Border Immersion Experience in El Paso Highlights Immigrants’ Experiences, Challenges
November 29, 2017
New! Border Immersion Experience photo album
New! Catholic News Service article: "To understand border issues, Americans immerse themselves for a week" by Melissa Vida
From November 6-10, the Sisters of Mercy sponsored the second annual Border Immersion Experience, an event at the U.S. – Mexico border where participants witnessed some of the conditions experienced by immigrants on the southern border, reflected upon the Christian mandate to welcome the stranger and developed ways to raise greater awareness of immigration issues.
Organized by Sister Kathleen Erickson, Jean Stokan of the Institute Justice Team and Columban Father Bob Mosher, the Border Immersion Experience brought participants to El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Beginning in 1991, Sister Kathleen served communities on the U.S. – Mexico border for 18 years, and since 2009 has worked on social justice issues with the Sisters of Mercy in Omaha, NE. Co-organizers included Jean Stokan, Sisters of Mercy Institute Justice Team, and Columban Father Bob Mosher, who runs the Columban Mission House in El Paso.
“Through my work and ministry over the years, I have tried to raise awareness about what is happening to immigrants throughout the country, and I’m frequently taken aback by how many people don’t understand the many daunting challenges and conditions immigrants face,” said Sister Kathleen. “People are often surprised to learn that ordinary moms and dads and children are held in detention and that human rights are being violated. The psychological effects are tremendous. Most Americans think this only happens in other countries.”
One of the primary goals of the Experience was to humanize and show the faces and lives of immigrants – the struggles they face, the push-factors that drive them from their home countries and how they are treated once they arrive in the United States. This experience also reinforced the commitment of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas to immigrants and refugees, calling for an end to detentions, deportations, and the hateful rhetoric targeting immigrant communities.
The Border Experience included a number of activities, including touring the border between El Paso and Juarez and visiting with nonprofits that provide legal and humanitarian services to immigrants, including: Corpus Christi parish in Ciudad Juarez; Biblioteca Infantil, a children's after-school program in Juarez; Proyecto Santo Niño, a program for children with special needs in Juarez; the Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services, operated by the Diocese of El Paso, which provides immigration legal and other services; Annunciation House in El Paso, a comprehensive resource center for immigrants; and the Border Network for Human Rights in El Paso. The group also met with representatives from Customs and Border Patrol and the Centro de los Trabajadores Agricolas Fronterizos.
About Sister Kathleen Erickson, RSM
For more than 50 years, Sister Kathleen Erickson has been a member of the Sisters of Mercy. Beginning in 1991 she served communities on the United States’ border with Mexico. She served there 18 years, helping to start a women’s center for immigrant women, and running immersion experiences. Since 2009, she has worked on social justice issues with the Sisters of Mercy in Omaha, Nebraska.
About the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
The Sisters of Mercy—an international community of Roman Catholic women—dedicate their lives to God through vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and service. For more than 180 years, motivated by the Gospel of Jesus and inspired by the spirit of their founder, Catherine McAuley, the Sisters of Mercy have responded to the changing needs of the times.
Through prayer and service, the sisters address the causes and effects of violence, racism, degradation of Earth and injustice to women and immigrants. The sisters serve in more than 200 organizations that work with those in need in the U.S., Central and South America, Jamaica, Guam and the Philippines. www.sistersofmercy.org.