Last year, we were working dutifully to finalize our new Strategic Plan, finally releasing it in July. As we came to the end of the year, we realized that God had already been guiding us to begin taking action in its five core areas. While we still have much ground to cover in the pursuit of Migration with Dignity, we recognize the significant efforts we made in 2022. Here are 17 of the key steps we took towards the next horizon last year.
Shelter Coordinator, Josefina “Pina” Bejarano Padilla says, “Holistic accompaniment is about seeing the person as a whole person.” This strategic area invites us to build upon our long history of offering humanitarian assistance to ensure that we’re caring for migrants’ entire selves. We aim to support migrants in body, mind, and spirit. A holistic approach represents our belief that migrants are multi-faceted and complex individuals; each aspect of their being deserves care. Here are a few key developments in 2022 that will springboard our Holistic Accompaniment efforts in 2023.
#1 Expanded shelter capacity.
We recognized that if we wanted migrants to be able to establish themselves in Nogales, they would need more time to locate a suitable place to live, employment, and begin establishing a support network. Expanding our shelter capacity meant that we could afford migrants more time while also serving more migrants than ever – more than 2000.
#2 Created new opportunities for recreation, artistic expression, and entrepreneurship.
Migrants learned to express themselves via painting, embroidery, and other skills through our Livelihood Project workshops, which doubled as opportunities to learn marketable skills. “The workshops were a place where I could express myself, even without words,” said Mari, one migrant who attended. We coupled these spaces of expression with spaces for fun, adding a basketball hoop and foosball table to the shelter.
#3 Hired an additional psychologist to offer mental health care to migrants.
We brought a second Psychologist, Paulina, onto our team with the goal of offering migrants more access to mental health care. Since Paulina came on board, she has facilitated groups that equip migrants with skills such as breathing exercises and strategies for strengthening family ties.
Once our siblings in migration enter the U.S., our invitation is to come alongside them in building a life and community in a new place. At Kino, we want to expand our ability to continue accompanying migrants and creating communities that welcome them. We aim to mobilize our network to do so, too.
“The more difficult it is, the more hands that join. That seems very noble to me. There are many people who care and collaborate. It is not a job of one person, it takes teamwork. It means being in a team with the migrants” – says Sr. Anastacia “Tachita” Monjarez.
#4 JRS/USA Migrant Accompaniment Network Launched.
In September, the Jesuit Refugee Service/USA (JRS/USA) announced the launch of the Migrant Accompaniment Network, a nationwide group of volunteers who will engage those who have recently arrived in the U.S. This network has already begun to work in collaboration with our team and the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN).
“The network we are building will provide a way for the many people who want to help newcomers in their community to accompany them.” said Joan Rosenhauer, Executive Director of JRS/USA.
#5 Launched and promoted our “migrants in the US” survey.
The first step to migrant integration is knowing where asylum seekers who have traveled through KBI have settled in the US, how to stay in touch with them, and what needs they are experiencing. To date 76 families have responded to our survey and from that information we have been able to start to plan new initiatives as well as reach out to particular individuals to invite them to presentations to schools and parishes in their local community. One of the families that we reconnected with thanks to our survey will be speaking at our March 11th fundraiser!
#6 Advanced the binationality of the Revolucionarios
As some of our Revolucionarios, our migrant leader cohort, were processed for asylum and started lives in the US, they developed mechanisms to stay involved in the group. They help the Nogales, Sonora group with intake calls for interested members to explain the goals of the cohort and provide advice for how to continue to grow. In the coming months we will be able to further activate their potential through education and advocacy activities within the US.
Due to U.S. policy in recent years, many migrants wait for extended periods of time in border communities like Nogales, Sonora. Even as migrants are forced to be in limbo, the daily necessities of life continue. Migrants must be able to support their families, live in safety, connect with others, and provide for their children while waiting at the border. Let’s equip the local community in Nogales, Sonora to welcome migrants and integrate them as neighbors.
“I am from Nogales, and I live in a migrant neighborhood. There is a lot of flow. Many come to cross the border, but others end up staying because of the difficulty of passing. They experience another lifestyle, and some like it and decide to stay.” – Victor Lara, Maintenance Technician at Kino.
#7 Multiple joint meetings with officials from Sonora.
We know that including leaders from both sides of the border will be critical to ensuring that migrants are received well in Nogales, Sonora. Over the last year, we had multiple joint working sessions with government officials from Sonora. These sessions included topics relevant to both migrants and longtime Nogales residents, like local infrastructure, safety nets, and healthcare access. These connections will only continue and serve the entire Nogales community.
#8 Recruiting Board leadership of 2 Nogalenses.
This year, we welcomed two longtime residents and leaders in Nogales, Tony Dabdoub and Maria Silva, to serve as our Board Chair and Vice-Chair. These two dynamic individuals will bring a critical perspective into the daily realities of Nogales and offer key insight into how our efforts can integrate migrants in a way that benefits all residents of Nogales.
#9 Collaborations with the Bishop of Nogales and Nogales priests.
“What you’re doing is what the Church should be doing for migrants,” said Bishop Leopoldo González González after we first met with him. After this meeting, we have continued to collaborate with him and other local Nogales priests on ways to activate the local parishes in support of migrants. We were thrilled when Bishop González joined us for the Binational Posada in December.
#10 Director of Education and Advocacy Appointed to Strategic Council.
In early summer, Pedro De Velasco was appointed to the State Council for Attention to Migrants in Sonora, MX. Together with other Mexican authorities they will work together to provide better services and support for the regional migrant population.
“The U.S. government is not upholding the international and domestic laws of people accessing asylum. People are stranded. They’re stuck in Nogales and all across the border,” – Pedro De Velasco, Director of Education and Advocacy.
A better system for migration is possible. We must create the political will to enact it. Our strategic focus on policy change leverages education and advocacy to do just that. In 2022, we focused on mobilizing migrants on both sides of the border, as well as offering immersive and educational programming. If we want policy change, we must make it apparent to politicians that a more humane migration system will benefit them politically. That means swaying their constituents – both migrants and those who have not migrated.
#11 Migrant-led march on September 26 shines a spotlight on harmful policy effects.
A group of migrants known as the Revolucionarios organized multiple marches and actions to raise awareness about unjust policy. One of the most powerful occurred on the World Day of Refugees and Migrants. “Far more people came than we expected, and it goes to show how many people are in the same situation and are ready to see change,” said Eva, one of the migrants who planned and led the march.
#12 Events Feature Migrants Sharing the Stories.
We believe that migrants are uniquely equipped to sway hearts and minds. They know the effects of harmful policy better than anyone, and offer critical insights into what a more humane system would look like. As such, we were proud to see migrants receive platforms to share with large audiences, like Roberto did at the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice.
#13 Vigil Calls for More CBP Accountability.
We have been documenting the pattern of CBP abuse for years. Unfortunately, this year was no different. We continued to see the trend of Border Patrol and other CBP officials routinely denying migrants their rights, using excessive force, and even resorting to lethal force. In October, we held a vigil to mark 10 years since one of Border Patrol’s most notorious violations – the slaying of José Antonio Elena Rodríguez.
#14 Education Team Equips Hundreds of Educators and Students for Conversations about Migration.
Our education team worked diligently to complicate and humanize U.S. residents’ understanding of migration and the borders’ realities. They launched several initiatives, including a series of Community Conversations. These sessions equipped people to engage their communities about welcoming migrants like Jesus did. At one location, 72% of participants said that the program had challenged at least one assumption they had about migrants and 81% left wanting to learn more about people who migrate.
#15 Kino Hosts Valley Leadership At Migrant Outreach Center.
Participants from Valley Leadership’s Explore program sat down with migrant leaders and Joanna Williams to discuss the reality of asylum seekers waiting at the border for Title 42 to end. One participant, Salvador Bretts, said, “Valley Leadership uniquely put me face to face with a nationwide crisis and allowed true testimonials to shed such light on the divisive issue of immigration that it shattered my deeply held beliefs. I am forever grateful to VL for bringing me so close to the human root of it so that I am far better informed and truly feel the call to action.”
Equity & Wellness
It’s essential that we work to ensure that our staff and volunteers, both religious and lay-people, experience dignity, wholeness, and care in their journeys with Kino. Just as we seek to be holistically attentive to migrants, so we want to be with the people God has brought to this effort. This commitment manifested in new avenues of self-care for our team last year.
Judy Bierbaum, a long-time Kino volunteer and retired psychologist, says, “The rate of burnout can be really high. We need to learn how to metabolize trauma and second-hand trauma to ensure that people can be healthy and keep going.”
#16 Resourced the Kino Team for Improved Mental Health.
Last year, we hired Fr. Joe Spieler, SJ as Kino Chaplain specifically to serve our team. Throughout the fall, he closely observed our team, evaluated our level of health, and took time to listen to each staff member. Out of his time with us, he created a guide of next steps we could take to protect staff’s mental and emotional well-being. We are eager to implement his suggestions this year.
#17 Cultivated Spaces for Hope and Joy.
In spite of, or perhaps because of, the regular challenges and difficulties we shoulder alongside migrants, we love to celebrate! Over the year, we were intentional about setting aside time to celebrate staff birthdays, express joy in milestones, and to play – including pick-up soccer games with migrants in the comedor. In particular, our Staff and Volunteer posadas in December 2022 ensured we ended our year on a note of hope, joy, and solidarity with one another.
Looking back on the last year, we feel encouraged by the ways that God was already leading us deeper into the areas that form our strategic plan. The realities at the border, especially the upheaval of policy and uncertainty migrants face, can feel so tumultuous and uncertain. As we reflect on our last year, it is clear that God is setting us on a path towards a just reality in spite of that chaos. Now, we are oriented towards the next horizon on the journey towards migration with dignity. We cannot wait to discover the milestones in store for this coming year.