By Ena moatS
The SOUL experience in New Mexico was different from the rest of the trips to various regions around the US in that the type of service was not as typical as it usually is. Considered more of a “justice pilgrimage,” the students along with Office of Campus Ministry Director, Chris McClead, traveled to the border of New Mexico for eight days to encounter firsthand the issues of immigration through a series of programs included in the itinerary that was set by the center in which participants stayed each night.
“The center we stayed at was really cool. It was called The Wom- en’s Intercultural Center, and it offered classes and programs to basically provide the minority community (mostly females but males as well) with services like GED acquirement and business and marketing skills. It also provided us with down time to get to know the culture,” said Ashley An- derson, a freshman who traveled to New Mexico.
According to McClead, the group was able to go on an exclusive tour with the US Border Patrol, hear about current concerns and events in a presentation given by the Undersecretariat of Foreign Relations of Mexi- co, and spend a night with host families along the US/Mexican border. This itinerary was set to provide many different perspectives and aspects of the issue of immigration from Mexico and Central America into the United States. From these perspectives came many different insights that reshaped group members views on immigration and brought new awareness to the issue.
McClead stated, “The most surprising experience I had was the compelling viewpoints provided by the US Border Patrol and corruption in Mexico. I entered the Border Patrol tour with a chip on my shoulder from previously held notions about the agency. After the tour, I was grate- ful for the commitment those men and women have to ensuring the safety of the border and societies who live near to the border. Many presenta- tions spoke about the need to eradicate corruption from the government of Mexico. I was not aware the Mexican government is seen has having close relations to powerful and dangerous cartels.”