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Vistamar Southwest Immigration & Social Change 2022

April 2-3, 2022

Yesterday we boarded the plane that would take us to Phoenix, Arizona. The flight was short and sweet and we all arrived in one piece:) From Phoenix, our lovely van driver Martin took us on our 2hr journey to Tucson where arrived at Borderlinks. After we got situated in our rooms, we had an orientation led by Josue and became more familiar with the immigration process.

The next day, we left Borderlinks for the first time since our arrival to head to the center of town where a fair was taking place! We all learned how to canvas, using our prior knowledge from this morning’s group activity where we did a simulation on qualifying for citizenship. During canvassing, we all had the opportunity to meet many different kinds of people from Arizona. It was very hot but super fun and rewarding. On our way home, we stopped for a bite of ice cream with our new Borderlinks delegator, Ren, who was so kind and helpful. Another big shout out to our chef, Eddy, for all the amazing food he’s prepared. And, most importantly, Somer – our global works guide who has accompanied us since we arrived in Arizona. We are so grateful her and everyone here. We absolutely cannot wait for the adventures to come:)

Ps. We will have a chance to make calls home tomorrow (April 4th) at 3:30!

by Seven and Ariella

April 4, 2022

We started the day early by waking up at 5:45 in the morning. We all quickly ate breakfast and headed out the door at 6:15. We took a quick drive to Southside Presbyterian Church where we helped serve breakfast to the houseless and migrant workers. While of us worked in the kitchen, others talked to and heard the stories of those who have either crossed the border or still currently on the hunt for a home and job. After a busy morning, we headed back to Boarder Links to prepare for the long day ahead. We gathered our supplies and drove an 1 hour and 30 minutes to our hiking location. This destination was the most sentimental part of our day. We hiked along the trail that many migrants to this day embark on. We dropped off gallons of water and canned food to the organization No More Deaths’ replenishing stations. Along our walk, we encountered clothing remains and kid toy packaging, as well as seeing that the water jugs from only one week of being placed had been used. After a reflective walk back to the car, we headed back home in the van. As you know, we spent 30 minutes calling home as we waited for our guest Parker from No More Deaths. Parker gave us a mini lesson about what happens to migrants in the desert. After that, we had some good food and some of us went on a walk and we enjoyed the rest of our night.

by Devyn M. and Sammie F.

April 5, 2022

Today, for our second day of working with No More Deaths, we started the morning at 7:00am. At 8:00 am, we packed the van and drove 1 hour and 30 minutes to another water drop location in the widespread border town of Airivka. We each took two gallons of water and was lead by a new guide, Max. Over the course of the two different hikes we took, we delivered 30 total gallons of water to three different drop locations. We encountered lots of wildlife. Similar to yesterday, we walked along the paths that migrants walk once again seeing things that they left behind. After finishing the hikes, we had a picnic lunch in Airivaka.

After driving back to Borderlinks, we had some down time and celebrated Mr. C’s birthday with some cake and notes (and a latte to start off his day!). At 5:30, Eddie (Borderlinks Kitchen Manager) shared his courageous personal experience of immigrating from El Salvador. Following some questions, Eddie taught us how to make traditional bean and cheese papusas  (which were AMAZING despite our amateur papusa-making skills 🙂 thanks to Eddie! We are getting ready for a night time dessert treat from Pima County Justice for All (the group we canvased for on Sunday) because the number of signatures that we got for their Justice for All campaign really exceeded their expectations and are resting for our trip to Nogales tomorrow. Happy Birthday, Mr. C!

Esha W. and Maddie E.

April 6, 2022

Today, April 6, we woke up around 7:00 am to get ready to go to Nogales. Nogales is a town that spans between the border of Arizona and Mexico. We drove about one hour and arrived around 9:30 to meet our speaker for the day, Manuel Morales. Manuel spoke to us about his experience with immigration as well as give us another perspective to the border. He then went on to talk about a saddening experience regarding a border patrol agent who killed a young boy about our age, while he was on the side of the Mexico border. This story opened our eyes to the fatal tragedies that happen at the border that have nothing to do with violence coming from Mexico.

After that, we drove with Manuel to a park nearby in Nogales for a picnic lunch. We had some pasta, fruit, and random snacks. Around 1:00, we dropped Manuel back off near the border and headed home to Borderlinks for a quick bathroom break before heading back out to Casa Alitas. Casa Alitas is a place of shelter where volunteers help with the process of people coming from detention centers to moving in with family members while they wait for asylum and their trials by giving them supplies that will sustain them over the period of waiting. There, we assisted with putting together activity kits for the kids and organized donations while waiting for another bus of people to arrive. Once the bus arrived around 4:00 pm, we all jumped into action and assisted with getting them settled into Casa Alitas. Once they were settled, a few of us helped pass out their personal belongings as well as distribute water.

After the very real and emotional experience we had there, we departed around 5:00 pm and made our way back to Borderlinks for a much needed dinner. Our very kind chefs prepared a nice meal that we were able to enjoy. At the end of the day, we all sat around and reflected on our experience from the day. We learned a lot from the last few days, and we will be sure to carry the information along to bring awareness to others.

Abby N. and Emily T.

April 7, 2022

Today, April 7. Wow, the week has gone by fast. It seems just like yesterday when we took a glamoring sight into the beautiful city of Tucson. We remember the struggles unloading our bags and wondering who would take the next shower. We are so proud of the trip experience and the meaningful connections that we have brought upon ourselves.

Today, we woke up alive and ready, compared to the other brutal awakenings at 6 in the morning. That gives us time to devour some delicious pancakes made by Mr. C and many wonderful students. The taste of buttery, sweet pancakes and scrambled eggs awakens a welcoming day. Around 10:30, the students and chaperones walk in the seemingly hotter day to Southside Presbyterian Church, and learn about the history of the sanctuary. As we arrive at the church, we stand with the shiny sun gleaming its sunlight. 5 minutes go by, a ponder of worry travels my brain. 20 minutes past, and we all wait patiently for the host to show up. He then informs the unfortunate news of misunderstanding to all of us. He thought the meeting to be Friday, instead of today. That leaves us with 1 hour of relieving ourselves with spare time. The group decides to attend a local thrift store a few blocks away, and I remember grasping my eyes towards ancient antiques and versatile clothing. With everything 50% off, students scramble for elegant and comfortable clothing, and I buy 50 cent Dr. Pepper at the cracked vending machine.

After, we went to Casa Alitas for one more day of volunteering. There, we loved and cherish our moment of helping migrants who experience difficult conditions. It specially felt meaningful to see the group hang out with one 11 year old girl who drew beautiful portraits of the students. We really did enjoy the heartwarming interactions with the people, and an eye-opening visualization of awesome people. The media can dehumanize and oppress migrants, but we see human beings that only wish for a humane life, like how we live.  As the day come to an end, the trip ends with an amazing night out at an amazing taco place. I remember chugging the glass of water down my throat, realizing that we had limited ice and cold water throughout the week. We are various tacos like the beef hot dog, bbq chicken hotdog, etc. Man, I ate so much that I felt like my stomach was going to explode! I could see the enjoyment in everyone’s eyes, as we laughed the last night away.

I want to conclude this blog by first thanking Josh and Somer for being the most amazing mentors throughout this trip. I think the group enjoyed their devotion and passion to help people at the border, in addition to their humorous, loving personalities. We would also like to thank Mr. C, Mrs. Garcia, and all the other mentors throughout this whole trip. It has been tremendously meaningful to spend a whole week with you guys and build deep connections. The border has seriously been a eye-opening perspective, and going to Arizona and learning about it with amazing people had inspired me to raise awareness in my community, and even take action. I know that other people in my group feel the same way as well. Now, time to wake up to another brutal morning, 5 am. It will be difficult, but off we go back to LA! See you there soon.

Written by Ryan D. and Owen H.