Deportation Priorities in the Age of Trump

Two recent memorandums from the Trump administration outline broad, vague, and discretionary deportation guidelines that place almost all undocumented immigrants at risk, fail to address the urgent plight of refugees, and make our communities less safe.

During the first week of his administration, President Trump signaled his focus on heightened immigration enforcement with two executive orders about expanding deportation resources and building a border wall. (A third order initiated the now legally challenged and temporarily halted travel ban.) On February 21, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly followed up with two memorandums that vastly expand the definition of who is a priority for deportation and the speed with which they can be deported; in addition, they request an increase in the number Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Border Patrol (BP) personnel. Though the administration has deflected questions about “mass deportation”—and the costs of such a plan would be highly prohibitive—it is clear that most of the 11 million undocumented individuals who live in the U.S. have greater reason to fear indiscriminate deportation, family separation, and unconsidered asylum claims.

Under the Obama administration, the number of deportations and separated families rose significantly, with the justification that criminals were being prioritized; now, the Trump administration is continuing on that path with a dramatically expanded definition of who is considered a criminal. The criteria can be widely interpreted to apply to almost any undocumented immigrant, creating worrisome opportunities for violations of immigrant rights and obstructions to asylum seekers. Combined with pervasive anti-immigrant rhetoric, these definitions attempt to paint all immigrants as criminals when, in fact, there are much lower levels of crime among immigrants than among native-born Americans.

Here are the deportation priorities as specified in the memos, followed by bolded explanations of how they can be interpreted. Deportation priorities include undocumented individuals who:

  1. have been convicted of any criminal offense;
    No specifics are outlined, so someone who commits fraud is treated the same way as someone who commits murder, and those picked up for minor infractions, such as a traffic ticket, would be detained for violating immigration law by being in the country illegally.
  2. have been charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved;
    This criterion flies in the face of our judicial presumption of “innocent until proven guilty.”
  3. have committed acts that constitute a chargeable offense;
    No statute of limitations here, and presumably, being in the country illegally would meet this criterion as would bringing one’s children into the U.S. which would be considered smuggling or human trafficking.
  4. have engaged in fraud or willful representation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency;
    This would include use of fake social security numbers in order to obtain work.
  5. have abused any program related to the receipt of government benefits;
    So parents who have received food stamps or government medical services for their children who may themselves be U.S. citizens would be targeted.
  6. are subject to a final order of removal but have not complied with their legal obligation to leave the United States; or
    This would include individuals who feel compelled to stay in the U.S. to be with family or raise their children.
  7. in the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.
    This phrasing leaves room for such wide discretion, subjectivity, and potential prejudice as to invite, even sanction, abuse.

The memos also lay out plans to publicize crimes by undocumented individuals; disregard privacy protections of immigrants; hire 10,000 ICE and 5,000 BP agents; deputize local police forces for immigration enforcement; build new detention facilities; send Central American immigrants to Mexico while they await hearings; expedite deportations; and discourage asylum seekers (a violation of international law). Another memo from Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinds the Obama administration’s order to phase out private prison contracts. Though these directives may face legal challenges and will require congressional appropriations to implement, they are a jarring response to the need for practical and just immigration reform, and the KBI stands with other migrant aid and advocacy groups in denouncing what is essentially an inhumane, rash, and ill-considered assault on human rights and immigrant families.

Moreover, these new guidelines do little to enhance the security of the United States, or the well-being or safety of communities throughout the country. Already, a major crackdown of ICE raids has resulted in the apprehension of close to 700 undocumented people—some of whom are being detained and some who have already been deported—devastating families and disrupting communities. ICE is arresting individuals near and in previously avoided sensitive areas, like churches, shelters, and hospitals. The fear among undocumented immigrants has escalated to such an extent that some have stayed home from work, kept their children from school, and strategically plan shopping, medical appointments, and other errands so that if arrested, another adult is home to care for the children.

In addition, more expedited removals (which eliminate deportation hearings) mean that credible fear claims for asylum seekers will be poorly investigated or handled, already a major human rights concern, and raise questions of due process violations. The deputization of local law enforcement in a climate of fear means that undocumented immigrants will be reluctant to report crimes or suspicious behaviors, a danger to the community at large. And as if the social costs of fractured families, neighborhoods, and wider communities were not troubling enough, the economic costs of escalated deportations mean disrupted local economies, and a loss of up $12 billion in tax revenues and $13 billion in social security paid by undocumented immigrants (though they collect only $1 billion in benefits).  If all 11 million undocumented immigrants were deported, U.S. GDP would decrease by a staggering $1.6 trillion. Finally, as more people are deported to Mexico or sent there to await hearings (another directive in the memos), our relationship with Mexico would become further strained.

Altogether, the executive orders and Homeland Security memos are a disturbing turn away from the values of human dignity, family unity, and compassion that many Americans live by and that are the foundation of the KBI’s mission. Their swift action and implementation are equally troubling, placing the immigrant families and lives at risk without due consideration of how to shape true immigration reform that protects asylum seekers, keeps families together, and offers options to those who yearn for better lives. Now, more than ever, the work of the Kino Border Initiative remains critical in aiding those most in need and providing a voice for those who must increasingly hide in the shadows.

Embed from Getty Images. Demonstrators outside the First Unitarian Church in Denver gather in support of Jeannette Vizguerra, an undocumented mother of three who has received sanctuary there. February 18, 2017. Photo by Jason Connolly/AFP/Getty Images.

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Guadalupe’s Story: The Penalties of Cooperation

When Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos reported to immigration officers on Wednesday, February 8, instead of the routine check-in, she was arrested, detained, and deported.

In one of the first deportations which revealed the shift from the practices of the Obama administration to those of Trump’s, Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos was taken into custody in Phoenix when reporting for her regular check-in with immigration authorities, something she’d been doing without incident since 2013. Within 24 hours, she was deported to Nogales.

Amidst the current uncertainty for undocumented immigrants, Guadalupe, 36, was more anxious about reporting for this appointment, and the staff of Puente, an immigrant advocacy group, advised that skipping the appointment or seeking refuge at a sanctuary church were also options. Part of her fear was due to a 2008 arrest—during one of the-Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s workplace raids, currently challenged as unconstitutional—for using a false Social Security number to obtain work to support her family. She pled guilty to the felony charges, served six months, and appealed her deportation order to stay in the U.S. with her children, both U.S. citizens. The six-month check-ins have been part of Immigration and Customs Enforcement supervision since then.

That morning, Guadalupe went to Mass with her family before reporting to ICE with Puente volunteers and others for support. Her arrest spurred a demonstration 200 strong, attempting to stop the van carrying Guadalupe and other immigrants. Still, she was taken to the border the following morning and released in Nogales, leaving her husband, also undocumented, and her teenage children behind.

With the other immigrants, Guadalupe found her way to the KBI, where she stayed at the shelter for one night before moving to a hotel, sponsored by Puente, to visit for several days with her kids, sister, and brother-in-law. Puente and the KBI organized a press conference in response to the media attention, and now Guadalupe has returned to her native Guanajuato where she continues to keep in touch with her family in the U.S. and confer with Puente and her lawyer about next steps.

Guadalupe’s story illustrates the precarious situation mixed status families find themselves in as deportation policies become more stringent and harsh. During the Obama administration, Guadalupe was not a priority for deportation—she’d served her time for a minor offense, has had no record since, and contributes to her community as a mother, neighbor and employee. But the new orders (and the Homeland Security memos issued after Guadalupe’s deportation) have created an environment of fear among the undocumented and zero-tolerance among enforcers. She poses no security risk, has U.S.-born children, and cooperated with immigration officials over years of check-ins, and yet her family is now separated and their future, unclear.

One of the major goals of the KBI is working toward preserving family unity for immigrants, and reducing the suffering endured from being far from children, parents, partners, and other loved ones. Please read Father Sean’s moving reflection on Guadalupe’s situation and that of other immigrants, published in America Magazine, for more insight and encouragement in advocating for a more compassionate immigration policy:

Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos waits at the KBI comedor after being deported. Photo by Kendal Blunt/Nogales International.

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KBI Media Report: February 2017

The major immigration news this past month concerns the newly issued deportation guidelines and the sweeping raids that have taken place in their wake. We include more information about this disturbing story as well as news about upcoming Supreme Court cases, the wave of refugees leaving the U.S. to file asylum claims in Canada, and a recent report on detention abuses and obstructions faced by asylum seekers and other immigrants.

    • Important Supreme Court Cases: In the coming months, the Supreme Court will decide three cases addressing the rights of non-citizens under the U.S. Constitution. They will determine if: (1) undocumented immigrants can request a hearing when detained for more than six months; (2) families of Mexican citizens killed by U.S. border agents on Mexican soil can sue the federal government; and (3) senior officials of the Bush administration can be sued by immigrants who were mistreated while detained after 9/11. Against the backdrop of Trump’s legally challenged travel ban, the escalation of anti-immigrant rhetoric and hate crimes in the U.S., and the recent deportation-related memos, the rulings in these cases have dire consequences for thousands of non-citizens. Read more at:
    • Asylum Seekers Leave U.S. for Canada: Increasing numbers of asylum seekers are crossing into Canada from the U.S. through freezing countryside, a response to harsh crackdowns on immigrants in this country and further restrictions on access to due process in asylum claims. Though Canada has maintained a welcoming stance toward refugees, there is long-standing agreement which bars asylum claims from those who have already applied for asylum in the U.S., and Canadian leaders are likely to face pressures—pro and con—to weigh in on this situation. Read more at:
    • Detention Conditions and Obstacles for Asylum Seekers: A new report from the Borderland Immigration Council in El Paso documents the treatment and abuses suffered by detained migrants and those seeking asylum. KBI Director of Education and Advocacy Joanna Williams spoke at the release event which covered, among other topics included in the report, mishandling of credible fear claims, denial of due process, extended detention, and family separation. Read more at:
    • Recent Immigration Raids: In addition to this month’s newsletter article about the deportation-related memos, this comprehensive coverage outlines the impact and devastation of the recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids in greater detail. Read more at:
Embed from Getty Images. A Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer helps a young Turkish boy after he crossed the U.S.–Canada border to seek asylum with his family. February 23, 2017. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

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KBI March Announcements

During past month, the KBI was inspired by scores of young people at the Second Annual Walking in Mercy Youth Summit in Tucson and six immersions held in Nogales. And we look ahead to contributing crucial testimony at a human rights hearing on asylum seekers held in Washington, D.C. and hosting the annual Phoenix Dinner, an important source of funding for the KBI’s direct aid, education programs, advocacy, and research.

  • The KBI’s Second Annual Walking in Mercy Youth Summit: On February 4, close to 70 Southern Arizona high school students, known as Kino Teens, gathered in Tucson to learn more about the migrant experience and how to welcome and support undocumented students and their families. The half-day summit was an opportunity to discuss and reflect on advocacy issues and community involvement through workshops, role-playing, and skits created by the students. Highlights included an opening prayer and reflection about Mary as refugee and mother, a simulation of the legal steps faced by immigrants, a visit from Bishop Gerald Kicanas, and a Mass celebrated by the KBI’s Father Pete Neeley. Thanks to Salpointe Catholic High School who hosted the event and the students and faculty of the other participating schools: Lourdes Catholic School, San Miguel High, Notre Dame Preparatory, St. Augustine Catholic High School, and Brophy College Preparatory.

Salpointe Catholic High School students exchange ideas at the second annual Walking in Mercy Youth Summit. Photo by Tere Scully.

Summit participants from six Southern Arizona high schools get to know each other during a break between workshops. Photo by Tere Scully.

The KBI’s Joanna Williams introduces Bishop Kicanas. Photo by Tere Scully.

Students from six Southern Arizona high schools who attended the Summit pose for a group portrait. Photo by Tere Scully.

  • Phoenix Dinner: The Seventh Annual Kino Border Initiative Dinner in Phoenix is coming up. Please join us on Saturday, March 25, 2017 to celebrate and support the work of the KBI. For more information about the event and purchasing tickets, contact Darci Haydukovich at 602-467-8825 or check the KBI web site at:
  • Hearing on Rights of Asylum Seekers: The KBI will join more than a dozen other organizations at a March 21st hearing at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington, D.C. Their testimony will address harmful policies and abuses faced by those seeking asylum at the U.S.–Mexico border, such as refusing entry to refugees, separating families, and subjecting asylum seekers to extended detention in unsafe and sub-standard facilities. More information about the hearing is available at: To learn more about IACHR, please go to:
  • February Immersion Experiences: The KBI hosted six immersion experiences in February of high school students from Arizona, California and Pennsylvania.
Immersion Group # of participants # of days at the KBI
Brophy College Preparatory
Phoenix, AZ
12 participants 1 day
El Otro Lado, students from
San Miguel High School,
Tucson, AZ, and
Central Catholic High School,
Pittsburgh, PA
15 participants 1 day
Notre Dame Preparatory HS
Scottsdale, AZ
10 participants 1 day
Brophy College Preparatory
Phoenix, AZ
6 participants 2 days
Xavier College Preparatory
Palm Springs, CA
10 participants 5 days
Sacred Heart Preparatory
Atherton, CA
12 participants 5 days
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Ignatian Family Advocacy Month

March is Ignatian Family Advocacy Month (IFAM), a time to focus greater attention on education and advocacy efforts on behalf of migrants and prayer for migrant families coping with separation. The Ignatian Solidarity Network who sponsors this month-long call to action urges people to organize community education events, host calling parties to contact Congressional leaders about human rights concerns, and offer prayers for families facing deportation. Please stand with the KBI to support IFAM, and learn more about how you can participate at:

Ignatian Family Advocacy Month is a time to focus more attention on assisting immigrant families and working toward policies to keep them together.
Photo by Larry Hanelin.

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KBI Denounces Deportation of Guadalupe García De Rayos

Kino Border Initiative Denounces the Deportation of Guadalupe García De Rayos
La Iniciativa Kino para la Frontera Denuncia la Deportación de Guadalupe García De Rayos
Friday, February 10, 2017/Viernes, 10 de febrero de 2017

On Thursday, February 9, 2017, ICE deported Guadalupe García De Rayos to Nogales, Sonora after arresting her in Phoenix during her semi-annual check-in to request permission to remain in the U.S. Guadalupe first arrived at the Kino Border Initiative’s (KBI) comedor and then was referred to Nazareth House, the KBI’s shelter for women and children migrants.

El jueves, 9 de febrero de 2017, el ICE deportó a Guadalupe García De Rayos a Nogales, Sonora, México, después de detenerla en Phoenix durante su visita cada seis meses para solicitar permiso para seguir viviendo en los Estados Unidos. Guadalupe llegó primero al comedor de la Iniciativa Kino para la Frontera (IKF) y luego siguió a Casa Nazaret, el albergue de la Iniciativa Kino para mujeres y niños migrantes.

Later that same day, Guadalupe spoke powerfully of her love for and commitment to her U.S. citizen children: “I’m doing this for my kids so they have a better life. I will keep fighting so they can keep studying in their home country. We’re a united family. We’re a family who goes to church on Sundays.” Guadalupe’s son, Angel, expressed the deep pain he was experiencing by saying that “It’s a nightmare having your mother taken away from you.” Her daughter, Jacqueline, put into words what many separated family members feel: “We don’t deserve to go through this; no family deserves to go through this.”

Más tarde, ese mismo día, Guadalupe habló con mucha fuerza sobre su amor por y su compromiso a sus hijos, ciudadanos de los Estados Unidos, cuando dijo, <<Yo lo hago por mis hijos para que tengan una vida mejor. Voy a seguir luchando para que puedan seguir estudiando en su país. Somos una familia unida. Somos una familia que va a misa los domingos.>> Ángel, el hijo de Guadalupe, expresó el dolor profundo que experimentaba cuando decía, <<Es una pesadilla que te quiten tu mamá.>> Su hija, Jacqueline, manifestó en palabras lo que muchas familias separadas por su estatus migratorio sienten, <<No deberíamos estar pasando por esta experiencia; ninguna familia debería tener esta experiencia.>>

Guadalupe’s deportation makes visible the terrible reality of family separation which has taken place for many years due to a broken immigration system. We at the KBI regularly witness the pain and suffering that results from inhumane and unjust immigration policies. We call on the new Administration to protect family unity and respect the dignity of each individual. Guadalupe’s strength and courage motivate us as an organization to continue promoting immigration policies that address the root causes of migration: severe economic need, family separation and violence. We work for the day when families like Guadalupe’s will be able to stay together in the U.S. and contribute fully to the social fabric of the United States and to the common good.

La detención de Guadalupe visibiliza la realidad terrible de la separación familiar que ha estado pasando por muchos años a causa de un sistema de migración quebrantado. Nosotros en la Iniciativa Kino somos testigos del dolor y sufrimiento que son consecuencias de políticas migratorias injustas e inhumanas. Exhortamos a la nueva Administración a proteger la unidad familiar y el respeto por la dignidad de cada persona. La fuerza y la valentía de Guadalupe nos motiva como organización a continuar promoviendo por políticas migratorias que se dirigen a las causas fundamentales de la migración: necesidad económica, separación familiar y la violencia. Trabajamos por el día cuando familias como la de Guadalupe puedan quedar juntos en los Estados Unidos y aportar plenamente al tejido social de los Estados Unidos y al bien común.

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The First 10 Days

After the election, President Trump released a 100-day action plan outlining the future priorities of his administration, including rolling back immigrant rights. Within a week of taking office, he has acted on those directives.

On Friday, January 20, Donald J. Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States. The following day, millions gathered at Women’s Marches in Washington, D.C. and cities across the country and globe to voice their support and solidarity for a range of issues under threat, among them immigrant rights. Since then, the new president has issued three immigration-related executive orders. The actions seek to build a U.S.–Mexico border wall, expand border enforcement, suspend the refugee program, withhold federal funding to sanctuary cities, and ban individuals from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The KBI was swift in responding, and issued a press release affirming its commitment to migrants and refugees and support of a compassionate immigration policy, and denouncing the actions as divisive and inhumane. (Read the entire press release:

While news surrounding the executive orders is changing daily, if not hourly, here are summaries of public reactions and legal responses to the actions’ various provisions as of this writing, and updates about other immigration-related policy issues.

Border Wall and Enforcement: Following through on an early campaign promise, Trump issued an executive action to build a wall along the 2,000 mile border with Mexico, expand border enforcement by some 5,000 agents, and increase detention. Since filing the order, he has announced plans to deputize local police officers in borderland cities to enforce federal immigration law, relying on a pre-existing program instituted in 2009.  The likelihood of Congress approving the $15–20 million required to construct the wall is slim, but the anti-immigrant rhetoric that has accompanied this order is troubling.

Mexican President Peña Nieto has rejected Trump’s assertion that Mexico will pay for the wall, and canceled upcoming plans to visit the U.S., giving rise to concerns that even if the executive order does not result in a border wall, it has already damaged binational solidarity with Mexico and alienated a major U.S. trading partner. (In 2015, trade with Mexico totaled $16.8 billion in Arizona alone.) Many local leaders, business owners, landowners, and residents along the border contest the need for constructing a wall, and the Tohono O’odham nation whose lands straddle 75 miles of the border have declared that they will not permit it to be built. A plan to impose a 20% import tax to fund construction was floated, but does not appear to be viable.

Though the wall is a political long shot, increasing the border enforcement budget and the number of U.S. Border Patrol agents is a more achievable—and therefore, unsettling—prospect. According to KBI research in 2015, a third of the migrants who visited the comedor or stayed at the shelter reported instances of harassment or abuse while detained. In the last 14 months alone, the KBI has filed 45 abuse complaints on behalf of migrants. Posting more agents at the border, and in such a rash way, without first addressing training and accountability issues, potentially exacerbates abuse problems and diminishes security and safety for everyone.

Status of Refugees: One of the orders also suspended the U.S. refugee resettlement program for the next 120 days, and halted processing for Syrian refugees indefinitely. This is a shocking development, inconsistent with basic American values and the principles of the KBI, and poses further delays and obstacles for refugees who have the right to seek protection in the U.S. These individuals and families are fleeing for their lives from war, poverty and persecution, and are already subject to intensive United Nations screening and years-long waits for the mere chance of being resettled in the U.S. And while the U.S. resettles thousands of refugees each year, this represents a paltry 1% of 21.3 million refugees worldwide, half of whom are under the age of 18.

One executive order also calls for expedited processing of asylum claims and moving screenings and hearings to detention facilities. We already know this sort of fast-tracked processing results in overlooked or poorly considered asylum claims and the deportation of individuals and families back to the life-threatening situations they fled. These cruel and ill-conceived policies are not only a violation of refugee rights, but for some—we can’t know how many—a death sentence. Moving credible fear interviews and court resources to detention centers, where most individuals do not have access to legal representation and are often too frightened and traumatized to share their experiences, will only intensify these problems. Moreover, it is nearly impossible to win an asylum case from detention and without legal counsel.

Other concerns about these orders are: prioritizing criminal prosecution of border crossers who may be refugees, a violation of international law; detaining asylum seekers rather than continuing the practice of release while cases are pending; expanding “expedited removal” (one form of deportation) which means individuals could be deported before being given the opportunity to file and asylum claim; and further family separation, already a heartbreaking burden borne by so many immigrant families. For more information about the effects of the executive actions on women and children, see:

Sanctuary Cities: Since the election, a revival of the Sanctuary movement has been underway among houses of worship across the U.S., and many major cities—New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and others—have announced their solidarity with their undocumented immigrants by declaring themselves “sanctuary cities.” Trump’s border-related executive order includes a provision for suspending federal funds to “sanctuary jurisdictions.” It is unclear how this determination will be applied, but San Francisco has filed a lawsuit challenging the provision, and further legal action is likely.

Immigrant Travel Ban: Despite no fatal U.S. terrorist attacks attributable to immigrants from the countries targeted by this ban in over four decades, President Trump cited national security as the reason behind his executive order banning entry to citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries—Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, and Somalia. Also notable, none of the 9/11 hijackers were from these nations. Widely seen as evidence of religious discrimination, the order has resulted in hundreds of individuals with valid visas and green cards detained in airports throughout the U.S.

On the day following the action, two of these immigrants, both Iraqi refugees detained at JFK International Airport, became plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, along with other groups. The executive order was the only reason cited for detaining them.

Public outcry was immediate, not only in New York but at airports throughout the country where nationals from these countries were subjected to “extreme vetting” and the threat of deportation despite already meeting extensive criteria to obtain special immigrant visas and green cards. Thousands demonstrated in solidarity with immigrants against the ban, and countless lawyers offered their services free of charge. In addition, President Obama, several foreign leaders, U.S. diplomats, and many federal lawmakers, including some Republicans (Arizona Senators Flake and McCain among them), have announced their opposition to the travel ban. Within hours, a federal court judge in Brooklyn issued a temporary stay of the order in response to the ACLU’s complaint, a short-term measure applying only to those individuals recently arrived or in transit. A week later, a Seattle-based federal judge imposed a nationwide temporary injunction on the travel ban, permitting those with appropriate documents to enter the country for now. It is not clear how the implementation of this executive order or the ACLU lawsuit will play out in the coming weeks and months. And though the ban does not apply to the refugees aided by the KBI, it has implications for how the Executive branch may treat other immigrant groups in the future.

Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA): No action has been taken on endorsing, extending, or eliminating this relief program instituted by President Obama in 2012. DACA allows individuals who entered the country as children, often called DREAMers, to obtain renewable 2-year stays of deportation in order to study or work in the U.S. Since the election of Trump, program participants have been fearful of losing their DACA status, and these recent executive orders only heighten these worries.

If unchallenged, President Trump’s executive order to heighten border security, increase detention and build a wall will mean greater suffering for migrants crossing from Mexico to the U.S.
Photo by Larry Hanelin.

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Andrea’s Story: Refugees Turned Away at the Border

Fleeing gang members who murdered her two sons, Andrea attempted to seek asylum in the U.S., but was denied entry multiple times before her asylum application was finally accepted. She is currently being detained at the Eloy Detention Center, awaiting her court date.

Like many people fleeing gang violence, Andrea suffered unspeakable losses at the hands of gang members who killed her sons. With her own life threatened, she escaped her native Guatemala with her friend Lisa (also in danger for helping Andrea; both names have been changed to protect their privacy), and undertook the perilous 2,000 mile journey through Mexico to seek asylum in the U.S. At the Tijuana–San Diego crossing, Andrea and Lisa sought entry twice, only to be told they lacked the proper paperwork and would have to return to Guatemala to obtain it. Instead, they traveled to Nogales to try again. There they met with the same bureaucratic obstacles, but sought the help of the KBI where they stayed at the women’s shelter and received assistance in filing a complaint against U.S. and Mexican authorities. Currently, Andrea and Lisa are being detained in Eloy as their asylum applications are processed.

Andrea’s story reflects the predicament thousands of refugees face at the border. Logistical red tape, overtaxed ports of entry, insufficient legal aid, and a lack of humanitarian priorities converge to create a refugee crisis within the broader context of unprecedented worldwide migration. For those refugees who come to the KBI, advocacy staff aid in harnessing resources—legal representation, interpreter services, communities of support—and navigating through the asylum application process. But the wider problem can only be addressed by changes in policy, which is why the KBI pursues research that documents the scope of the crisis and advocacy efforts that convey its urgency to lawmakers in Washington. Now, with the recent executive order increasing the obstacles to individuals seeking asylum, this work is more critical than ever.

Listen to Andrea’s story in her own words here: Her story is also profiled in this Washington Post (1/16/17) article about refugees blocked at the border: For more background on a complaint  filed by the KBI and other organizations, please see this press release from the American Immigration Council: And for information about how Trump’s executive orders will hurt women and children seeking protection, please read this document from the Women’s Refugee Commission:

Thousands of refugees are turned away at the U.S.–Mexico border without consideration of their claims.

Photo by Getty Images/AFP/Alfredo Estrella.


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Immigration in the News

As a new administration assumes power, the immigration-related media coverage this month is dominated by President Trump’s two executive actions calling for an immigrant ban, a temporary halt to the refugee program, increased border enforcement, and a border wall.

Demonstrators gather at Los Angeles International Airport to voice their concern about President Trump’s travel ban and support of immigrants and refugees.

Photo by Getty Images News/Bruce Bennett


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KBI February Announcements

As the year commences, the KBI continues its education and advocacy work—hosting its annual youth summit and numerous immersions, visiting partner schools, presenting at conferences, and setting goals and planning strategy at a recent board meeting and a staff retreat. If you are in the area, please consider supporting these efforts by attending the Phoenix Dinner in March.

  • Second Annual Walking in Mercy Youth Summit: Sponsored by the KBI and the Kino Teens, this year’s summit is scheduled for Saturday, February 4, with about 70 students (three times last year’s attendance) from six Southern Arizona high schools—Lourdes Catholic School, San Miguel High, Salpointe Catholic High School, Notre Dame Preparatory, St. Augustine Catholic High School, and Brophy College Preparatory.
  • Immersion Experiences: The KBI hosted six immersion experiences in January with groups from around the country. One school, Salesianum School, is the site of a Kino Teens chapter.
Immersion Group # of participants # of days at the KBI
Boston College School of Social Work, Boston, MA 16 participants 1 day (as part of a
longer immersion)
Ignatian Colleagues Program, USA 12 participants
(faculty and administrators
from U.S. Jesuit universities)
6 days
Gonzaga University Justice in January Student Program,
Spokane, WA
12 participants 3 days
Salesianum School
Wilmington, DE
12 participants 4 days
University of Scranton
Scranton, PA
10 participants
3 days
Saint James Parish
Chicago, IL
7 participants 3 day


  • The KBI on the Road: Director of Education and Advocacy Joanna Williams will spend the first week in February meeting with students, parents and faculty at KBI partner universities and high schools in St. Louis, Chicago, and Cincinnati. At the end of the month, Assistant Director of Education Pete Neeley, S.J. will attend and conduct workshops (one in English, one in Spanish) at the Los Angeles Religious Education Conference where the theme will be “Embrace Trust.”
  • Phoenix Dinner: Please join us for the Seventh Annual Kino Border Initiative Dinner in Phoenix on Saturday, March 25, 2017. More information about the event and purchasing tickets is available by calling Darci Haydukovich at 602-467-8825 or at:
  • KBI Board Meeting: At the January 19 meeting, the KBI Board of Directors approved the 2017 budget, and voted in favor of the KBI’s updated advocacy policy. They also voted in favor of Francisco Lujan becoming an emeritus member of the Board of Directors.
  • KBI Team Retreat: The staff of the KBI spent a few dedicated days to plan for the coming year at a team retreat in St. David, Arizona from January 30–February 1.

The students get acquainted with an icebreaker at last year’s Walking in Mercy Youth Summit.

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