This spring break, I participated in my final Alternative Break. The topic: Immigration and Refugees.
In early Fall, I spent months student teaching at a school where the majority of my students had migrated here. They were brought to this country by their families to have more opportunities, while others dreamed of living in safer environments. My interest for a trip dedicated to education about immigration sparked because of the diversity in my classroom, and the authentic beauty of that diversity. This school created an acceptance rule, that if students from another country came at any time during the year, the school has to enroll them. As a 22 year old that survived elementary and middle school, I was interested to see how the students engaged with one another and new students. To my delight I watched 28 first grade students accept others, help others, have patience for and with others… I was told by one student that “Most of us came here from another place, we didn’t speak English, but the kids here before us helped us”. That statement solidified, for me, how much we can learn from our youth.
During my Alternative Break in San Diego, we worked with several groups to learn about immigration and refugee resettlement. We discussed the policies and the people. Our first day of service was dedicated to the people. Our job was to bring water and bread to the day laborers that stand outside of Home Depots and other hardware shops to find work for the day. While working with these men, and having conversations about life and how grateful they were for the bread and water, I reflected on my experience with men standing outside of hardware shops at home. I reflected on the fact that I did not understand what they were doing or why they were there in the first place. (This was also a time when I was not actively seeking a job and was more naïve than ever about the world around me). Education is a beautiful thing. Real life interaction is one of the best educations anyone could receive, in my opinion.
While speaking with one of the men outside of the Home Depot, he shared his story with me. He shared with me that he is currently homeless, and that his two sons living in the United States have no idea, nor does his family still living in Mexico. When I asked him why he didn’t want to share that information with his family, he told me that he did not want to be a burden. There were no words that I could say to comfort him, nothing I could do at that moment could give him a solution or motivate him to speak with his family. What I can do is educate myself about the laws that surround immigration, and act as a resource…
During that day of service, I heard countless stories of how many men, women and children don’t want to actually be here. They would much rather be at home, in Mexico with their families and friends – However, its not safe and there is little to no work. I also learned about the numbers of homeless men, women and children that would rather send all of the money that they make in a day to their families than live in an apartment and pay the rent. I learned about the majority of people that are picked up for a day to work, and many of them do not get paid. Yet they are back outside the next day, ready to work. Ready to trust again that they will get paid the money that they need for their families.
During a week filled with education, we were also given the opportunity to speak with two people that are refugees. We met a man and a woman both from two different countries, and heard their stories. Leila, shared many times with us how blessed she is to be here. We heard about the trials and tribulations, leaving all things behind, and in some cases leaving with only a day’s notice. Could you imagine, leaving your home and sometimes your family, to seek a new life in a new country where you do not speak the language or know any of the people? Could you imagine leaving your home because it is too dangerous?
My biggest take away from this experience is the reflection of how incredible and impactful one invisible line is to this world. We have many invisible lines from state to state, but this (one) invisible line from country to country keeps many women, men, and children away from a safer home or a better work opportunity.
Today, I imagine a world where we learn from my first graders and help those who are new and don’t speak our language. I imagine a world where people are not called illegal… People are people. I urge you to read, find news stations that are unbiased, talk to the lawmakers, write letters, and volunteer with organizations that work with those who are immigrants and refugees. This experience has showed me the importance of voting, more than ever and that we can make a difference. We can listen to others, communicate, and make dreams a reality.
Mici Eubanks is a senior Early Childhood Education major from Richmond, Kentucky. She has been heavily involved with the Dorothy Day Center for Faith & Justice serving and as the Co-Director of the Approach Retreat and as an active member of Alternative Breaks Board (just to name a few). Mici has a personality that can light up a room, as her smile and laughter is warm and inviting.