Izzy Jones '23
Beyond the Border
"Are you sure it's safe?" was the typical first response I received when I would tell people from my hometown in Arkansas that I was going to volunteer on the US-Mexico border. While I appreciated the concern, any place can be unsafe at times. Upon further examination, this concern is the result of targeted media campaigns that dehumanize migrants, sensationalize events, and use terms like "illegals" and "the caravan" to refer to actual people. As an IS major, I am used to encountering unfamiliar things, but many people simply aren't comfortable with the unknown. For them, the border is the ultimate unknown. What is most known is the use of the border as a scapegoat for domestic problems. Seeing images of the migrant camps and incidences of violence can be jarring, but to truly understand the border and migration is to look beyond.
I was able to look beyond that by going there myself. I spent my summer in Nogales, Mexico volunteering with Kino Border Initiative. This was my first time living and working abroad, though I was only abroad by about 1500 meters. Working in the migration aid space was both incredible and intense. I learned so much — about myself, migration, what humanitarian aid actually looks like, and everything in between. Not everyone will have the opportunity to physically go to the border, so it is through conversation and sharing of experiences that I can try to demonstrate how migration issues extend beyond the physical wall.
The phrase KBI uses is the closest explanation I've found, with their mission being to "Humanize, Accompany, and Complicate." The "complicate" aspect is the hardest to describe. In a crisis, desperate people do desperate things. Some things, like basic human dignity and a right to seek asylum, are clear, but the majority of border issues are complicated. The legalities of the process are constantly changing and the reasons behind migration are different for each person. It was through personal conversations and relationships that I was able to more fully understand the scope of the situation. Seeing girls my age come through the doors of Kino reminded me, again, of the fortune of my place of birth — something neither I nor they had control over.
I experienced this complication firsthand. One vivid memory is the day a boy, who I had taught English to for three weeks, was able to cross into the US with his mom. Of course, we were all so excited that the wait was finally over, but the moment was bittersweet as they left behind formative relationships. The boy was crying as he had to leave behind the safest place he had known for an unknown country. This was just one moment of many where polar emotions, like hope and grief, were coexisting in the same space. It made me appreciate the hope all the more.
The power of relationships extended to my fellow volunteers and other staff members of KBI. I was able to have reflective conversations and process what I was experiencing in real time. The strong fellowship and sense of community reminded me of the IS community here at BC. Sharing conversations with others who are equally as passionate as you are makes them all the more fulfilling. Our diverse backgrounds were unified by our shared service, with each individual bringing their own unique perspective. Both at KBI and here at BC, we're more than just the sum of our parts. Migration policy must have this idea at its core.
Izzy Jones ’23