The faith-and-conscience-based U.S. Sanctuary Movement of the 1980’s gave rise to BorderLinks.

In 1987, Tucson Sanctuary workers, members of the east-coast Meeting Ground organization, and a consortium of pastors from Philadelphia met to consider the possibility of an experiential education program and determined that a great need existed for people to learn about migration issues.

The first BorderLinks delegation arrived in Arizona from the east coast early in 1988. These first trips focused on civil wars taking place in Central American countries at that time, on the difficulties encountered by refugees fleeing north across the U.S.-Mexico border, and on the role U.S. policies played in creating and sustaining those wars.

In the early 1990s, after peace accords were signed and the refugee flow diminished, BorderLinks’ developed relationships in northern Mexican communities, helping people understand the profound implications of the rapidly emerging global economy on daily life. Delegations visited local activists, humanitarians, government representatives, and social service organizations in Nogales, Aqua Prieta, Tucson, and other cities on both sides of the border. Delegates learned of the impact of NAFTA and of the border wall, construction of which began in the 1990s in the valleys that the border crosses.

In years that followed, BorderLinks initiated a micro-lending program, a Semester on the Border program, and bi-national “encuentros” (encounters) focused on topics such as the border economy, faith across borders, the migrant journey, and alternative technologies on the border. BorderLinks began offering trips to Chiapas, in southern Mexico, as the U.S. Government gave Mexico tools and resources to block refugee traffic at its southern border. For a time, BorderLinks created a Nogales, Sonora, organization to run the Casa de la Misericordia community center in Nogales, which aims to improve living conditions in Nogales. These efforts offered the chance for thousands of people to engage with border issues in new ways. 

Thanks to our supporters, BorderLinks purchased and renovated a Tucson property in 2004, allowing us to expand and enhance our programs. The property contains staff offices, a large dormitory, a parking lot, and a kitchen and dining room. Through grants, we developed the outdoor area to include a water cistern and garden.

While specific programs have come and gone over BorderLinks now-four-decades of existence, we remain committed to making it possible for people to hear the voices of migrants and of those who live in the borderlands.  Over the decades we have seen U.S. immigration policies become more and more harsh, and we have trained and educated thousands of people living in the U.S. about the increasing number of human rights violations taking place in the borderlands. We remember the thousands of people who have died trying to cross the harsh Arizona desert in search of a better life. We stand in solidarity with those who have successfully completed the journey to the U.S. and are fighting for justice for themselves and their fellow migrants. And each year we continue to give over 500 people an indepth understanding of the inhumane conditions in the borderlands that most people have no exposure to or knowledge of, training them to take action to change U.S.

Join us in the fight for migrant justice.