By Michael Sullivan
Led by theology teacher Dr. Jesse Rodriguez and senior Michael Fissinger, Loyola’s Kino Border Club works with the Jesuit fathers at Arizona’s Kino border to help deported immigrants.
The Kino Club, founded in 2014, helps immigrants by sponsoring food and clothing drives and by taking annual trips to the Kino Border Initiative Organization to assist the Jesuits who live and work there.
This club works as a branch of the Kino Border Initiative, which is located at the border between Nogales, Arizona, and Sonora, Mexico.
Founded in 2009 and led by the Rev. Father Pete Neeley, the Kino Border Initiative is an organization led by Jesuits that works to help deported immigrants. Using primarily volunteer work, the organization works day and night to provide food, shelter, clothing and company for deported immigrants.
Establishing a humane, just and open migration between Mexico and the United States is the primary goal of the organization. Furthermore, the organization also works with lawyers to help the legal situation of these immigrants and of immigrants in general.
Fissinger is one student who has been to the Kino Border. This past June, he spent five days working with immigrants to accommodate their needs; additionally, he got to hear all of the immigrants’ stories and learn about their hardships.
“We are trying our hardest to get the stories of these people out there,” Fissinger said. “I urge the community to learn the stories of these people and understand what it’s like for them.”
The club tries very hard to publicize the stories and hardships of these people.The publicizing of this information is one of their biggest goals, Rodriguez said.
“[We want] to provide more education and for [the community]to look at the difficulty of immigration on a more personal level,” Rodriguez said. “Helping these people is aligned with Ignatian spirituality.”
The club has more goals than just educating the community; its members plan on hosting several on-campus clothing, food and toiletry drives this year. In addition, The Kino Club wants to establish Loyola—and Southern California—as a place that has a positive impact on immigrants in the surrounding region and at the border.
Furthermore, Fissinger and Rodriguez are both actively involved in the Ignatian Solidarity Network Teaching for Justice Conferences. The Network sponsors an annual meeting where delegates from Catholic schools and universities gather to discuss social justice issues. Fissinger and Rodriguez—as well as other Loyola students—were able to attend this meeting last year. They discussed immigration and lobbied on Capitol Hill for laws that aided immigrants.
Some politicians whom the group lobbied included Democratic Rep. Karen Bass of California, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California and Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California.
Fissinger enjoyed the lobbying and hopes to see results that benefit immigrants in the future.
“Because of the election, immigration has much controversy, so we hope to advocate for immigration reform that respects the rights and dignities of migrants instead of sticking them into a dehumanizing system,” Fissinger said.
In addition to lobbying for immigration laws, the students also lobbied for laws regarding environmental issues and other topics.
Rodriguez and Fissinger will present on the importance of helping immigrants at an international conference held in Rosemead in October. They are also working to get into another conference in February.
“We will speak about the issues of immigrants—Mexican and Syrian—to expand people’s thinking on the difficulty that these people experience every day,” Rodriguez said.