What does putting our action in action mean when the very people we are hoping to help are not even allowed across the border? A team of 12 students and three teachers from Vancouver College took that question with them as they travelled to Brownsville, Texas for a week in November. Upon the team’s arrival in Brownsville, they were greeted by Brother Tim, a Christian Brother whose hospitality and knowledge knows no bounds, and stayed at St. Mary’s Rosa Mistica House of Prayer.
While painting brightly lit rooms at La Posada, cleaning up the respite center, and helping out the open house are meaningful tasks that make Brownsville a more welcoming place for all the migrants, it was the time in between that brought the most challenge and learning. Through talking to two young men from Sri Lanka who had travelled for months to get here and a few migrant families who just crossed the border, we were able to learn about all the hardships people endure in order to live in a free country that we take for granted and realize the impact of the crisis on real-life people.
Meeting the detained unaccompanied minors at Palo Alto and the children at Guadalupe exposed us to contagious joy, optimism, and gratitude that made us truly appreciate what we have that others yearn for. Conversing with Bishop Flores, the representative from Team Brownsville, and volunteers at Good Neighbor’s Settlement House allowed us to be more holistically informed of the ongoing immigration crisis and developed a more solid understanding of our role as Catholics in it.
We realized that while a lot of good-hearted people want to help, the lack of understanding of a constantly evolving crisis prevents them from helping in the most effective way and that the complex crisis required a cohesive large effort from all people, and the government, so we can act to not determine our actions based on what’s legal, but on what’s moral. As Catholics who just witnessed one of the worst current humanitarian crises in North America , we must raise public awareness of the situation in our communities and educate people to generate a powerful voice to create change.
That is how we can best exemplify our Edmund Rice essential element: to stand in solidarity with those marginalized by poverty and injustice. In the face of challenges, we are not alone. We are strong as part of a large body who stand with the marginalized, and we pledge to see it through till the end.