RALEIGH, N.C. — On Feb. 17, a delegation from the Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi here traveled to Tucson, Ariz., to participate in a BorderLinks experience sponsored and organized by the Franciscan Coalition for Justice and Peace.
BorderLinks is a Tuscan-based organization, an international leader in experiential education that raises awareness and inspires action around global political economics. BorderLinks grew out of the Sanctuary Movement in the 1980s, when faith communities, universities, and other organizations rallied to advocate for refugees fleeing persecution in Central America.
BorderLinks Raises Awareness
For the Raleigh group, the trip was about experiencing firsthand the plight of the migrants and trying to understand border security.
Today, BorderLinks’ educational programs focus on issues of immigration, community formation, development, and social justice in the borderlands between Mexico, the United States and beyond. As a bi-national organization, BorderLinks brings people together to build bridges of solidarity across North and Latin American borders, and promotes intercultural understanding and respect.
The mission of BorderLinks is a perfect fit with The Franciscan Coalition’s Immigration Reform advocacy efforts. Based on the Gospel and the teachings of the Catholic Church, the Immigration Team promotes recognition of human dignity in its immigrant brothers and sisters by standing in solidarity in the pursuit of justice. This mission is required to recognize the basic human rights of all people. But more than this, they seek to welcome the stranger in fulfillment of the Gospel imperative – to treat migrant sisters and brothers as they would Christ himself.
Meeting in the U.S. and Mexico
During the BorderLinks experience, the delegation met with various leaders who understand the impact of global economic trends on social conditions, health, gender, culture, immigration, labor rights, and the environment. In Tucson, they met with Catholic Relief Workers, a founding member of the Sanctuary Movement, the United States Customs and Border Protection office at the Nogales border, Arizona Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, and an indigenous woman and advocate from the Tohono O’Odham tribe.
South of the border in Nogales, Sonora, they visited the Death No More tent at the border checkpoint, a Mexican federal agency that offers basic services to migrants, the studio of Mexican border artists whose art is on the border wall, a government-funded shelter for children who attempt to cross the border alone, a Catholic shelter for migrants in Altar, and migrant guest houses.
During each stop in Mexico, the group spent time with migrants who come to Altar and Nogales from all over Mexico and Central America. Their stories are much the same. They come to the United States at great risk to work so they can feed their children, help sick parents, and care for siblings. They repeat that they mean no harm; they only want to work, to help their families. They also ask why they are not allowed freely into America.
The trip concluded with a trip to the desert with Humane Borders helping to fill water barrels for the migrants.
— Megan Nerz is director of the Franciscan Coalition for Justice and Peace at the Raleigh parish.