Alum Spotlight: Fighting for Justice on Capitol Hill

Flavio Bravo, a 2019 graduate of the Masters in Migration Studies program at the University of San Francisco, has turned his passion for immigrant rights into fighting for justice on Capitol Hill. Bravo grew up in the border state of Arizona, where the loudest political voices were those that held anti-immigrant sentiments and echoed anti-Mexican bigotry. Realizing that conversations about immigration were dinner-table discussions among families across America, not just in the border towns, he decided to continue pursuing these issues through higher education. Bravo is a first-generation college graduate, and the first in his family to receive a master’s degree. Bravo attended a Jesuit high school, which then led him to seek out a university that upheld Jesuit values of diversity, justice, and integrity. He received his Bachelor of Arts in political science and philosophy of social justice from Loyola University Chicago, while also minoring in Latin American studies; and he subsequently chose USF’s Masters in Migration Studies program. This two-year program catered to his interests in migration and provided a supportive environment to pursue specific avenues of research about migration through dedicated staff, beneficial immersion experiences, and opportunities within the master’s program to create academic work that reflects his passion for immigrant rights.

One of the opportunities offered through the program was the option of studying for a semester in Mexico City. Bravo said this experience was not only useful for language immersion, but connects students with different groups and collectives that included people who were recently deported and those supporting deportees. Students get to partner with organizations that are doing work on the ground and that are having a real impact on people’s lives every day. The semester in Mexico City is offered in the spring, through a USF partnership with the Ibero-American University to offer students courses on various relevant subjects in migration studies, and also introduces the students to the vibrance of Mexico City and gives them a chance to live and study in a city of both transit and destination for migrants. The semester abroad in Mexico City was central to Bravo’s research project and an experience of a lifetime. He encourages everyone to participate in the semester abroad.

Upon returning to San Francisco for his second year of studies, Bravo was invited to work on a book project with professors from USF and other Jesuit universities. The Lane Center invited him to be a co-editor of this project, which allowed him to apply the tools he learned throughout the program and to contribute to the broader mission of USF and to the field of migration studies. The book, titled Beyond Borders: Reflections on the Resistance and Resilience Among Immigrant Youth and Families, tells the stories of refugees, discusses family separation, and other voices that are left out of the new border narratives. The project is a collection of essays that humanizes the people and policies we see daily on the news. It takes the reader on a journey into the lives of migrants beyond their presence at the border and gives insight into their broader journeys. The book introduces us to the Kino Border Initiative located in Nogales, Arizona, which offers direct humanitarian assistance and accompaniment to migrants, social and pastoral education with communities on both sides of the border, and participation in collaborative networks that engage in research and advocacy to transform local, regional, and national immigration policies. Kino offers meals throughout the day to deportees and migrants in transit, physical aid (the center is equipped with a triage section and limited medical supplies), and also houses a women’s shelter to assist female migrants who are still considering continuing on their journeys. Kino has also hired a full-time attorney to provide legal services.

Bravo noted that the situation at the southern border has worsened since 9/11 and border crossings are becoming increasingly more difficult to achieve. He paints a picture of the once thriving border town of Nogales, which used to be a hub of culture, commerce, and opportunity. People used to travel back and forth with relative ease which boosted the economy on both sides of the border. But after stricter security measures were put in place, the border town started to become less accessible and was drained of its economic resources. That is why it is important to support border towns and organizations, like the Kino Border Initiative, that help offset some of the negative effects of polices designed to deter migrants and refugees in transit, but also where people live and work. Bravo’s previous visits to the Kino Border Initiative motivated him to raise awareness about border towns but also about the people that inhabit them. In working with vulnerable populations, he turns to his Jesuit values of kindness and acceptance to guide him through his work and which allow him to make a real impact through his academic and humanitarian work.

Bravo currently serves as a Graduate Fellow with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, in the Office of Raúl M. Grijalva who is a U.S. Representative for Arizona’s 3rd Congressional District. As a legislative fellow, he takes meetings with different constituent groups that wish to discuss an issue, is involved with writing and sponsoring legislation, and drafts letters of support and of opposition. The Masters in Migration Studies program helped him take on an issue-area portfolio that highlighted his interdisciplinary course work, and previous relevant experiences advocating alongside undocumented students during his undergraduate years, that helped him land the position.

For the time being, Bravo plans to stay in Washington, D.C. and continue pursuing a career in public service and political advocacy while connecting with the human rights organizations he researched as a MIMS student.

Check out the Beyond Borders Book Project here.

Check out the Kino Border Initiative here.

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