Take initiative, make summer meaningful

Isa Ferris , Reporter

Summer. Does it mean spending time at home, traveling the world, sports practice, work or procrastinating on the AP summer assignments?

This is the question that almost all teachers pose on the first day of school. As students share, there is often a lot of repetition when it comes to the response. “This summer I went to (insert: expensive resort or international destination).”

Yes, travel and vacation are good, even important and much of our community is fortunate to have resources to explore and enjoy. If resources are limited, try a meaningful choice.

Over the past few years, I’ve read recurring news stories involving immigrants seeking asylum in the United States, more specifically those President Trump has called “bad hombres,” and “rapists.” If you’ve picked up a newspaper in the past year you don’t see people that envelop these character traits.

No, you see two-year-olds clinging to their parents pants as they’re torn away by ICE, and determined, thoughtful, intelligent people eager to provide for their families or escape extreme violence.
This is what I observed this summer. No, I wasn’t traveling the world. I was in McAllen, Texas helping Latin American immigrants.

My dad and I discovered Catholic Charities Respite Center after seeing it being linked to many news stories regarding immigrants. We got connected with César Mata, the volunteer coordinator of this organization.

Finding the building was very difficult as there was virtually no signage except for a small logo on the front door. The inside of the building was too small for the number of people in it. The biggest room was lined with plastic school chairs occupied by immigrants waiting to be put into the Catholic Charities computer base.

The immigrants here are screened and vetted by ICE to make sure they have a family or sponsor who would take care of them until their court hearing. It was otherworldly to see adults and children with thick ankle bracelets; every step they take is monitored by the U.S. government.

Volunteers had a variety of duties ranging from cooking, packing food, watching kids, monitoring outdoor showers, registering migrants in the computer base, serving food, and cleanup.

My duties included the serving of chicken noodle soup prepared in a massive army grade pot. Lemonade and tortillas are distributed to hundreds of immigrants who pass through the center. The first to be served are the children whose ages ranged from 3-15 years. One of the kids told me that on La Bestia, the freight train that he and his dad took, they shared one apple for two days. Despite all the adults and children had been through, they remained in good spirits.

In between the meals, I had moments to talk with some of these people. I asked them about their journey. Some said it took 40 days, others 30 or just 10 depending if they had a smuggler or took La Bestia.
The kindness and determination of these immigrants are unlike anything I had experienced before. They have gone through so much and are still determined to make a better life for themselves and their children.

I can’t think of a more American story.