Reflection on Immigration and Life along the Border.

In case you are interested in what the Department of Latin American Studies and Women's Studies at The University of Scranton is doing, here is our spring newsletter. I submitted this entry on my recent trip to the Kino Border Initiative.
Preparing tortillas 2016
Along with nine colleagues from The University of Scranton, including Linda Ledford-Miller and Yamile Silva from the Department of Latin American Studies and Women’s Studies, I traveled to the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) in Nogales, Mexico over intersession. KBI is a binational organization that works between Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico to provide migrants with humanitarian assistance. Each year they provide food, shelter, medical attention, and human rights education to thousands of people who have been deported from the US or are contemplating crossing the border into the US.

We visited both sides of the border in order to better understand immigration and life along the border. There is little evidence that the US southern border is being overrun by migrants from Mexico, Central America, and elsewhere. While there has been an increase in the number of women and children from Central America crossing the border, the total number seeking to cross is significantly lower than it was one and two decades ago. Statistically speaking, US border regions including the Nogales area we visited, have very low crime rates compared to similarly-sized US cities.  

However, our journey to the US southern border was not meant to overwhelm us with statistics. The short-term immersion was designed to “Humanize, Accompany, and Complicate” the migrant experience. Every person deported from the US or on his or her way to the US has a unique story. Some of those deported had lived in the US for decades and had children who were US citizens. Our deportation policies are anti-family. Several teenagers we met were fleeing gang violence in Honduras and El Salvador. Should they get caught crossing the border and deported back to their native country, it might be a death sentence.

We were also there to accompany the migrants. We walked a desert trail that many migrants take. We walked the trail in the light, with proper clothing and food, and with no fear that coyotes would rape, extort, or kill us. Our experience was nowhere near challenging as it is for the thousands that cross the border each year. We served migrants food in the comedor. Their legal status did not matter. They are all children of God and deserve to be treated with the human dignity that all humans deserve.

Finally, our trip was designed to complicate our understanding of migration. We spoke with ranchers who supported Trump’s enhanced border security. However, they thought that a better policy would be to support guest worker programs to allow more foreign workers to come to the US. They supported more visas for people from Latin America as they thought it ridiculous that Mexicans and Central Americans were unable to get permission to visit US-based family and Disney World. The ranchers did not need to demonize migrants. They provided water and food to those migrants crossing their ranches because that is what their faith called them to do.

No matter our politics, we should not forget that human lives are at stake.