Solidarity and hospitality in response to the American Wall
From his first day at the White House, the new president of the United States, Donald Trump, has enacted numerous measures and executive orders that have stirred controversy in every area of the country and the globe.
The US leader has not been indifferent to the issue of immigration and has promulgated two special decrees: the Muslim Ban and the Executive Order 7, which provide, respectively, the suspension, for 120 days, of the arrival ofrefugees from certain countries with Muslim majority, and the construction of a wall on the border between the US and Mexico.
If the executive order concerning the Muslim Ban has been widely condemned and disapproved in the US and around the world, the detriment of Mexican migrants has been sidelined and perhaps forgotten by those who do not feel directly involved in the problem.This decree, promised in the election campaign, kicks off the design of a wall all along the border between the US and Mexico, that crosses metropolitan areas, rural areas, national parks and deserts. Along the 3,000 kilometers of border, more than a thousand are already occupied by a barrier built since the 90s.Trump is promoting the creation of an additional wall in the name of defending the country from the flow of drugs, crime and illegal immigration from Mexico.
The current Mexican situation is very complex both economically and socially. Just think of the clashes between drug traffickers who often also involve the civilian population, resulting in deaths and fuelling the violence, whose victims are especially women and children.Migration to the United States is one of the biggest problems in the territory. In 2014, nearly 12 million Mexicans lived in the United States. Most migrants, about 70%, decided to undertake this trip for economic reasons. However, almost half of the population lives in poverty and employment opportunities are scarce. Currently, as much as 18% of migrants go to the US to meet their expatriate family. Finally, most of the remaining 8% were forced to move to escape from violence. According to Amnesty International, from 2003 to 2013, the cases of torture had increased by 600%, an incredible percentage – which in recent years has increased further.
In this scenario, takes place the indispensable activities of the volunteers from Kino Border Initiative (KBI), who on a daily basis, take care of migrants arriving in Nogales, a city split in half between the states of Arizona (USA) and Sonora (MEX).
Each year, the organization helps about 8,000 migrants who get two meals a day, clean clothes, psychological and spiritual support and have the possibility to make free phone calls, in addition to the first-aid service that is always available. For women and children, there is also a shelter structure that’s open at night.Nogales receive people from Mexico who want to reach the United States, but also those who are deported from the United States after living there for many years. Among these, only a small part go back in their hometowns; most of them try to cross the border illegally again.
The promoters of assistance to migrant activities are a group of local Jesuits, led by the example of Padre Kino, a Jesuit missionary from Trentino who, in the seventeenth century, defended Mexican indigenous from Spanish authorities, who enslaved them to work in the mines. The figure of Father Kino, still known throughout Mexico and Arizona (USA), is a model to Jesuits and volunteers to follow and imitate.
The voluntary activity is particularly difficult when you consider the psychological conditions in which migrants arrive at the border. The journey that takes them to the frontier is plenty of thefts, kidnappings, assaults and violence. Not just criminal gangs are responsible for this, but also the Mexican police and US border patrol agents, who submit migrants to physical and verbal violence.
Luis Enrique Delgado, seventeen years old, responsible of Kino Teens’activities (KBI’s young volunteers), explains that inhumane treatment suffered by migrants during their journey was the cause that immediately prompted him to take action and to be available for the aid and awareness activities promoted by the Jesuits.
Work carried out by Kino Teens through the writing of articles that tell harrowing stories of migrants and claim their rights, goes hand in hand with cultural initiatives proposed in schools to raise awareness of other young people, and with fundraising activities organized in Tubac, Tumacacori and Tucson by this teenage group.
The volunteers who devote their time to help migrants intend to be “a voice for the voiceless”, a voice for those who are not considered by the State. Yamelle Gonzales Dabdoub, a student from Nogales, explains how media reports about the conditions of migrants are often false. Only by visiting Comedor, where those who ask for help are received, we realize the true situation Mexicans are living.
Jesuit Father Sean Carroll, head of the Kino Border Initiative, emphasizes the importance of taking measures that can guarantee respect for migrant’s human dignity. “We need a reform of the immigration policy to ensure even those who have no documents, but have serious or special needs, to reach the States,” he says.
Sean confirms the urgent need of reforming US visa system, to ensure that migrants are able to achieve their family members in a timely manner. The importance for both States to give jobs to Mexicans in US areas, where there should be a biggest demand for work, should compell both governments to take care of the problem more seriously.
The measures signed by Trump have warmed Kino Teens’ hearts. They immediately declared profound solidarity and support for migrants in the fight against the construction of the wall.
Cesar Perez, a sixteen-years-old boy from Nogales, reiterates the importance of educating and mobilyzing the population, in order to have their support. “It is sad to realize that among the supporters of Trump there are also native Mexicans, who are not aware of the context in which live their former compatriots.”
“Unity is strength” seems to have become the motto of these young people who, in a completely peaceful way, are openly moving to the side of the weak and marginalized people in society.
Ana Maria Gonzales, student and Kino Teens’ secretary, and priest Sean, remind that the idea of a new wall, besides being completely absurd, does not solve the problem, because it will not stop people who want to cross the border, but will increase its risks. Trump’s racist policy aims to divide two realities that should increase each other’s value.
The work Jesuits are doing to stop the construction of the wall includes the publication of a statement that clearly expresses their opposition. At the same time, they are working to help migrants who have suffered violence to have the opportunity to apply for asylum in the United States and to promote a campaign against the use of violence by police officers.
The critical situation Mexico is experiencing in recent years, and particularly in the last hours, can not leave us indifferent. The message launched by Kino Teens is very clear: If we all work together on a project of help and solidarity, we can guarantee the rights of all migrants who, every day, escape from their country, dreaming of a better life.