Whether it was Sarah’s loud, musical burps, Maggie’s cat noises, the uncountable times our ASB team has bonded on a personal level, or the amount of insight we have gained dealing with all aspects of immigration in the United States. I thought I was decently informed about the issue before the trip, but it turns out that I was vaguely educated.
For starters, San Juan, Texas was very welcoming. I felt at home seeing a vast population of Hispanic people, reading signs in Spanish, feeling the warm, invigorating weather, and – most importantly – eating homemade Mexican food! I appreciated the fact that our learning partner, John-Michael Torres, who works for the non-profit organization LUPE (La Unión del Pueblo Entero) we partnered with, taught us about immigration in the US without sounding politically biased.
I won’t forget the march we did on Martin Luther King Day (how convenient :) ), which was to celebrate and accept individuals of different races, economic backgrounds, citizenship status, and sexual orientation. I was dumbfounded when I realized that it currently takes up to more than 10 years to be granted citizenship/residency here, especially in terms of marriage. Also, I did not realize how privileged and lucky I am after hearing stories from undocumented immigrants who live in “colonias” and strive to attain a college education.
Witnessing “colonias,” low income communities established outside city limits with large populations of migrant workers, was eye-opening to me. I thought it was cruel and inhumane to see that undocumented immigrants do not have proper plumbing and electricity nor someone to pick-up their trash. The whole time I pondered, “This is the United States?” I honestly felt like I was in a third-world country. It is inspiring that immigrants still try to make the best out of their lives here.
I am eternally grateful for being part of this service-learning project, but I know I can do more by educating students on campus or spreading the word about the impoverished lifestyle in colonias. I hope our team will be able to bring all the experiences we had with LUPE to Lafayette.