Borderland Sisterhood

During the family-separation crisis of 2018, hundreds of nuns descended on the U.S.-Mexico border to volunteer in migrant shelters, law offices, and health clinics. Since then, many have stayed to continue their work, citing a “calling” unlike any they have felt before. 

When newcomer nuns arrive, they join sisters who have been living on the border for decades. Some of these local nuns are political radicals, followers of Catholic liberation theology, who have pledged to live in solidarity with the poor; others are borderland natives, committed to their hometown communities and to a life of hospitality. Most are senior citizens, and all have witnessed, over the last two decades, the militarization and gradual transformation of the border.

Around the world, nuns—a dwindling demographic in the U.S.—have a long history in humanitarian aid and human rights advocacy. This project traces how nuns have advanced immigrant rights along the border, often serving as behind-the-scenes coordinators and gatekeepers. By following the work of a Mexican nun in Ciudad Juárez and an Irish-born American nun in El Paso, "Borderland Sisterhood" explores the role of women religious in immigration advocacy as their communities respond to the “Remain in Mexico” policy and the tightening of asylum requirements.