On Saturday, March 21, Trinity students took a trip to Laredo to visit the border for Trinity’s Immigration Seminar taught by Maria Pia Paganelli, associate professor of economics, and International Human Rights taught by Rosa Aloisi, assistant professor of political science. The field trip is part of the experiential learning in the class for students to gain a better understanding of the border and its processes.
“We think it’s a great experiential learning opportunity for students to actually see with their own eyes what happens at the border,” Aloisi said.
The classes received the opportunity to see many different parts of the border including the various points in the Rio Grande as well as the processing center. The majority of the focus is spent on the processing center, where undocumented immigrants that have been apprehended are held.
“I think the most important aspect of the tour is when they are taken to the processing center,” Aloisi said. “That is the place where students are actually able to see illegal immigrants that are detained into different cells.”
While the students did not converse with those detained at the border post, they were allowed to walk through the center to observe and see the various points where those caught are processed. Some of the individuals with criminal records are kept and sent to prison while others are deported back. First year Andrea Martinez-Abrego, a student in Paganelli’s immigration seminar, was among the students on the field trip.
“We also went to a detaining center so we actually saw some of the immigrants who wanted to come here- illegally obviously,” Martinez-Abrego said. “And they were literally like animals in cages so it was a really hard experience but also very educational.”
Students spend the semester learning about immigration in the different classes and then partake in experiential learning at the border. Part of the curriculum in the immigration seminar involves reading various stories and books pertaining to border crossing.
“Throughout the semester we read about immigration and we read about immigration history, the facts on immigration,” Paganelli said. “And because of our location the problem or crossing the border illegally from Mexico is a topic that often comes up.”
Katsuo Nishikawa assistant professor of the political science department who has previously taught the seminar has taken students to the border as well noted the significance of the face-to-face interaction.
“The reason to take students there is really for them to confront the reality of what it means to live in this area. If Trinity is a bubble then the U.S. is also kind of a bubble,” Nishikawa said.
Nishikawa went on to add that immigration is a widespread issue and students see this during the trip.
“The plight of the immigrant is universal and is very similar across the board. They’re leaving things behind and it’s a melancholy process,” Nishikawa said.
Martinez-Abrego noted that the trip was good experience but also a difficult process to watch.
“It was a really interesting experience. But it was a heavy one, but very impactful especially being from Mexico,” Martinez-Abrego said.
The trip itself required very little preparation in class in the first-year immigration seminar.
“Our students are very smart and they pick up things without being told, so I personally don’t like to put too much of my footprint on this because I think the experience is powerful enough,” Paganelli said.
Aloisi spoke to her students before going down about observing the different ways in which the border functions as well as the information given to them.
“I always recommend to my students to make sure to read in between the lines of the information that is being conveyed to them,” Aloisi said.
Students enjoyed the visit saying the information and experience they gained helped their understanding of the border.
“What a lot of people said was kind of the same thing, how it was eye opening. A lot of people don’t know the process that goes behind it,” Martinez-Abrego said
The opportunity to travel to the border with the classes will be available again next year and students will get to experience the process of the border between the United States and Mexico.
“We are very much looking forward to repeating this experience next year as well. Dr. Nishikawa is teaching his seminar on immigration so probably we will go together next year,” Aloisi said.