Loretto Delegation Turns Out for 2018 SOA Border Encuentro
By Eileen Harrington
What does it look like when we as the Loretto Community adopt a resolution, as we did at our 2017 Assembly, prioritizing and committing ourselves to immigration justice?
• We have acted on the weekly Midweek Mission Messages regarding refugees, immigrants and steps we can take every day and every week to speak out against cruel and ignorant policies.
• We have marched in opposition to the separation of migrant children from their parents.
• We have volunteered in El Paso, visited migrants incarcerated in for-profit detention centers, contributed our treasure to many grassroots nonprofits that provide care and support to refugees and immigrants, worked as individuals with migrants and refugees in a variety of service capacities, opened a new Loretto Volunteer House in El Paso and focused Volunteer Program placements on nonprofits that carry out our Assembly commitment.
• We take action through the Loretto Latin America/Caribbean (LACC) and Peace committees and the Mission Activities Team.
• Daily we include the world’s 65 million refugees in our prayers.
More than 30 Loretto members and friends of Loretto represented the Loretto Community at the annual School of the Americas (SOA) Border Encuentro at the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Mexico, and Arizona from Nov. 16-18. Loretto has long participated in the annual vigil and protest against the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Ga. Three years ago, organizers of the SOA Vigil moved the location to the U.S.-Mexico border because there we see most clearly the enormous harms caused by the SOA and the U.S. policies that it represents.
Now called the SOA Border Encuentro, Loretto’s participation in the three-day gathering this year began with our group gathering for prayer, setting our intentions for the weekend and a shared meal. We moved on to the Tucson, Ariz., headquarters of Milkor U.S.A., a weapons manufacturer that makes grenade launchers, automatic rifles and other weapons provided by the United States to Central American nations’ military forces for use against their own people. The automatic rifles also are used by Border Patrol and ICE agents on the U.S. side of the border, which has grown increasingly militarized.
After the weapons factory protest, we traveled an hour north of Tucson for a sunset protest and vigil outside the for-profit Eloy Detention Center, where thousands of migrants and refugees detained by ICE and caught in the unjust U.S. immigration legal system serve sentences for unlawful entry into the United States or await hearings. Day one ended with the two-and-a-half-hour drive south to Nogales, Ariz., where most of our delegation stayed and the remaining weekend activities were centered.
Saturday’s activities included workshops to better inform us about U.S. policies and teach us about how we can better organize our opposition. The day also featured a march to the border wall led by Veterans for Peace and an overnight vigil in solidarity with the Refugee Caravan. Sunday featured the litany of those who have died but remain with us — Presente! — and the “funeral” for all of those who have died because of U.S. policies and practices.
Who was part of Loretto’s 30-plus-person delegation at the SOA Border Encuentro? Members of Loretto’s LACC and Peace committees, and the Loretto Mission Activities Team; nine Loretto Volunteers; Carolyn Jaramillo’s six-person delegation of peace activists from Pacifica, Calif.; six members of the Basilica Parish of Minneapolis, who prior to the SOA Encuentro were led by LACC on a border trip; plus other Loretto Community members from El Paso and the Motherhouse. This inclusive delegation of vowed, co-members, volunteers and friends is what Loretto looks like as we carry out our commitment to immigrant justice.