Establishing advocacy committees in the U.S. and Mexico to promote humane, just and workable policies for migrants is the latest in the KBI’s strategies to support migrant families, keep them safe, and create conditions in which they can thrive.
Immigrant aid organizations and human rights groups work for legislative reform and social justice all year long, but the month of February, Ignatian Family Advocacy Month, is a chance to reach out to Catholics and other concerned individuals, provide information about migrant issues, and call upon them to affect legislative and cultural change on behalf of migrants struggling with family separation, fleeing violence, and encountering legal and economic obstacles.
For the Kino Border Initiative, advocacy broadly takes the form of story and data collection from migrants who come to the comedor and shelter; extensive reports on abuses of migrants and the border situation; educational presentations; collaboration with other organizations that support migrants; and testimony at congressional hearings and visits with government leaders. At a one-on-one level, KBI staff and volunteers counsel and assist migrants in navigating the many legal and administrative problems they face, such as contacting relevant agencies, obtaining necessary documentation, reporting abuses, and identifying ways to reunite with family members.
In September, the KBI board established two advocacy committees, with members in the U.S. and in Mexico, charged with extending these activities and working together to advance goals on both sides of the border. In the U.S., those goals are (1) monitoring deportations to insure that night-time drop-offs at the border do not occur; (2) reducing family separation in the deportation process; (3) reducing physical abuse of migrants and promoting access to medical care; and (4) working toward fewer barriers to protection for migrants, through means such as asylum. In Mexico, the priorities are (1) reducing violence against migrants; (2) increasing access to justice for those crimes and abuses; and (3) engaging the Catholic authorities in Nogales as a collaborator in educating about, promoting and defending human rights. While these objectives have always been a part of the KBI’s advocacy mission, the new committees can provide greater oversight and implementation in pursuing ways to achieve them and chart progress as it’s made. In the words of Director of Education and Advocacy Joanna Williams, “Our advocacy work is an imperative because responding with love to our brothers and sisters who come to the comedor each and every day requires working to change the structures that create such hardship.”
Advocacy extends the KBI’s mission and the principle of accompaniment from Catholic social teaching into the public realm to garner support for humane immigration laws. When one accompanies another, it is an act of empathetic companionship, played out not only by being present when someone is in need, but also by showing up in any number of ways—volunteering, writing letters, donating, offering prayers—to promote the common good and the rights and dignity of all. This spirit of accompaniment is at the heart of advocacy because working for immigration reform incorporates these convictions and social teachings into the legislative and cultural fabric, and makes compassionate treatment of newcomers the law—and standard—of the land.
For more information, read and share the following reports, co-published by the KBI:
- An Uncertain Path: Justice for Crimes and Human Rights Violations Against Migrants and Refugees (November 2015): http://www.wola.org/sites/default/files/An%20Uncertain%20Path_Nov2015.pdf.
- Our Values on the Line: Migrant Abuse and Family Separation at the Border (September 2015): http://jesuits.org/Assets/Publications/File/REPORT_2015_Our_Values_on_the_Line.pdf.
- Documented Failures: The Consequences of Immigration Policy on the U.S.–Mexico Border (February 2013): http://www.jesuit.org/jesuits/wp-content/uploads/Kino_FULL-REPORT_web.pdf.