the names are changed to protect privacy, but the facts are unaltered.

Yolanda, Mexico
Yolanda grew up in Oaxaca, Mexico and when she was 14, her parents sold her to an abusive older man who migrated with her to Mesa, AZ. She’d had four daughters with this man when he left her. Her next relationship was also abusive, and that boyfriend accused her of domestic abuse when he sustained an injury elsewhere. Having no documentation or adequate legal representation, Yolanda served time in a Maricopa jail and a detention center before being deported back to Mexico; Child Protective Services took her children away and they now reside with a foster family who maintain contact with Yolanda. The KBI has helped Yolanda, now 35, with letter-writing to the family, soliciting donations on a Nogales radio program, finding an apartment, and helping her meet terms for reunification with her children. The hope is to have Yolanda and her girls together in Nogales by Christmas.

Alma and Guillermo, Guatemala
Twelve-year-old Guillermo travelled from Guatemala with his family and got lost during the crossing. Alma was trying to reunite with her daughters in Phoenix when she met Guillermo. She shared her food with him and, with other migrants, they spent four days traversing in the desert, hoping to reach the border. Hungry, dehydrated, and worried for their lives, they eventually burned their clothes, so the smoke would alert the U.S. Border Control to their presence. Alma told the authorities that Guillermo was her son so that she could look after him, a kindness that engendered mixed feelings as she thought of her own children in the U.S., one of whom had been recently assaulted but, fearing deportation, did not report the crime. Alma and Guillermo arrived at the KBI comedor, where they were fed and could contact their respective families. Because Guillermo’s grandparents have lived in Tennessee for years, the KBI is directing him and his family to the proper resources so they can be safely reunited in the U.S.

Pablo
When Pablo was three months old, his family migrated to Phoenix from Mexico. He grew up, attended school, and worked in Arizona. He had never even visited Mexico, but was deported there after a traffic violation flagged him as undocumented. When he arrived in Nogales, he knew no one and everything was disorienting to him. The staff of the KBI helped him track down an uncle living in Nogales, based on only a first name and information about his cock-fighting activities. Now that Pablo, 38, is safely settled with his uncle, he can plan his next steps.

Share this:
Facebook Email Twitter Pinterest

Families without Borders

Families without Borders

Share this:
Facebook Email Twitter Pinterest

Bishops at the Border

A Mass right at the border fence, organized by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and attended by an impressive delegation of clergy—including seven bishops and 17 priests—drew national attention to the immigration crisis as well as scores of supporters, among them, KBI board member Lucy Howell.

by Lucy Howell

Father Sean Carroll, Executive Director of the KBI, greets everyone after the Mass.

Father Sean Carroll, Executive Director of the KBI, greets everyone after the Mass.

April 1 was a day of both grace and contrast. Six of us left Phoenix long before sunrise in order to reach the Morley Gate separating Nogales, Arizona from Nogales Sonora for the Bishops’ Mass at the Wall by 9 a.m. As we approached Tucson and the I-19 turnoff, the sun flashed on the bright green of the palo verde and mesquite trees. Distance signs switched from miles to kilometers, and we were conscious of climbing through more forested terrain to Nogales (which means “walnut trees” in English). Parking across from the KBI’s office on the Arizona side, we ran into Fr. Pete Neeley, just returning from an early morning desert walk with Cardinal O’Malley.

At Morley Gate, there were two viewing areas near the platform and altar, in front of the tall, rusted steel fence. This fence snakes through the hilly terrain of Ambos Nogales as a definitive political boundary. At the gate, we met several KBI board members – our chair Jane Lacovara and her husband, Phil; past chair Luis Parra and his wife, Cecy; and board vice-chair Yanula Kariakis Avila and her husband, Gonzalo (their son, Gonzalo, a fourth grader at Lourdes Catholic School, read a petition at the Mass). From the corner of my eye, I glimpsed Pamela Hoffmeister, a local artist who has created scores of paintings of migrants at the KBI.

The seven bishops represented all regions of the United States, and they were joined by a bishop from Guatemala. Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, presider and homilist, is a man of great presence. He delivered his homily in impeccable Spanish, making the connection between the deaths of 6,000 migrants in the Sonoran desert and the drowning deaths of migrants off the island of Lampedusa, Italy called out by Pope Francis. In both cases, these are human beings trying to make a better life for themselves and their families.

The Mass, offered in a combination of English and Spanish, was exceptionally moving as a symbol of the blend of cultures at the border and the universality of the Catholic Church. And, of course, the beauty of offering communion to our brothers and sisters on the other side of the wall, some of whom have been separated from families for years, offered a stark contrast to the ugliness of the rusty fence looming over us all.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley blesses the crowd at the border.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley blesses the crowd at the border.

It was incredibly gratifying to see Father Sean and Father Ricardo in the bishops’ procession. Who would have thought five years ago when the KBI was inaugurated, that this auspicious group of bishops would come to Nogales, Sonora for Mass and spend an afternoon visiting with and feeding deportees at the Kino Border Initiative? It is my hope that the bishops’ presence calling attention to the urgent situation at the border will result in action and a compassionate response.

We know that the border is lined with unmarked graves of thousands who have died alone and nameless. We are here today to say they are not forgotten. Sometimes they’re called illegal aliens, an expression that makes them sound like Martians. But they are our neighbors. They are our brothers and sisters.” Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston at the border on April 1, 2014

Share this:
Facebook Email Twitter Pinterest

An Evening of Giving

The Fourth Annual KBI Dinner for the Kino Border Initiative raises both funds and awareness.

By: Roxane Ramos

The sun was shining and the mood was celebratory as KBI supporters gathered in the courtyard of St. Francis Xavier School in Phoenix, catching up with old friends, making new ones, and having the rare chance to greet Fr. Sean and the rest of the KBI staff who had traveled from Ambos Nogales to join in the festivities. Even so, the attendees of the Fourth Annual Kino Border Initiative Dinner were all mindfully aware that the festivities and fundraising were for a very urgent and distressing cause—providing aid to deported migrants, educating about the reality of the border, and advocating for immigration reform.

The KBI staff and volunteers gather as Fr. Sean welcomes the dinner guests.

The KBI staff and volunteers gather as Fr. Sean welcomes the dinner guests.

That first dinner four years ago was an exercise in resourcefulness and tenacity—no budget, donated space at St. Paul’s, and volunteer chef and committee member Ron Meyer barbecuing for a crowd of 60. The event raised $18,000 for the KBI. By last year, those numbers rose to 140 attendees and $65,000, with an extra $5,000 raised that very evening for a new, more permanent aid center. This year’s dinner, held on Saturday, March 29, drew even more supporters—a record 220—and raised over $140,000, more than doubling the amount raised last year. Local philanthropist Joe Anderson spurred the fundraising momentum by matching the first $50,000 raised.

Like the previous dinners, the Fourth Annual KBI Dinner was chaired by Lucy Howell, assisted by a complement of very dedicated committee members. The event was emceed by Phoenix news anchor and reporter Frank Camacho, and musicians Paul Fisko and Naomi Cardenas provided entertainment. Local chef Vincent Guerithault catered the dinner while students from Brophy College Preparatory served the sit-down meal. Each table was adorned with centerpieces comprised of digital artworks, “wordles” created by St. Francis Xavier School’s seventh and eighth graders in response to a talk given by Fr. Sean about the work of the KBI. Sale of the wordles added another $700 to the funds raised that night. The KBI’s first Pope Francis Award, a portrait of a migrant by Pamela Hoffmeister, was awarded to Joe Anderson and accepted for him by Fr. Dan Sullivan, pastor of St. Francis Xavier.

Joe Anderson’s matching gift of $50,000 helped spur donations.

Joe Anderson’s matching gift of $50,000 helped spur donations.

But despite the art and music, the food and good feeling, the highlight was hearing Fr. Sean’s comments and viewing a video about the KBI’s work. It was a culminating moment, reminding everyone why they were there. As Fr. Sean thanked the KBI staff, volunteers and many supporters, he acknowledged those brothers and sisters who were not there, our migrant neighbors at the border. “I see God present in the KBI’s efforts and in all of you,” he said, “as we promote policies that respect and honor the dignity of the human person, of every human person.”

Share this:
Facebook Email Twitter Pinterest