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Kino Border Initiative offers firsthand immigration insight

By Julian De Ocampo ’13
The Roundup

It’s all too easy for advocates on both sides of the illegal immigration debate to pull the most menacing numbers and stats out of a hat without any regard to the humanity of the issue.

Perhaps that’s why the issue, despite being especially pertinent to Arizona residents, seems almost distant and far-away to most students – it’s become a war of numbers, not human life.

Personally, having spent the majority of Mr. Tim Broyle’s Gospels in Action class learning the importance of action over words and solidarity over apathy, I was determined to show my support for the marginalized in our society.

The Kino Border Initiative immersion trip, offered by the Office of Faith and Justice, provided such an opportunity when I traveled to the border with the rest of the staff of the Brophy Literary and Art Magazine to Mexico Nov. 4.

The KBI trip is a journey down to Nogales, Ariz, where students cross the Mexican border on foot and serve recently deported undocumented migrants with the KBI organization, a nonprofit collaboration between a number of religious organizations dedicated to helping deal with migration issues and their effects on the border area.

And while everyone there might have different reasons for going on the trip, I think there are a variety of reasons as to why I’d recommend the trip to most anyone.

First off, it’s quick and cheap while still retaining the power of an immersion trip. Whereas most immersion trips can cost hundreds or thousands, the KBI trip runs at the low cost of $15, a small fee that pays for itself quickly when you consider that Brophy covers food on the trip.

Understandably, a number of students aren’t ready to take the plunge to leave home for weeks at a time or spend thousands to travel abroad on an immersion trip. That’s why KBI serves almost as a gateway immersion trip, showing students the powerful impact an immersion experience can have without the major time and monetary commitments often associated with the trips.

Moreover, the trip itself really does give you insight into the immigration process that citizens of Arizona hear about so often.

While hearing statistics might have a minimal effect on the masses, the actual effect of meeting and speaking to a deportee had a far greater level of impact on me.

On the trip I spoke with a man who had been deported from California after living in the United State for many years. He spoke nearly perfect English, and it would have been impossible to know he was undocumented had I met him on the street. He thanked me about the good work we were doing and, upon hearing my interest in writing, hoped that I could tell these people’s stories one day.

Another woman told us that she had been separated from her husband when the Border Patrol split up their family and sent them to different deportation stations, effectively leaving the couple divided without money, transportation or any way to contact one another.

These types of stories are exactly the type of human face that the KBI trip allowed me to put on the issue of illegal immigration.

Having come back from the trip, I’m now ready to declare myself a supporter for the reform that this country so severely needs.

I write this column in the hopes that others will support the cause for change in a system that is clearly broken. When cruelty is applied to these already-suffering men and women, only more despair can result. And for those of you who disagree or don’t believe me, I would request that you go on the KBI trip yourself, and then let’s talk.

It’s one thing to gawk and talk about illegal immigrants from the lofty confines of your homes, but to actually meet and understand one side of this issue gave me crucial insight that everyone – students, teachers and especially politicians – could benefit from.

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