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Father Kino, S.J.
(Nogales, Arizona) — The Kino Border Initiative provides direct assistance to men, women and children who have been deported from the U.S. to Mexico. Deportees who are citizens of Mexico are usually sent via bus to border crossings from California to Texas. From these garitas, or crossing areas, they walk back into Mexico. They generally have little or no money and only the clothes on their back.

The KBI offers two major forms of direct assistance to returning immigrants. A meal facility, the Aid Center for Deported Migrants (CAMDEP), where migrants can receive a solid, warm meal, and clothing.

The CAMDEP is located in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, just across the border from Nogales, Arizona, in the United States. Together, the two cities are known as Ambos Nogales, which means “Both Nogales.” It is not uncommon for people to live on one side of the fence that now divides the community, and to work on the other.

Located within a few hundred yards of the Mariposa Gate border crossing, the CAMDEP is one of the first structures deportees pass as they return to Mexico.

KBI’s second program for migrants in Nogales, Sonora, is the Nazareth House for Deported Women, a short-term shelter for unaccompanied women who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation. The Missionary Sisters of the Eucharist, will administer the CAMDEP and women’s shelter.

Araceli is currently living in the shelter with her newborn infant son, Victor Emmanuel. Araceli had been in her home state of Oaxhaca, Mexico, and was trying to cross the border into the United States, when the U.S. Border Patrol apprehended her.

"I wanted to cross (the border) because I have two kids in Burlington, Kansas. I hadn't heard anything from them since September. I was pregnant, so I tried to cross illegally. I was feeling desperate," said Araceli. Araceli said her husband in Kansas had had an opportunity to get legal papers for her, but that he did not do so.

After being deported, Araceli found herself in Nogales, a city unknown to her and more than 1500 miles from her home state in southern Mexico.

"I arrived here in November, and I was eight months pregnant. For me, (the shelter) is everything. Before, I had nothing, nowhere to go, nowhere to live, nothing to eat. When I came here, I felt safe," said Araceli.

"I see this Kino Border Initiative as an important step in responding to the deportation of those who have been asked to leave the country; to make sure that their departure is safe, and that they are cared for, and to help educate and increase our efforts to better understand the issues of immigration," said Bishop Gerald Kicanas of the Diocese of Tucson.

In addition to direct assistance to migrants, KBI plans to work with local parishes on both the U.S. and Mexico sides of the border, offering presentations and holding workshops on migration issues, particularly as it relates to Catholic social teaching.

"What we’ll be trying to do is to help people find a safe place to talk about the issues of migration," said Gavin.

"We’ll be going into parishes, talking at masses and after masses, talking with groups of adults and groups of students, trying to see how our own faith, our own sense of being brothers and sisters in the Lord, can somehow influence who we are as men and women who live on one side of the border or the other," Gavin said.

What we see in JRS/USA is that this new Kino Border Initiative is simply an extension of what we’ve been doing for the last nine years (as chaplains in the detention centers). What we are doing now is reaching out to deported men, women and children, who are largely Mexican citizens who have been deported, who have been detained in our own detention centers, who are now being sent home, separated from families," said Gavin.

"We come basically to say what we’ve been trying to say throughout the last 28 years (in JRS). God is present even in the most tragic moments of our lives. We wish to say to our brothers and sisters, you are not alone, you are brothers and sisters to us. So there’s great joy in being part of this project, this bi-national project, and it’s with great joy that we will continue to support this project," said Gavin.

Finally, KBI will host students and visiting scholars from high schools, universities, and parishes seeking opportunities to learn more about the complex realities of the U.S. – Mexico border and immigration policies. It is hoped that the educational opportunities and research will lead to more effective advocacy on behalf of migrants.

"We’re here to try to break the barriers that exist within each and every one of us," said Tessa Arvizu, a parishioner at San Felipe de Jesus Church in Nogales, Ariz.

"I feel very humble because a group of us travelled on foot to Nogales, Sonora (to the CAMDEP) … and we see the pain, we see the suffering. Not only the physical, but the mental anguish that these people experience every day of their lives," said Arvizu.

The initiative is named for Eusebio Francisco Kino, S.J., a Jesuit missionary known as the “Padre on Horseback,” who rode across southern Arizona and northern Sonora from 1687 until his death in 1711, serving local people and founding more than 20 missions.

"St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, … is famous for saying, 'Love is best shown in deeds rather than words.' In terms of the issue of immigration, a lot of words have been spent in the U.S. and I believe in Mexico, a lot of words which have not brought us anywhere," said Rev. Tom Smolich, president of the Jesuit Conference in the U.S.

"I hope and pray that in Ignatius’ inspirations, not just the words but the deeds of this project might be a light for transformation for what we do on both sides of this border," Smolich said.

"We Jesuits are committed to the poor, the immigrant, the disenfranchised. The beginning of this new ministry in service to the church and to people in need is a concrete sign of that commitment," said McGarry.

"What I find so exciting about the Kino Border Initiative is the potential for transformation of minds and hearts that can happen through this effort," said Carroll.

"The potential for transformation is high not only because of our collaboration across borders, but also because it’s comprehensive in approach. We are addressing different aspects of the reality of migration," Carroll said.

"Often when we are serving and caring for (the deported migrants) they share with us their stories, their experiences, their joys and struggles, their ups and downs. We are hoping that those experiences and stories could be heard by people who are participating in our educational efforts; that they could be heard by legislators at the local, state and national level; that they could be heard by academics who are doing research on migration, and immigration … and that through this process that it truly transforms all of us, both our minds and our hearts, so that our response is truly just, is truly humane, is truly loving," Carroll said.

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