Imagine receiving a personal message from a revered world leader recognizing your commitment to resolving a global crisis.
A group of teens assisting immigrants along the Arizona-Mexico border don’t have to use their imaginations. In December 2014, Pope Francis (@Pontifex) sent them a letter after learning of their work advocating for more humane immigration legislation.
Known as the Kino Teens, the young people sent messages to the pope describing their mission and asking him to visit the border. In his response, Pope Francis praised them for showing “a church that extends to the world the culture of solidarity and care.” He exhorted them “not to tire in their labor . . . against discrimination and exclusion.”
The Kino Teens, who are students at Lourdes Catholic School in Nogales, Arizona, are part of a larger organization, the Kino Border Initiative (KBI). Founded in 2009 by a group of Catholic organizations in the United States and Mexico, KBI describes itself as dedicated to helping “make humane, just, workable migration between the U.S. and Mexico a reality.”
They not only study principles of social justice and learn about the plight of immigrants, they literally “walk the walk.” They spend time on the trails migrants use to cross from Mexico into the United States and work in the comedor, the KBI soup kitchen that serves deported migrants. In this way, they experience for themselves the difficulties migrant families face when they undertake the difficult and dangerous journey.
Kino Teens have spoken to teens at other schools about their experiences, hoping to rally others to their cause and raise awareness about the plight of immigrants. They also visit farmers and ranchers near the border to learn how illegal immigration affects them. They sell “credo” bracelets to raise money for the comedor and speak to state and national leaders about immigration.
Who among us is not descended from immigrants? Ordinary Americans and political leaders alike can talk about the legality of illegal immigration. But there are faces behind the headlines—the faces of people fleeing real danger and hardship in their homelands.
With their passion for and commitment to the plight of migrants, the Keno Teens are living examples of vibrant social justice in action. To learn more about the migrant experience, check out the books on the KBI website.