Arizona – United Church of Christ

BorderLinks (Tucson)

Location: Tucson, Arizona
Contact: Tania Garcia
Phone:  520-628-8263

Focus: BorderLinks facilitate experiential education in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. BorderLinks’ programs bring the voices of migrants and their advocates to the forefront; program participants learn about the perils migrants face on their journey and about migrant-led efforts in Tucson to protect the rights of migrants. BorderLinks strives to strengthen local and national migrant justice efforts through education. Delegations meet with representatives of BorderLinks’ community partners. BorderLinks staff lead participants in workshops, daily reflections, and action planning. Participants find their understanding of migration to be transformed by these experiences.

Size of Group:   There is a minimum of 7 participants per group.  During the busy season we try to limit the numbers to 14.  There is flexibility with these numbers.

Cost:   $180 per person per day.  Lower rates can be negotiated for groups that can’t pay the full amount.

Length of Trip: One to 14 days.

Age: While BorderLinks has hosted participants as young as 12 and as old as 86, the programs can be physically and emotionally challenging. Younger participants may find 12 hour days to be overwhelming, and older participants may find some of the walking activities to be exhausting.

LGBT-Friendly: Yes.

Accessibility: BorderLinks staff works with delegation organizers to address accessibility concerns.

Background:  BorderLinks was formed in 1988 as the educational arm of the U.S. Sanctuary Movement and hosts 40-50 groups each year. January through June is very busy; more openings can be found on the schedule in the last half of each year.

Other Information: Educational Model: “Our educational programs are organized around the idea of See, Judge, Act based on Paolo Freire educational methodology. We seek to create dialogue as a way of solving problems, regardless of educational level, economic status, race, gender, or class. We value the human experience as a teaching tool.”

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Border Community Alliance (Tubac)

Location:  Tubac, Arizaona
: Pat Trulock
Phone:  520-398-3229

BCA is about bridging the border and fostering community through education, collaboration and cultural exchange.  We do this in the Nogales region of Southern Arizona/Sonora Mexico.

Focus: Specifically-designed one-day immersion tours that highlight community and economic development projects in Arizona and Sonora. They want participants to see Nogales as an exciting, emerging, urban area. Customized tours available upon request in Nogales, Sonora.

Size of Group: 12 people is ideal

Cost: $90 per person

Length of Trip: One day (usually third Thursday of each month, except July or August)

Age: Open – will take youth under age 18 if accompanied by a parent.

LGBT-Friendly: Yes.

Accessibility: Limited due to stairs in Mexico. Note: This tour visits a wheelchair factory, which makes wheelchairs suitable for use in Mexico.

Background: BCA works in partnership with its Mexican partner, Fundación Del Empresariado Sonorense A.C. (FESAC), a Sonoran Economic Development Foundation that supports social entrepreneurship projects.

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Friends of HEPAC  (Nogales)

Location:  Nogales, Arizona
Contact: Richard Ramirez
Phone:  520-907-049

Focus: Mission and education immersion trips focused on the reality of life in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico; the difficulties of the migrant journey into the U.S.; and the work of grassroots organizations to provide humanitarian aid and work for social justice. They work closely together with their sister organization, the Home of Hope and Peace (HEPAC) – a community center located in an impoverished neighborhood just three miles south of the border wall that separates Nogales, Sonora from Nogales, Arizona.

Program activities in Nogales, Sonora can include working with the children and adults of HEPAC, visiting migrant aid centers, having exchanges with students in local universities, and meeting with border artists.  Participants can also hike along one of the migrant trails in southern Arizona to place water and food for the migrants.

Size of Group: They welcome groups of all sizes, and have arranged delegations for groups of three to twenty-five people. The ideal group size is between five and ten people – which makes it easier to listen well to the testimonios (lived experiences) of people that have been affected by U.S. economic and immigration policies, and to facilitate sharing within the group.

Cost: A contribution of $50 per person per day for mission trips and $75 per person per day for educational immersion trips -includes lodging, three meals, and program activities. The group is responsible for arranging its own transportation. Friends of HEPAC can provide suggestions about vehicle rentals.

Length of Trip: One to seven days

Age: All ages are welcome.

LGBT-Friendly: Yes.

Accessibility: Unfortunately, the facilities that Friends of HEPAC visit in Nogales, Sonora are not accessible for people with certain physical disabilities.

Background: Their sister organization, the House of Hope and Peace (HEPAC) community center in Nogales, Sonora provides lunch for schoolchildren; enables adults to complete their elementary, middle, and high school education; organizes Kids Camps during school vacation that focus on teaching the children about their rights and ways to defend their rights; operates the Mujeres Unidas (Women United) artisan cooperative; and provides food and integral education for children at the daycare center.  The vision of HEPAC is to create a healthy and sustainable community in Nogales, Sonora so that people don’t feel forced to risk arrest and death in the desert of southern Arizona in a desperate attempt to migrate to the U.S. in order to provide for their families.

Special Project: A Mission group from Casas Adobes UCC in Tucson, AZ works with the women’s artisan cooperative. If interested in their project, email them at

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The Good Shepherd United Church of Christ  (Sahuarita)

Location: Sahuarita, Arizona
Contact: Rev. Dr. Randy Mayer
Phone:  520-625-1375 (office), 520-401-5048 (cell)

Focus: This congregation is very involved in various immigration and border projects, Green Valley Samaritans, free Legal Clinic, and customized border immersion experiences for UCC congregations, as well as university, seminary, and other groups. The border trips include desert walks, water runs, Operation Streamline in Tucson, as well as visiting shelters in Nogales, El Comedor (a migrant aid station), and HEPAC. Randy Mayer and other Samaritans work with interested delegations to plan a trip that meets each group’s interests. Also have helped develop a large shelter for asylum families in Nogales, Mexico.  There are possibilities to have groups stay at the shelter and do some hands on work for a few days. 

Size of Group: They welcome groups of all sizes, and have arranged delegations for groups of up to twenty-five people and have had individuals, journalists, and pastors/teachers on sabbaticals come for customized times and experiences.

Cost: Contributions of $10 per day per person are requested to cover expenses for housing groups. Lodging is sleeping in various classrooms – the church has a number of sleeping pads, and mattresses. The church has showers and bathrooms and a kitchen for food preparation. The church has four vehicles for its border ministries, but groups must organize their own transportation for trips on the Arizona side of the border.

Length of Trip: Weekends to five days or longer border experiences.

Age: All ages are welcome. Youth under 18 years of age require a letter of permission from parent or guardian in order to cross the Mexican border.

LGBT-Friendly: Yes.

Accessibility: Church building is accessible. There is limited accessibility in Mexican communities. They are willing to work with delegation organizers to develop alternatives.

Background: The UCC congregation with its pastor the Rev. Randy Mayer helped found Humane Borders, the first humanitarian aid organization that established water stations in the desert for migrants.  In 2005 the Good Shepherd helped form and sponsor the Green Valley/Sahuarita Samaritan group which is involved in multiple humanitarian projects along the border.  They have been at the heart of the U. S. Border and Immigration issues since 2000 and work with all of the border humanitarian groups as well as having a presence in advocacy work in Washington DC. They sponsor an annual Border Issues Fair in mid-January that also includes an arts and activist event called Common Ground on the Border.

Other Information: See also

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