Kimberly Harris, an adult continuing education student enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program, recently traveled to the US-Mexico border over spring break. She and other Catholic University of America students received a first-hand experience of the nuances of the immigration crisis facing the country. The B.A.I.S. program is just one of the many ways in which The Metropolitan School of Professional Studies offers adult education through experiences that challenge and teach. Kimberly shared this brief first-person recollection of the powerful trip.
"On March 3-10, 2018, I attended a Border Immersion trip to El Paso, TX, and Las Cruces, NM, with CUA campus ministries. The focus of the trip was to educate CUA students on immigration and immigrants who are in search of a better life. The problem is that many immigrants do not follow the proper immigration channels. The United States has an immigration problem as immigrants enter the country without documentation by crossing the border between the United States and Mexico, or they enter but overstay their visas.
The undocumented migrants from Mexico and Central American countries journey to the US, trying to obtain US citizenship. Although the immigration laws and deportation has become very much a complex part of the immigration issue, the testimonies of the undocumented were heartbreaking and a clear cry out for help. Spending time with other CUA students representing so many various academic majors and sharing in this experience was a great opportunity for me as an adult student. It made me feel closer to the CUA community.
The week began with an early morning visit to Sacred Heart Parish - La Tilma Grill, where the CUA group had the opportunity to participate in cooking and serving migrants low cost meals for both Sunday breakfast and lunch. I was able to make my famous corn bread muffins and in return learned to make enchiladas and guacamole. Sunday evening was spent attending Mass and dinner at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). We enjoyed speaking with students and sharing in fellowship with Father Andy.
We were fortunate to partake in a guided tour with the El Paso, TX, Border Patrol to see the actual border wall where the undocumented immigrants frequently attempt to cross into the United States. The border patrol agents guided us on a tour where many immigrants attempt daily to flee from their countries to seek asylum. The human sex and drug stories told by the border patrol agents where chilling. We also visited the Southwest Key's Children Shelter Center where migrant unaccompanied children are sent. This facility really touched my heart to see so many young children detached from their families.
The immigration court located in downtown El Paso, TX, was insightful and informative of how immigration cases are processed within the court system. Students from CUA and George Washington University were given an introduction by the Honorable Robert Hough.
The second half of our trip was spent at the Holy Cross Retreat Center with Father Tom Smith, and during this stay we were to encounter refugee families in transition to reunite with their families in other cities to begin the US citizenship process.
One of the highlights of the trip for me was when we attended the Migrant Sunrise Mass with Father Alejandro, the most beautiful sight to worship God in an open field outside of the traditional church setting. The rest of the morning was spent with CUA students helping migrant workers plant onions in the field.
We were then escorted through the poor neighborhoods of Las Cruces, NM where many of the migrant workers resided and then later had a beautiful lunch provided by Father Alejandro and his church members.
The evening ended with dinner with students from New Mexico State University (NMSU), who shared some of the problems they face if their student visas where to be revoked. This discussion was a reminder of how fortunate we are as US students, to have so many freedoms and liberties in America.
The students also spoke about their views on DACA, Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals, who come to the US under the age of 16 to pursue their passions and dreams. Like generations of immigrants before them, many have already helped to further strengthen America. Sharing their stories helped me develop a more compassionate attitude towards their issues.
Our adventure took us to the Otero Prison Facility/Adult Detention Center where adult immigrant males are detained before deportation back to their countries. We went with the prison warden of the facility on a guided tour along with U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents (ICE).
My finale great moment of this trip was our visit to Bishop Cantu home for Mass and dinner. Bishop Cantu spoke to the CUA group about the haunting issues impacting the undocumented immigrant communities and the core to leadership of the future. My experience on this trip will remain special in my heart forever. I grew spiritually and was able to learn more about the complexity of immigration. I recommend this experience for any adult student who wish to exercise their call of action in helping those less fortunate."