Another reflection from one of our wonderful “Immigrant’s Journey” Learning Lab participants, Alex Kramer, on his pre-trip experience…
When our group first picked San Diego and Tijuana as the destination for this year’s trip, I really had no idea what we were getting into. Obviously, the idea sounds exciting, but at the same time I am apprehensive. From what I have learned at school and trolling the internet, immigration is a complex and wide ranging issue in this country. But from my vantage point as a white kid in Seattle, it never has seemed like something to worry about. Yeah, this may sound selfish, but there are so many other issues that are more personally relevant and closer to home that I don’t really think about immigration. But in learning more about it as we have prepared for the trip, I have learned a lot more about how immigration is relevant for everyone. Chiefly, that Tacoma is home to a detention center that holds immigrants in horrible conditions. While San Diego is a long distance away and can easily be put out of mind, an immigration issue less than an hour away makes the problem a lot more in my face. And the fact that people make money of this detention system is frankly sickening. I could go on, but I would encourage everyone to do a little research, because you will learn more quantity and explained with more detail than I can.
Now, back to why I feel apprehensive. Maybe this isn’t the best word, perhaps hopeful would be more appropriate. I feel this way because the experience will be unlike anything I have ever done. We are supposed to learn peacemaking skills, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t have any idea what that looks like. So I am hopeful in that I will go in with an empty slate and open mind, and learn some new skills and get to know new people.
Maybe it just boils down to people skills. We all should aspire to communicate and relate well with others. But, saying this, I think a dominating American mentality is that we can remain ignorant while attempting to “help” people. Now, this may come across as a negative view, but if you think about it, this is what happens. A lot of people, especially Americans, tend to think that they have all the answers. We think that if we can just help others who are different to become exactly like us, then the worlds’ problems will magically disappear. Hence why so many people in this country lack basic communication skills, and why many problems remain unsolved. Not to say that I have fantastic people skills, because I don’t. I am generally that guy who never talks in a group unless prompted, and am terrible at starting and continuing a conversation.
For me, this trip presents the opportunity to engage with people. In many ways, it is the simplest thing we can do, yet the lasting impact it has is profound. When our group comes back home to Seattle, the immigration problem will not be solved. Almost nobody outside of our group and the people we meet will ever even see the consequences. But hopefully, my peers and I will come away having a better understanding and feeling more connection to the faces, the reality behind immigration. And hopefully, the people we meet will end up in a better place. So I guess hope is probably the best word to use. Peace.
Stay tuned for more reflections from both Clare and Alex during and after our trip!