One of my key takeaways from my Fall Break Service & Justice Trip to El Paso, TX was the understanding that these trips can be just as impactful, and in some ways more impactful, if the trip is completely justice focused and our group does little to no service. There is a common misconception that groups from Creighton go to a host site with the goal of fixing a problem through doing acts of service. While our El Paso group did only a few small acts of hands-on service, we accomplished just as much toward repairing the broken immigration system that our country faces right now.
The majority of our time in El Paso was spent listening to speakers who are knowledgeable about the immigration in its current state. We met with researchers, professors, Border Patrol employees, lawyers, and non-profit directors. We learned about the statistics and financials of immigration. We also learned about the emotions of immigration. We met families who had been separated as they were seeking asylum in the United States. We talked with people who had been serving immigrants and refugees their whole lives. We heard from lawyers who are trying to turn the legal system upside down in the interest of repairing the processes for individuals who are applying for asylum. Seeing the emotions of the presenters we heard from inspired emotions in the participants in our group. This inspiration clearly progressed to a “fire in the belly” of our group, which will lead to systemic change.
Our group also spent a significant amount of time in reflection. Reflection in our group took many forms: group reflection at the end of every night, debriefing after each presentation, one-on-one interactions among group members, and personal reflections throughout the day. The justice-based structure of our El Paso trip made the reflections especially meaningful. As noted above, we experienced a wide range of emotions throughout the day. Some of these emotions were difficult to process for some participants in the group, including me. Reflection, in its many forms, was a tool to remember our experiences through the day. By remembering our experiences, we would remember how we felt through the day. For me, recalling my feelings was crucial to having the best possible experience on this Service & Justice trip.
I entered this trip thinking I was well-educated on the United States immigration system. After spending a week learning about the complexities and nuances of all the government processes, I am smart enough to acknowledge that I am not smart. There have been so many people victimized by the federal government. There have been so many laws passed to complicate the system. There have been so many lives pushed away and forgotten about. Thinking I was, or ever will be, well-educated on the immigration system is a major fallacy. All I can do is learn whatever I can and care for whomever I can.
James Quinlin, Class of 2020