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My BorderLinks Journey: Understanding Life for Immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico Border

An eye-opening experience about the dangers at the U.S.-Mexico border and how the UU faith calls us into solidarity with those exercising their human right to migrate.

By Jillian Stanton on September 19, 2023

Jillian Stanton is a UU high school student who attended a recent BorderLinks experiential learning activity. BorderLinks offers experiential learning opportunities that explore the difficulties of migration and life along the U.S./Mexico border. The experience was offered through the UU College of Social Justice.

In Unitarian Universalism, we stress the importance of seeking truth to create a better world. The combination of exploring the borderlands ecosystem, meeting with BorderLinks community partners, and supplemental information given by their staff provided me with the opportunity to discover the truth about the impact of border policy on life in the borderlands and develop a plan to initiate education and action in my community.

As someone who comes from a family that immigrated to the United States generations before my lifetime, I had no first-hand knowledge of the immigration process, and the many reasons people choose to immigrate. After learning more about immigration and spending time in the desert on this trip, I felt like I more deeply understood the gravity of immigrating to the United States as the danger of the borderland’s climate is only magnified by the military.

Through our delegation’s hike in the desert and meeting with borderland residents, I learned not only about the sheer quantity of armed agents and machinery designed to inspire fear and panic but also about the abuse of power by the government in the area.

The more we met with BorderLinks partners, the better I understood how

all-encompassing the issue of the border is. Hearing talks from the Sierra Club and local Indigenous activists opened my eyes to the fact that the border crisis is not just a battle between the United States and Mexico, the earth is being affected as are the people that have lived on it for longer than our country has even existed. We learned about the hundreds of species that inhabit the borderlands and watched heart-breaking videos of migratory animals journeying south only to find a barrier in the way of the path that their species had been traveling for centuries. In addition, we heard stories about the destruction of Indigenous sacred land for the construction of the border wall. I was once again horrified to hear how the government had no qualms about blowing up ancestral graveyards and draining natural springs. Without this trip, I would’ve been unconscious of the less-publicized issues that so deeply affect life at the borderlands.

While there was an emphasis on understanding the true injustice at the border, we also learned about the hope and kindness present in the region through organizations that dedicate their time in every way: legal aid, shelter, environmental conservation, and so much more. As a Unitarian Universalist, the Sanctuary Movement especially stuck out to me. The idea of using faith as a force for justice reminded me of our religion’s foundation in the commitment to bettering our world. For me, my time in Tucson reminded me that to truly be someone living in our faith, we must purposefully commit to service. I was so appreciative of the action-planning time in the BorderLinks program that allowed us to sit down as a delegation and connect our shared resources—school clubs, social groups, local migrant justice organizations—with our biggest resource, that being that we all belong to a UU congregation.

We now have a plan of how to transform what we have learned into action and education for those who cannot have this experience themselves, both in our church and in our larger community. I have a completely new perspective on the border after this trip and I am so glad that I took the opportunity to truly practice our UU values of working towards justice and peace for all.

Image Credit: Jillian Stanton

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