KBI Staff Members Javier Fierro and Joanna Williams
Javier Fierro and Joanna Williams—Associate Director and Director of Education and Advocacy, respectively—began working at the KBI a little more than a year ago, contributing their impressive skills to the KBI team of staff, board members, volunteers and donors. Each has volunteered with the KBI in the past, and is deeply committed to the KBI mission of supporting migrants at the border, keeping families together, and working toward a more humane immigration policy. Here, after a year of service, they share some details about their KBI roles and reflect on the meaning of their work.
JAVIER FIERRO: As Associate Director since May 2015, Javier handles business and administrative matters for the KBI. While other staff members often work off-site—as close as Nogales, Sonora or as far as Washington, D.C.—Javier keeps the KBI offices running smoothly, the paperwork in order, and managerial and human resources tasks covered. In addition, he communicates regularly with volunteers on the U.S. side as well as vendors, donors and KBI partners in the U.S. and Mexico. His primary goal essentially matches his job description—to guarantee the sustainability and future of the KBI from the management side of things. In his words, he is “the person behind the scenes.” Even so, he can often be found in the comedor, helping to serve meals and offering support to the migrants there.
Javier is especially gratified that his work allows Father Sean (who used to handle these daily business duties before the KBI grew, year by year, in scope and outreach) to focus on bringing the KBI’s message to a wider audience. Father Sean’s September trip to Washington, D.C., to advocate before Congress during Pope Francis’s visit there was a particular highlight for Javier.
Though he has long been familiar with migrant issues and is an immigrant himself, Javier’s work with the KBI has exposed him to the ongoing, often unacknowledged efforts of the many agencies and organizations working on behalf of human rights and social justice. As he points out, news reports of deportations and family separation are distressing, but at the KBI he encounters the groups who are aiding migrants and advocating for policy change. “It gives me hope,” he says.
JOANNA WILLIAMS: With Joanna’s arrival in June 2015, the KBI merged its education and advocacy efforts under her direction. Building on the collaboration and communication so necessary to the KBI’s work, Joanna aimed to bring a more strategic perspective to education and advocacy planning. In the past year, the KBI board organized an Advocacy Committee and drew up strategic goals and plans for both sides of the border; Joanna has made several advocacy trips to Washington, D.C., and other cities; and organized the Kino Teens Leadership Days (see article in this newsletter) and February’s Walking in Mercy Youth Summit as well as numerous high school immersions to help to open the eyes of young advocates and future leaders.
A typical week for Joanna finds her in many places—meeting in Tucson with local partners; listening to migrant stories and documenting abuses at the comedor; participating in phone meetings with the Department of Homeland Security, the Southern Border Communities Coalition, or other organizations; and working on strategy, conducting research, developing curriculum, and catching up on correspondence back at the office.
Memorable moments from the past year include Joanna’s September trip to D.C., coinciding with Pope Francis’s visit, to call on congressional offices and share the findings of the recently released report, Our Values on the Line: Migrant Abuse and Family Separation at the Border, co-published with the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the U.S. (http://www.jesuits.org/valuesontheline). And during the Holy Father’s celebration of Mass in Ciudad Juárez and a live-stream of the proceedings into the comedor, Joanna was moved by his words: “This crisis, which can be measured in numbers and statistics, we want instead to measure with names, stories, families.” As she recalls, “I could see the names, faces, and families around me.” The migrants themselves—their experiences and stories—are the strongest reminder of the KBI’s urgent mission, and the critical importance of education and advocacy in defending their human rights and formulating a more compassionate immigration policy.