hand drawing of a scene at the united states border including two border control white trucks, piles of forms, a turn back sign and an immigrant family
Annemarie Erb Barrett created this orginal watercolor as an expression of "dignity and respect" for all. FSPA commissioned Annemarie to create this for the cover of Perspectives magazine.

Sister Eileen McKenzie: Group's work highlights dignity, rights of immigrants

The following appeared in the La Crosse Tribune, April 6, 2024, Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor,
I am concerned about anti-immigrant rhetoric (Trump’s immigration rhetoric resonates with some Democrats, April 1, 2024). It's worrisome how false accusations can gain traction. No one person, group or nationality “poisons the blood” of any country or state.

Our immigration system is in need of serious reform and the reasons people migrate need to be taken into account. 16 percent of our national population are immigrants, and more people are seeking protection from violence through asylum.* I work with families at the Arizona border who are simply looking for a safe place to live, build a home and raise their children; something that many of us born in the U.S. might take for granted.

I understand the concern that immigration can strain already underserved communities. However, we need to recognize that newly arriving immigrants grow the economy and pay taxes. For each 1,000 workers, it is predicted that initial tax revenues increase by $2.5 million.* A recent study from the US office of Health and Human Services found that over the last 15 years, refugees have contributed $123.8 billion more than what they cost the government.

I feel hopeful when I learn of the work of the Coulee Region Immigration Task Force, which highlights the dignity, potential and rights of people who migrate into the area. Their efforts show that La Crosse residents want to build space to welcome others. Let’s continue to follow their lead.

Sister Eileen McKenzie, FSPA
*Source: Immigration Research Initiative

Christmas at the Border

Sister Eileen McKenzie currently serves as mobilization specialist with the Kino Border Initiative, a bi-national, inclusive Roman Catholic organization whose vision is migration with dignity. In this Messy Jesus Business blog post, Sister Eileen shares her experience now being  "... centered in Ambos Nogales — “Both Nogales” — a place that refers to two distinct national cities: Nogales, Arizona, United States of America, and Nogales, Sonora, United States of Mexico. In 1898 a telephone line marked the international border between these two countries. Families were living on both sides: moving freely, working, trading and most likely not giving much thought to the future of the emerging geo-political reality that is currently demarcated by a controversial 30-foot wall."  Read Sister Eileen's full reflection: Christmas at the Border.

people walk along united states border wall in nogales mexico
Photo taken during KBI's Posadas Navideñas, Dec. 16, 2023



People are fleeing humanitarian crisis in their home countries only to be barred from asylum by hundreds of miles of barbed wire and red tape. The FSPA Encuentro@theBorder Team is missioned to honor the sacredness and dignity of these people, to call for
comprehensive immigration reform and to join in thework of others to enact change. Storytelling is a powerful tool; here are three we hope contribute to social change. 

Restoring Asylum & Dignity for Immigrants
July 2023

Our collaborators at NETWORK call for action! The Restoring Asylum and Dignity for Immigrants webinar makes it clear — our country needs a well-funded, law-abiding asylum process that respects people seeking a new life in the U.S. All immigrants deserve dignity — no exceptions!


Take Action
Catholic justice-seekers, we are collecting 10,000 signatures to let Congress know that NOW is time to invest in better, equitable immigration policy. Sign on here.

Immigration 101 Update

Ronnate Asirwatham, government relations director and lead lobbyist on immigration for NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, was a guest at the September 2022 FSPA Encuentro@TheBorder presentation. Ronnate updated attendees on her Immigration 101 series. She provided information on how the midterm election will impact immigration.

Sharing border experiences

Hand in Hand, Welcoming Migrants at the Border, features Joanna Williams, executive director of the Kino Border Initiative. Joanna shares the joys and challenges she encounters while serving thousands of migrants who are deported to Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, or arrive fleeing Central America.

Sister Norma Pimentel has been the face of compassion and care for more than 100,000 immigrants along the Texas-Mexico border. During this presentation hosted by the FSPA Encuentro@TheBorderTeam, she shares what she sees on a daily basis at the border. “Encuentro at the border is so important,” shared Sister Norma. “It is important that we really make that encounter with others, especially those who are hurting and suffering; it is only then that we will truly encounter Jesus. It’s so clear for me that God’s presence is there; it is his plan that we don’t overlook these families at the border. He wants us to be there, to be present, to encounter.”

In 2021, Sisters Rose Elsbernd, Kristin Peters, Theresa Keller and Meg Earsley, with then FSPA Justice & Peace Promoter Pat Ruda, ministered at Tuscon's Casa Alitas and with Kino Border Initiative in Nogales. Watch their story below.

In 2019, then FSPA Justice & Peace Promoter Pat Ruda and Sisters Joan Weisenbeck, Laurie Sullivan and Kathy Roberg spent two weeks at the southern border. They shared their stories with parishes and other interested groups. 

Download: Guide to suggested books and presentations 

Exploring Intersections: Catholic Sisters on migration, racism and climate

How can we show compassion without borders and love without boundaries? What does it take to navigate legal systems to become a citizen of a different country? What are the root causes of inequity for those who migrate? Watch this episode of Exploring Intersections featuring a conversation about migration.

Franciscan Sisters Deepen Into Migration Issues

"The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration Encuentro@The Border group grew from FSPA’s 2017 support of immigration as an issue for the congregation to explore. 'Instead of focusing merely on the meaning of “meet,” we chose to educate ourselves as to the deeper significance of immigration issues, namely the needs of people who could no longer remain in their homes and countries.'"

The Encuentro@the Border group will increase collaboration with four partner organizations:  

1. Coulee Region Immigration Task Force: FSPA will invest to develop support to migrant families in Trempealeau County.

2. La 72 Migrant Shelter, State of Tabasco, Mexico: FSPA will invest to support immediate needs of migrants at the southern Mexico border during the COVID crisis and legal efforts for those seeking asylum.

3. KINO Border Initiative Arizona: FSPA will invest for their ministry at the border (both sides), including immediate legal orientation for asylum seekers and supporting network organizations.

4. Catholic Charities, Brownsville, Texas: FSPA will invest for their ministry at the border (both sides), including meeting immediate and short term needs, legal assistance, their “field hospital” and tent city (Matamoros), and facilitation of migrants becoming Mexican citizens in light of the current U.S. migrant stance.  We have been asked to consider some assistance for mothers with teen daughters in the tent city.  The teen girls can easily become victims of sexual violence and/or human trafficking. Catholic Charities of Brownsville is looking to move the mothers and daughters into apartments in Matamoros.

Get Involved

Coulee Region Immigration Task Force
Coulee Region Immigration Task Force welcomes, advocates, and educates in the service of new, recent, and established immigrants in the Wisconsin's Coulee Region. Learn more about and volunteer with Coulee Region Immigration Task Force.

Centro Latino, La Crosse, Wisconsin
The task force welcomes La Crosse, Wisconsin's Latino population to Centro Latino located inside First Baptist Church, 1209 Main Street. Centro Latino offers free English as a second language classes as well as a welcoming space where hospitality, support and compassionate presence are extended to the Latino community. For more information, email

Timeline: Bans, Raids, Walls, Sanctuary

According to A. Naomi Paik, this timeline "... serves to help unwind the overlapping histories of race and immigration and situate them in their broader historical contexts, like the Tribal Twenties, World War II, and the era of neoliberalism. It can be used alongside the book, "Bans, Raids, Walls, Sanctuary: Understanding U.S. Immigration for the 21st Century," as a teaching resource for traditional classrooms, community-based teach-ins or workshops, and so on." Click here to explore A. Naomi Paik's timeline.

a sample of the timeline that highlights events and moments of immigration laws

Education: Articles

FSPA's Encuentro@theBorder Team encourages education and recommends the following:

"The Immigrant Justice Movement Should Embrace Abolition"
by Silky Shah, excerpt below
Abolish ICE became a rallying cry for the immigrant rights movement amid the family separation crisis in 2018. Much of the critique focused on the “broken immigration system” and the innocent children it was harming but failed to expose the deep connections between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the criminal punishment system in the United States. Two years later, the murder of George Floyd awakened the public to the disproportionate impact of the prison industrial complex on Black communities, and the movement to abolish police and prisons broke through in new ways.

"What Does Abolition Mean for Immigration Law and Policy?"
by David Bennion, excerpt below
By examining the system of detention and deportation of immigrants, we see that abolition in the immigration context can refer not simply to PIC abolition or ending immigrant detention, but to the abolition of all immigration restrictions. A thorough discussion of what a society without immigration restrictions might look like is beyond the scope of this post. But looking at how U.S. citizens move and integrate inside the country may be a helpful starting point.

"Why Does Francis Focus on Migration?"
by Austen Ivereigh, excerpt below
The problem comes when an association becomes a defense against the stranger. As Francis puts it: “those capable only of being associates create closed worlds.” When the hermeneutic of sacrifice dominates institutions or associations or the politics of whole nations, they become defensive, geared to exclusion, “closed and self-referential structures” in which the word “neighbour” loses all meaning, as Francis puts it in Fratelli tutti. Once our institutions, including the Church, become safe places we retreat to in order to resist outsiders, they become incapable of growing themselves and of renewing society.

Take Action

The FSPA Encuentro@TheBorder Team recommends ...

Coulee Region Immigration Task Force
At Coulee Region Immigration Task Force, advocacy and access is at the forefront of their work together towards. The programs and activities are are rooted in social justice and designed to be a catalyst that supports immigrants in the Coulee Region that surrounds La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Franciscan Action Network
Inspired by the Gospel of Jesus, and the example of Saints Francis and Clare, the Franciscan Action Network is a collective Franciscan voice seeking to transform United States public policy related to peace making, care for creation, poverty, and human rights.

Kino Border Initiative
The vision is migration with dignity.

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
Our nation’s immigration system is unjust and outdated. Now, immigrants and asylum seekers are villainized and scapegoated by an Administration intent on advancing white supremacy. Congress must enact policies to reunite families, provide real opportunities for undocumented immigrants to apply for citizenship, welcome asylum seekers, and grow compassion in our communities. Join NETWORK and advocate for federal policies that repair our broken immigration system.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Migration and Refugee Services is charged with assisting the bishops in the development and promotion of migration policy positions within the context of the Church's social teaching.

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