Gettysburg students travel to U.S.-Mexico border to study immigration issues

Gettysburg students at U.S.-Mexico Border

This week, Gettysburg students are learning first-hand about immigration issues on a new Immigration on the U.S./Mexico Border immersion trip that connects them with immigrants, advocates, and agencies in El Paso, Texas, and Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Now in New Mexico, the group is live-blogging their experience through local news paper, The Evening Sun (embedded below). The paper also covered the group’s trip in their January 14 issue, an excerpt of which follows.

Upon their return, the immersion trip participants will help facilitate an immigrant rights information session for local migrant youth. They will also hold on-campus sessions to educate their classmates about the Gettysburg migrant community and the realities of U.S. immigration policy.

Check out photos from the trip.

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Gettysburg College immersion program to study immigration reform on the U.S.-Mexico Border
Mark Walters, The Evening Sun, published January 14, 2014

Jorge Perez-Rico figures the best place to learn about immigration issues is right on the border of Mexico and the United States.

So Perez-Rico is taking seven Gettysburg College students to El Paso, Texas, and Las Cruces, N.M., to do just that.

"It's a great opportunity for students to learn about social justice and immigration issues," said Perez-Rico, director of Casa de la Cultura, a volunteer organization in partnership with the Center for Public Service at Gettysburg College. "Students will have a great level of consciousness and can be more aware of the issue of immigration."

But to make a difference with immigration reform, Perez-Rico said educating youth is important.

The students left Friday morning to work cooperatively with Border Service Corps, a ministry of Peace Lutheran Church. Based in Las Cruces, N.M., the service agency hosts first-hand cultural immersions focused on education about border issues.

"These students will get educated and get closer to the realities of something that is important for everyone," Perez-Rico said. "If you get closer to a situation, you can change things in it."

Emily Hauck, a Gettysburg College senior, said she is excited to learn more about the myriad issues faced by immigrants and those who live and work in border towns.

The students will visit a day care for immigrant children and a church with a large immigrant congregation, Hauck said. They will also speak with border patrol officers and Mexicans on the other side, gaining various perspectives while they are there, she said.

Hauck, 22, is double majoring in Spanish and international affairs. She hopes the weeklong trip will give her insight on the social and political issues surrounding immigration and help her career aspirations.

Hauck will be working alongside Maria Sotomayor, a 21-year-old deferred action permit recipient from the Philadelphia area.

Born in Ecuador, Sotomayor moved to the United States in 2002, when she was 9 years old.

After graduating from Neumann University in Aston with a bachelor's degree in psychology and a minor in communications, Sotomayor began working for the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, a Philadelphia-based advocacy group for immigrants, migrants, refugees and other new Americans.

Working as a civic engagement and outreach coordinator for the coalition, Sotomayor was invited to join the trip with Perez-Rico, his students and Oscar Mateos, a deferred permit recipient and farm worker at Hollabaugh's Fruit Farm and Market in Biglerville.

The group of 10 will learn about life close to the border and what people down there do to fight for immigration reform.

Sotomayor said her parents, who live in the Philadelphia area, are undocumented immigrants. She said that, at the moment, there is no way for them to apply for citizenship.

Now that she has a deferred action permit, Sotomayor said her parents do not have to worry about her getting pulled over and possibly deported. But she cannot live without that sense of fear for them.

"I'm always fearful that something will happen," Sotomayor said. "I think people near the border experience that more than I do."

Her parents' inability to gain citizenship is a big part of why Sotomayor insists on fighting for immigration reform.

"That's something I've always been working for," she said. "We're going to fight for fairness that will impact the laws of immigrants here in the United States."

Read the blog on the Evening Sun website.

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

Contact: Christine Shanaberger, associate director of communications/coordinator of presidential communications, 717.337.6806

Posted: Fri, 17 Jan 2014

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