By Doris Yu
September 17, 2013 — Jesuit Father Sean Carroll testified on Sept. 13 at a congressional hearing in Nogales, Ariz., that called for legislation that respects human rights and ends migrant deaths. Fr. Carroll is executive director of the Kino Border Initiative, a Jesuit migrant ministry on the U.S./Mexico border, which operates the Aid Center for Deported Migrants in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.
The hearing was organized by Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona, along with other members of the Congressional Border Caucus, to direct attention toward the border communities that will be affected by comprehensive immigration reform legislation should it come to pass. Testifying along with Fr. Carroll were a panel of national and local experts discussing security and enforcement issues on the border, as well as legal, trade, commerce and environmental issues. Rep. Beto O'Rourke and Rep. Filemon Vela, both of Texas, were also in attendance.
Fr. Carroll and those involved in offering humanitarian assistance at the Aid Center for Deported Migrants provided a unique perspective at the hearing, ordinarily unseen to many legislators. “The realities of border communities, immigration and security are far more nuanced than is understood in Washington,” said Fr. Carroll. “As we provide meals, clothing, shelter, first aid and pastoral support, we see and hear firsthand of the suffering, the abuse and the deaths of the people we serve here in the borderlands.”
In his testimony, Fr. Carroll suggested a number of policy recommendations to further the progress toward humane and comprehensive immigration reform, including revising the visa system to better favor families separated due to different immigration statuses; preventing deaths during the deportation process and investigating deaths that do occur; improving accountability of Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement; adopting standards for Customs and Border Protection short-term custody facilities; and ensuring that migrants are not separated from their families, deported during the night or deported to distant, unfamiliar ports of entry into Mexico.
“[We] have a powerful dream and vision that our border region will become a thriving community, where human rights and dignity will be respected, where people will not be profiled for their race and ethnicity and where people who migrate to our country will be welcome and will have the opportunity to offer their gifts and talents, which strengthen and bring life to our country,” said Fr. Carroll.