Daring to Say Yes
By: Roxane Ramos
On a sunny Saturday in January, close to 200 people gathered at the Museo del Arte in Nogales, Sonora, to listen to the words of world-renowned defender of human rights, Father Alejandro Solalinde. Despite ongoing threats and disruptions, Father Solalinde has championed the migrant cause, denouncing the drug cartels, government agencies, and state and local leaders who have contributed directly or indirectly to the human rights violations suffered by migrants in Mexico and throughout the world.
Executive director Father Sean Carroll welcomed everyone to the afternoon’s forum, part of the KBI’s 5th anniversary celebration, Borders that Divide, Actions that Unite, a weekend of events that itself united notable border activists, service providers, KBI staff, volunteers and board members, and other concerned individuals. Father Sean’s remarks set the tone for the afternoon, acknowledging God’s guidance and the many people who have brought the KBI to this pivotal point with their committed work and willingness to “say ‘yes’ to the challenge of the border.”
Father Solalinde addressed these challenges as he talked about the right to migrate with dignity. He spoke not only of his own experience in Oaxaca, where he and the women of the community started a soup kitchen (reorganizing after every closure and setback), but more broadly about seeking justice for the most vulnerable, and how migrants “are changing the world with their presence.” He emphasized that the “extreme ministry” of the U.S.–Mexico border requires from each of us an internal transformation and relocation—socially, existentially, culturally—as we “enter the way of the migrants.”
This is the call the KBI has responded to, most immediately with food, first aid and shelter for tens of thousands of migrants deported to Nogales, and also with education, advocacy and research to help create long-term solutions and policies that are both compassionate and practical. At this 5-year milestone, the KBI looks ahead to continuing its vital work on both sides of the border, to embracing the “way of the migrants,” and to changing minds and hearts. In the words of Father Solalinde, the walk of faith starts with a single step.
The KBI anniversary events included a screening of La Bestía/The Beast; a panel discussion; an art exhibition Caminantes Sin Fronteras/Travellers Without Borders; a concert by La Muna; a reception; and masses to bless the commencement and closing of the celebration. Special guests who graciously participated, in addition to Father Solalinde, were: Hiram González Machi, reporter for Nuevo Día in Nogales, Sonora; Sister María Engracia Robles, Kino Border Initiative Education/Advocacy, Mexico; Father Prisciliano Peraza García, director of the Community Center for Migrants and co-coordinator of the Human Mobility migrant shelters in Northern Mexico; Isabel Garcia, director of the Pima County Legal Defender’s Office and co-chair of Derechos Humanos in Tucson; and César López, a member of the Border Justice Collective of Ambos Nogales.
Muchos agradecimiento a todos.