Today we finished our Day 1 orientation of 24 students into “the Immigrant’s Journey“. Here is a post by Clare Newell, one of the participants, based on work and research done leading up to this learning lab. We first had the pleasure of meeting Clare at our Cultivate: Seattle event and are excited to see how this experience will help continue to form her as a peacemaker…

ClareAs an American, I think it is very easy to overlook the issue of immigration, and consider it not much of an issue at all. However, when researching the topic of immigration online the word “crisis” is used frequently. It’s not seen as a crisis because of how complicated the issue actually is. When I first learned about immigration, it was focused on the DREAM Act, reform, and undocumented citizens, which now don’t even seem to scratch the surface of the immigration problem. In preparing for this trip, I learned more about the containment of illegal immigrants, and the conditions that people in detention centers are forced to live in. We listened to someone with experience working in a detention center speak about the injustice that is going on within these detention centers. Injustice that I was completely unaware of. I knew that people that come to the U.S. illegally aren’t protected by the same rights as citizens have, but I was surprised that even though coming here isn’t a punishable offense, these people are still treated as criminals and forced to live in prison-like conditions. What’s even more surprising is that people in detention centers are a source of revenue for our government. When I heard this I remember immediately getting angry. I was confused as to why people that our government says can’t be here, are detained in indecent conditions, and are even creating a profit for the same organizations that say undocumented citizens can’t be here.

Learning these things about immigration made me ashamed that I live in a country that treats people this way. There isn’t a perfect system though, and I decided it probably wasn’t fair to blame one single organization or person for the entire problem. A part of the issue is that so many people don’t understand the full situation. So personally, more than just being angry about the unfairness, it’s about shedding light on the immigration situation. Instead of being just upset by it, I use the anger I feel about it to fuel me to learn more about the problem, because I’m not going to change anything by just being angry. By educating myself on what’s happening, it becomes easier to talk about what is really happening, and tell people something they might not have known about immigration. In relation to immigration, peacemaking for me is trying to understand what these people might be going through, and recognizing that they aren’t any different from me. It’s easy to think that illegal immigrants are just people that shouldn’t be here because they chose to take the illegal route, and that they’re a problem that needs to go. In reality though, they’re individuals, people like you and me who have families, desires, passions, and dreams. These people are sacrificing things that I wouldn’t give up for anything; it’s an unfairness that I can’t comprehend. From what I have learned from the Global Immersion Project at Cultivate Seattle, I’m going to be a “peacemaker” by understanding where someone is coming from, but also choosing to love anyone on any side of the immigration conflict instead of just being made about what’s going on. I’m stoked for this trip, and excited for a new experience of learning from people. I hope to come away feeling less ignorant about the immigration situation, and getting to know more about why people make the choices they do, but also learning more about myself and how this will make me a better peacemaker in my everyday life.

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