"They’re like us. They’re human beings. They have hopes. They have dreams.”
These words are at the heart of Jesuit Fr. Sean Carroll’s work with migrants on the U.S.-Mexican border in Nogales, Ariz., and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. Father Carroll is executive director of the Kino Border Initiative (KBI). Along with six faith-based organizations that founded KBI in 2009, he accompanies migrants, educates communities on both sides of the border, and collaborates in networks that engage in research and advocacy to transform local, regional, and national immigration policies.
In May, this work led Fr. Carroll to the Midwest, where he highlighted KBI’s mission on visits to several Jesuit institutions. He gave a presentation to parishioners at Church of the Gesu in Milwaukee, as well as a talk at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago with Jesuit Connections, a speaker series the Midwest Jesuits and Charis sponsor for young adults. Father Carroll also went to several Jesuit universities and high schools to speak with students, some of whom have personal experience with the issues KBI addresses.
KBI’s efforts come at a vital time. In its most recent annual report, more than one-third of deported migrants interviewed were found to have suffered some type of abuse or mistreatment at the hands of U.S. immigration authorities. In 2015, KBI served 42,998 meals, sheltered 482 women and children, and offered medical aid to 3,532 migrants. Father Carroll has testified before Congress on U.S. immigration policy, but his time in the Midwest emphasized the lives behind immigration debates.
“When people get to know the migrant man, woman, and child in our midst and to hear their story, they recognize their humanity,” said Fr. Carroll. “They cherish it, they value it, and I think that sharing and that encounter opens their hearts in a powerful way. They look at this issue of migration with all its complexity in a new way, because they think of it in terms of these persons.”
This sense of encounter with real people was the main takeaway for Lauren O’Gara and Andrew Hong, two Chicago teachers who volunteer with Charis and attended Fr. Carroll’s Jesuit Connections talk.
|Fr. Sean Carroll, SJ, guides migrants in a reflection and pre-meal blessing at KBI’s soup kitchen in Mexico.
(Photo courtesy of KBI)
“Most of my students are either undocumented, or their parents are,” said O’Gara. “So I’ve heard their testimonies. It was nice to hear what an organization with power and connections is doing to advocate for them.”
“When Fr. Sean was going into what [migrants] were fleeing from, you begin to get a deeper understanding of the motives,” added Hong. “For people who are not being impacted by gangs who are threatening our lives and burning our houses down, it allows us to really connect with them as human beings, as opposed to policy points.”
To learn more about KBI, visit http://www.kinoborderinitiative.org.
To learn about Jesuit Connections, visit www.charis.org/jesuitconnections.