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Fatima pilgrimage

placeholder May 8, 2017   •   VOL. 55, NO. 9   •   Oakland, CA

A group of volunteers stand along the border on the U.S. side in Douglas, Arizona, with Agua Prieta, Mexico behind them.

Otro Lado: Eye-opening experience at the border

Nine students from Saint Mary's College High School in Berkeley participated in the "El Otro Lado" trip. They spent four days in Tucson, Arizona, partnering with four students from San Miguel High School, exploring immigration issues. They spent one day in Agua Prieta, Mexico, near Douglas, Arizona. Here are some reflections from two students on the experience.

'Understand the struggle'

The trip to Tucson, Arizona, also called El Otro Lado, was a very impactful experience. I learned so much during these five days. Something that impacted me the most was witnessing the streamlining of immigrants that were only guilty of crossing the border.

The judge sentenced each one to a certain number of days depending on the number of times they had been arrested for crossing. This trip not only opened my eyes to reality, and what changes there needs to be made to help immigrants succeed, but it also helped me connect to and understand the struggle that my parents and family had gone through. This was such an amazing experience.

Lupe Saldana

'Shock and awe'

The immersion experience I had the privilege of taking part in brought both a feeling of shock and awe that I will never forget. I'm thankful to the various people who have sacrificed their time and effort so that my schoolmates and I would be able to witness events and issues we don't keep in mind while living our blessed lives.

In the welcoming environment created by San Miguel High School, its faculty and students, I feel that my group became very open to sharing opinions and insights that opened my eyes in multiple instances. Witnessing the unfair and rushed trial of multiple immigrants, as well as the inappropriately biased and rude language used by border patrol agents, filled me with conflicting emotions of anger and sorrow. By far the most eye opening experience was walking part of a migrant trail. Experiencing the heat and cacti for a short time is a small fraction of what migrants must endure and sacrifice.

I hope others get to experience such a trip and get educated on the many, well intentioned people just seeking a better life for their families.

I'd also like to comment on the cross activity near the border in Douglas, where we carried crosses representing the many people, some who could not be identified, who have died trying to reach a better life. I would like to thank those who brought such an event together as it left me with a feeling that I was responding to a call of action in shouting the names of those many immigrants, but also immense sadness in realizing just how many have died and how horrible the families of the unidentified must be feeling.

I know there are insights and emotions I carry today that I would have never come to had it not been for this experience, and I am very grateful for that.

Raul Ornelas

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