Fr. Sean Carroll, S.J., director of the Kino Border Initiative talks with Sr. Engracia Robles, of the Missionary Sisters of the Eucharist, inside the CAMDEP. (Christian Fuchs/Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)
Some of the most forgotten and the most vulnerable people in the United States are those migrants held in federal immigration detention centers pending deportation. The vulnerability of these people does not end with deportation, however; many of the migrants we encounter at the Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, Mexico, find themselves stranded in the border town far away from their homes and families, with few options or resources to plan for a future life in Mexico or Central America.
To help these forgotten people, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA and five partner organizations officially launched the Kino Border Initiative in the twin cities of Nogales, Sonora, Mexico and Nogales, Arizona, U.S.A., in January of 2009.
The bi-national ministry is a collaborative effort among Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, the California Province of the Society of Jesus, the Mexico Province of the Society of Jesus, the Missionary Sisters of the Eucharist, the Archdiocese of Hermosillo and the Diocese of Tucson.
"One of the most gratifying things about this effort is that it is a partnership amongst so many … committed groups," said Rev. John McGarry, S.J., Provincial of the California Province of the Society of Jesus as the project was inaugurated last year.
Kristina Stevens, a recent graduate from the University of Arizona with a B.A. in Journalism, was inspired by the people she met at Kino. "I was compelled to go back to get the stories of the people who were deported." She adds that she makes an effort to "remind people that this issue is NOT a political one, but that it involves the lives of so many people, particularly innocent children... I think that it's important that people remember that these are human lives at stake, not just policies that Republicans and Democrats battle about in Congress."
Our ministry in the detention centers and at the KBI has confirmed our belief that God is present even in the most tragic moments of human life. Through our work in the Kino Initiative, JRS/USA and its partner organizations accompany migrants as they undergo the difficult transition of being deported to a country where they are far from their families with little means of support. In addition, through the Kino Initiative we seek to serve the Church by providing opportunities for pastoral formation, faith-based social analysis, and advocacy that protects the human rights of deported migrants and develops a deeper sense of the common good.
In the words of Fr. Sean Carroll, S.J., the project’s executive director, KBI “is the culmination of a three-year process of reflection, discernment and conversations along the Arizona – Mexico border about the reality of migration and the most urgent needs with respect to migration in general and for our Church in particular.” Through KBI we seek to serve and to understand the needs of newly deported people of Ambos Nogales, the twin cities straddling the Arizona-Mexico border.
The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops has identified comprehensive immigration reform as a major public policy priority within the Church. In 2003, U.S. Catholic Bishops collaborated with Mexican Bishops to promulgate the joint pastoral letter on migration, Strangers No Longer: Together on a Journey of Hope.