Now that I have led several delegations, I'd like to explain what I actually do at BorderLinks. As many of you know, I lead college, graduate school, and church groups on immersive trips to the border to learn about immigration issues, history, and policy. I have worked with diverse groups from Wisconsin, California, Washington and Colorado. Each group has provided their own challenges and joys. I am grateful to all my delegation participants as each of them has help me grow this year.
BorderLinks envisions a world in which people, within and across social borders, respect and care for each other, value and celebrate differences, and build healthy and just communities where everyone has equal opportunity for a full and dignified life.
At BorderLinks, we try to do so amplify the voices of individually who are directly affected by immigration. We meet with undocumented immigrants, asylum seekers, day laborers, church leaders, community organizers, and many more to hear their stories, perspectives and learn what is happening in the borderlands.
The easiest way is to explain what I do is with photos so here goes!
On BorderLinks delegations...
We walk migrant trails in the desert in order to get a small sense of what undocumented migrants feel when crossing the border. We learn about the enforcement strategies that have funneled peoples into these harsh terrains and their deadly consequences.
We go to Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson to learn about the Sanctuary movement and attend vigils to show our support for Rosa (middle in black jacket) who is currently in sanctuary there.
We talk to Border Patrol or Immigration Customs Control about their work and policies surrounding migration, smuggling, and border security.
We meet with migrant-led grassroots groups that are organizing for a variety of goals including decreasing border militarization, ending racial profiling, ending detention of LGBTQ migrants, ending of separate of families, and providing more educational opportunities for undocumented students.
We go to border towns like Nogales or Agua Prieta, Mexico where we meet with different organizations who work with migrants in food kitchens, shelters, and churches. We also meet with groups like the cooperative coffee company Cafe Justo or the community organization HEPAC who are trying to improve their communities in order to decrease out-migration.
We discuss internal migration and urbanization in Mexico due to an increase in maquilas (factories), free trade policies like NAFTA, and organized crime. Below is a neighborhood of people who moved to Nogales to work at the factories. Much of this land was first occupied by squatters who lived without utilities or much infrastructure.
We share meals and conversation with local families in Nogales, Mexico.
I lead workshops and reflections to help my delegation participants process what they are seeing and learning. We also discuss how to integrate their experiences on the border with their life at home and devise plans for getting more involved.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, but I hope it helps explain what I have been focussing on this year. Delegations can be emotionally, intellectually, and physically exhausting but also extremely rewarding. I enjoy learning and teaching through experiences and hands-on workshops. It has been an honor to facilitate discussions and reflections where my participants open up about their backgrounds and assumptions. The act of being present with people as they reflect on their religion, government, and privilege has been truly eye opening gift.
We take selfies.