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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Catholic students help the deported

Members of UA’s St. Thomas More Catholic Newman Center went to Nogales, Sonora, Mexico to feed migrant workers who had recently been deported from the United States on Saturday.

They met at 6 p.m. on Friday in the Newman Center kitchen and wiped their eyes as they chopped onions in a cramped kitchen. The nine people who showed up prepared beans, onions, tomatoes, peppers and tortillas for more than 200 potential diners.

Members met the next morning at 5 at the church and set off to help their “”fellow children of God.”” Some of the people who help with the initiative were unprepared for the encounter.

“”They are predisposed and are hesitant to look at these people as humans — it’s just immediately faded away after this encounter, so it’s a huge eye-opening experience,”” said Tanner John, a campus minister at the Newman Center.

Many of the students return from the trip with a different attitude on U.S. immigration policies.

“”From what I’ve seen, I definitely think that what we’re (the U.S.) doing is not working,”” said Danielle Burr, a religious studies freshman and Newman Center member. “”Deporting all these people is causing more harm than good … I understand that we have laws and that laws need to be followed, but I also think that when you don’t respect the dignity of every human person, then we have problems.””

“”Now that I’ve been opened up to this, (I’ve been) trying to make people more aware of the fact that these are people. We shouldn’t be calling them aliens; they have as much a right to be here as we do,”” said Meredith Amadee, a photography freshman and Newman Center member. “”People get so caught up in lines and borders.””

Some members returned with unchanged views on policy.

“”While I still feel that the illegal crossing of migrants is wrong, hence illegal. With a little patience, these people can apply themselves and get accepted and naturalized like every other legal immigrant in our country,”” said Derek Hartzel, history sophomore and Newman Center member. “”Though our system is not perfect, it is all we currently have to ensure some sense of law and order.””

The Catholic dioceses in Sonora, California, New Mexico and Arizona created the Kino-border initiative to help address the many problems that stem from the mass deportations and drop-offs in Nogales.

“”There was something like upwards of 200 people being deported a day into the city of Nogales, which is a city of about 200,000 people with a really, really bad economy, and so, with the influx of upwards of 10,000 people a year on the border, it not only was devastating to the people being deported, but the entire city,”” John said.

The goal of the dioceses is to respond to psychological damages, set up long-term research of the effects of deportation and address immediate needs like food for the migrants and the towns, according to John.

“”Their goal is to get this initiative running and then give it over to the people who live on the border,”” John said. “”They want to bridge the community of Nogales, Sonora and Nogales, Arizona.””

One of the most common issues that volunteers deal with is female abuse.

“”Upwards of 70 percent of women are abused sexually as they cross the border,”” John said.

The Kino-border initiative volunteers have set up a women’s shelter where women can stay for two weeks or more, depending on the severity.

“”I’ve heard some horrendous stories,”” Burr said. “”There’s been a lot of violent rapes and murders and parents being separated from their children and just some pretty horrendous stuff that kind of blows my mind and makes me sick to my stomach that it’s going on.””

Many of the volunteers say their faith compels them to serve the deported.

“”I feel, for me, if I follow Jesus, if I really follow him, I will do as he asks, which is to go help the poor and the vulnerable,”” Burr said. “”And so I feel like it’s kind of my duty as a Christian or as a Catholic to go out and to do that for people.””

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