Drawing the Line with Justice

Posted on: September 3rd, 2014 1 Comment

Maddie Mehall writes about her Alternative Break Immersion

Upon walking into Las Americas, an Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, Texas, the first stop on my ABI group’s journey through the Border Awareness Experience, I was greeted by the wise words of Franklin D. Roosevelt.  “Remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants…”  That quote resonated in the back of my mind throughout the entire week we were there last May during our stay at Annunciation House, a sanctuary for those from Mexico, Central America, and countries elsewhere, fleeing the violence, economic scarcities, drug cartels, and unemployment, to seek refuge and freedom in the U.S.  They come in search of peace, job opportunities and a better future for them and their families.  They offer personal stories of tragedy, distilled with faith and hope, desiring to be reunited with family members and friends who had already made their way into the country.  For a majority of the guests, their lives are put on hold.  They are waiting for visas, residency, citizenship, or are in the process of seeking asylum.  Whatever the reason, the goal of Annunciation House is to help our neighbors coming into the city of El Paso, recognizing the life and dignity of every human.  Since it first began in 1976, it has been a place of refuge for around 100,000 immigrants from over 40 countries.

On the first day, we were able to stand at the top of a hill overlooking El Paso and Cuidad Juarez, Mexico.  It was even hard to distinguish where the divide between the two cities was.  It wasn’t until we went to New Mexico where we stood in front of the metal fence that we were able to look closely at the glaring differences.  On the other side lay Anapra, a neighborhood in the city of Juarez, Mexico.  The homes and structures of buildings were small and looked like makeshift shelters and piles of bricks.  There was so much trash and debris spread across the land.  As we stood in silence, three boys suddenly appeared out of the apocalyptic-looking vicinity.  They came up to the fence, poking their small fingers through the holes, staring at us.  Our group leader and some of the Spanish-speaking students in our group were able to communicate with them.  As I looked at them through the metal fence, it almost looked like they were behind bars.  It struck me hard in the face that they were staring at freedom, and I felt like a tourist watching them and waving my privilege in their faces.  It’s surreal to put myself in someone else’s shoes, bearing witness to the realities they face, and to see the risks they go through in order to stand where I was standing, on the opposite side of the fence.  When we eventually pulled away in our van, a border patrol vehicle didn’t waste any time immediately wiping away our footprints, as if we were never there.  They do that so that they are able to see any footprints in the sand in case someone was to jump over from the other sideThe country that one is born in should not dictate whether you have the right to a future because justice and equality should be universal.


Loyola University Chicago's Social Justice Web Portal is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. Comments will be screened for tone and content. All comments must include the first and last name of the author and a valid e-mail address. The appearance of comments on the Web Portal does not imply the University's endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.

One Response

  1. avatar Joan Mehall says:

    How wise this fantastic young lady is for her years. She has opened her heart and her mind to the indignities suffered by so many other people, young and old!
    Believe it is possible to make a difference and never stop trying! We are so proud of the person you have become and know there are great accomplishments in your future!