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On Assignment in Nogales, Mexico

Armando Borja
Thursday, August 26, 2010

In May 2008 Armando Borja, JRS/USA Director for Programs, accompanied a delegation of JRS/USA Board members to our most recent project in Nogales, Sonora, at the border crossing between Mexico and the United States. Armando writes: 

"This burrito is really good!" This is what a Mexican migrant, who had just been deported from the United States, said while he was being served a meal by Sr. Engracia Robles, M.E. JRS/USA's Migrant Aid Coordinator in Nogales, Sonora. 

A hot Mexican meal after the anxiety of apprehension, detention, and deportation by the U.S. Border Patrol is a simple but very welcome experience for many returning Mexican migrants.  I witnessed first-hand the power of companionship and solidarity while accompanying Sr. Robles in her daily diligent efforts of feeding groups of arriving deportees at a migrant care center located just steps away from the border crossing.  People were very quiet at first and even suspicious of each other and of us. For many, this is the first time they have been to Nogales and they know that many people want to prey on them for the little money they may have. Yet at the same time people seemed to feel secure and embraced by the helping hands that welcomed them and offered them humble Samaritan care.

Feeding is just part of the care provided by Sr. Robles along with more than 15 local volunteers. My visit was part of the official opening activities for a recently constructed aid center for deported migrants, also known as CAMDEP (Centro de Asistencia para los Migrantes Deportados). During our stay in Nogales, CAMDEP and a small facility to house up to ten deported women in crisis were blessed by the Archbishop of Hermosillo Ulises Macías. During a very moving ceremony on the day of the inauguration Archbishop Macías reminded all the government officials and business leaders present that Nogales should not be indifferent to the suffering of the thousands of deportees that every day arrive at the border from the U.S. 

The Archdiocese of Hermosillo in Mexico and the Diocese of Tucson have indeed been at the forefront in supporting an innovative migrant outreach effort called the Kino Border Initiative (KBI). The KBI seeks to provide opportunities for pastoral formation, socio-pastoral action, faith-based social analysis, and advocacy for the protection of human rights and the common good in the border towns of Nogales, Arizona in the USA and Nogales, Sonora in Mexico.  

I left Nogales hoping that, once the KBI becomes fully operational, deportees will find in our migrant center and shelter a place of solace, a place to be fed, and most importantly a place to feel the love and grace of God.