On Friday, we first visited an immigration lawyer. She helps support and get proper documentation for undocumented immigrants that would otherwise have to pay for a more expensive lawyer or who may know their rights as well. What was interesting was the amount of time that the process to get citizenship or a green card in the US takes. Also, she told us about the process of deportation and how it affects the immigrant’s whereabouts. We discussed DACA and other current immigration-related issues. We next had lunch at the Mustard Seed Café, which allows people to either name their price for their food or pay it off by helping the restaurant. The next activity was going to the White Sands in New Mexico. This was a two-hour drive that consisted mostly of desert terrain and a few mountains. After we arrived, we enjoyed sledding, playing Frisbee, and jumping off the sand dunes. We had an early dinner at 5:30, and ate on the way back to the church. When we arrived, we surprised Marius with a birthday celebration which consisted of cake and a few snacks that he likes. The last activity of the day was the final reflection. We described the “lights” in our lives, who were people we most looked up to and respected, as well as the lights of this trip. This was a very meaningful debrief, with many emotions coming to the surface. Overall, this was an amazing concluding day that was super fun and meaningful to everyone in the group. It summarized our experiences throughout the week, and brought us closer as a group.
--Michael and Marius
Today the 9th Grade CA students woke up to a traditional Mexican breakfast made by the day's student leaders, Ulisses and Galilea. After these tasty pastries and scrambled eggs with a mug of Mexican hot chocolate, the students prepared to see the border. Once the students arrived at the border they listened to stories and asked Estella and Berta, both residents in Juarez, about their experience with maquiladoras (foreign owned factories in Juarez). Followed by these stories the students had an interactive Q&A with Border Patrol Officials, Ericka and Oscar. Afterwards, the students were back at Cristo Rey where they had Tostadas made by Alma for lunch. Later in the afternoon, the students helped with the After-School program at Cristo Rey. Before departing, students learned how to dance a common Mexican dance, El Caballo Dorado, and how to dance to Cumbias. At night, the students went to dinner at a Mexican Restaurant, "Andale" where they shared a meal with several members of the church and listened to a live Mariachi band as well as celebrating the early birthday of their fellow student Marius.
--Galilea and Ulisses
Dear family in Colorado,
Everyone is here is safe, happy, and having a great time. I started the day bright and early by waking up at 6:20 am to watch the blood moon, then going to the kitchen and making pancakes with my co-leader of the day, Fernando. Then we visited Casa Vides, and heard many inspiring stories from the women who are staying there. Historically, women stay in this shelter during the period of time they are required to stay in the United States to receive a pension for their late husbands. We walked around downtown, and bought some very inexpensive shoes. The kids in the after school program came again today, and I really enjoyed playing basketball, soccer, and doing the monkey bars with them. It is going to be very hard to say goodbye to the amazing people and friends I have met in the wonderful state of Texas! I love and miss you all!!! See you soon
Today we visited the El Paso Federal courthouse. We got to see impactful real life situations that detained migrants face. Throughout the day, we watched 5 different courthouse hearings, four of which were sentencing’s. Most cases involved reentry across the US border, and all defendants pled guilty. Something that we noticed was all defendants pled guilty, yet begged for lesser or no fines due to their lack of money. After the proceedings we talked with select lawyers and judges about their opinions about illegal immigration. Something interesting that we noticed the judge, who had sentenced them to deportation, always wished the accused luck on their journey. After we left the courthouse, we headed to a tasty café. At the café, all students enjoyed rich food prepared by wonderful people. Then we headed back to Cristo Rey Church to help with their after school children’s program. We engaged in outdoor activities such as basketball, soccer, and Frisbee. We then helped the kids with their homework, and played a name game. After the after school group departed, we listed to a human rights border activist, who demonstrated all the troubles immigrants go through to make it to the United States. After enjoying dinner, we listened to a undocumented immigrant who moved to the United States to support his family. Overall, today was an informative and educational day for us.
-Garrison and Nick
Our second day featured visits to three different colonias, which are housing developments on the border, in varying conditions. First we visited a community center to learn how people in the colonias are supported even when they are not always recognized by the local governments. The first person we met immigrated to America from Mexico reunite with her husband, mother, and sister. Then we heard another woman's experience who immigrated in order to provide a better life for her family. The 3rd person we heard from immigrated to the United States 38 years ago in search of work, and ended up having a son who served in the U.S. military for 9 years. To end the day we went to a lookout point to watch the sunset, and we located the borderline between El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico. On an ending note, Jamie bought a bag of tostitos chips and won 2 combo whopper meals from Burger King, how exciting! Overall we had an exciting first full day here in El Paso and we all can't wait to see what the rest of the week entails!
(Pictures taken by Samantha Morrow)
Over the course of day one, students began their journey to El Paso. We traveled a total of three hours, connecting via Las Vegas, then continued South East to our final destination. Once at El Paso Airport, students met Susan, an instructor from WLS. Students did various name games then proceeded to take a van to Cristo Rey Church. Rose Mary, the pastor at the church, offered insight and history of the area which we will be staying in. Also, she prepared a great lunch, corn with apples and cheese, beans, and zucchini with cheese. Soon after, students went to a local park close to the church and played, “Bear, Mosquito, Salmon!” Simply put, this game is a variation on “Sharks and Minnos.” Then, students had a meeting with Rose Mary sharing their origins and their various reasons of why they wanted to come to El Paso. She also gave us a lesson on economics on how much income the average Coloradoan makes a year compared to the average income which the El Paso residents who make up the majority of her congregation makes a year. This allowed students to understand the struggles and challenges which these families cope with daily, monthly, and yearly. Our day was filled with fun and learning, which gave us a hindsight for what’s to come.