Fr. Peter Neeley Discusses Immigration Work with the Kino Border Initiative
Published: Sunday, February 9, 2014
Updated: Sunday, February 9, 2014 15:02
This year’s annual Public Policy Symposium for Presidential Scholars dealt with the timely topic of U.S./Mexico border regulation. On January 25, guided by Prof. Bridget Franco of the Spanish Department, scholars participated in a simulation designed to address critical topics related to both the policy and ethics of border control. To further expand on the questions raised by the symposium, Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J. reached out to Rev. Peter Neeley, S.J. of the Kino Border Initiative (KBI), a binational organization located in Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. Fr. Neeley arrived at Holy Cross on January 27 to guest lecture and host a presentation in Rehm Library titled “Christ on the Border.” During his talk, Fr. Neeley discussed his role as the Assistant Director of Education at the KBI, and shared the organization’s vision for a future of humane, just, workable migration.
The goals of the KBI are threefold: first, direct humanitarian assistance and accompaniment with migrants; second, social and pastoral education with communities on both sides of the border; and finally, participation in collaborative networks that engage in research and advocacy to transform local, regional, and national immigration policies. The organization strives to make connections on both sides of the border, but the cultural division is made even more complex by “the presence of a third identity—the border itself.”
Collaboration and cooperation are major hurdles that the KBI must overcome to make progress in education and research. Meanwhile, holistic social and pastoral outreach is also a major element of the organization. The KBI runs an aid center for deported migrants just inside the border, which provides food, shelter, clothing, and referral to Mexican government services, all free of charge. In 2011, the center served over 45,000 meals. The KBI also runs a shelter solely for women and children, as well as a first aid center for those who arrive with severe blisters, heatstroke, and dehydration from days of walking down the road to Sonora—a desert highway so hot that it is known as El Camino del Diablo—the Devil’s Path. “We are called to set aside our cultural fears and the competition for resources in order to better welcome newcomers to our country,” said Fr. Neeley in his presentation. “At the KBI, we make it very clear that this is a Catholic, Christian project. The Church is involved with immigration because it is a question of social justice.”
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 13,000 children living in the U.S. had one or both parents deported in the years 2005-2007. At the last survey in 2005, 3.1 million American children had at least one illegal immigrant parent. That number is likely higher now.
Displaying a slideshow of migrants at the KBI aid center, Fr. Neeley described the pain and suffering that many migrants are forced to endure. “There are raw emotional moments each and every day. There are sixteen-year-old boys who are forced to choose between joining the cartels and leaving their families to get out of their country. There are women carrying children through one hundred ten-degree heat to escape abusive relationships. These people are desperate. They’re afraid of being defrauded, of being taken in, taken advantage of. Sometimes compassion means that you have to be ready for tears.” Fr. Neeley asks that the Holy Cross community take a moment to “like” and follow the Kino Border Initiative on social media to help publicize the project. For more information, visit their website at www.kinoborderin tiative.org.