Border Pilgrimage Opens Minds, Hearts

Border Pilgrimage Opens Minds, Hearts

Published: June 13, 2019.

Lewis University students, faculty and staff encountered realities about immigration during this year’s social justice pilgrimage to the Arizona borderlands, traveling May 12 – 18, 2019.

“These experiences and interactions cannot be recreated in a classroom setting and I have no doubt that the students will remember them and be impacted by them for years to come,” said Dr. Jennifer Buntin, assistant professor of sociology and director of the Latino Studies. She continued, “It is a deeper level of learning to touch the wall with their hands, feel the heat of the desert and the rocks under their feet.”

The six-day pilgrimage in May was coordinated and led by Buntin and Emily Brabham of University Ministry.

The eight undergraduate student participants included Anthony Gautier of Berwyn, Salvador Martinez of Bolingbrook, Christopher Patino of Blue Island, Yesenia Ponce of Blue Island, Jasmin Ramirez of Romeoville, Angelica Rodriguez of Naperville, Loralei Summers of Joliet, and Maritza Yanez of Elmwood Park.

During the pilgrimage, the group traveled to two cities on each side of the U.S.-Mexico border: Douglas, Arizona (U.S.); Agua Prieta, Sonora (Mexico); Nogales, Arizona (U.S.); and Nogales, Sonora (Mexico), as well as Tucson, Arizona. During these encounters the students were introduced to a variety of different people and organizations with different perspectives on immigration issues. The group spoke with asylum seekers from Central America, political and governmental leaders, border patrol agents, a federal judge, a federal public defender, immigration lawyers, humanitarians, Lasallian educators and faith-based leaders.

“It’s an eye-opening, life-changing experience. Students take a faith-filled journey to ‘humanize’ the border by encountering the actual people and places that are affected,” commented Brabham.

The group also took part in a number of immersive experiences. Pilgrims touched and learned about the border wall in two different cities, hiked a migrant desert trail, left water on desert trails for future migrants, witnessed a court proceeding for recently detained immigrants, and participated in a prayer vigil for men and women who’ve died in the desert or at the border.

Lewis University is an innovative and forward-thinking Catholic university offering market-relevant undergraduate and graduate programs to 6,500 students. Sponsored by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, Lewis University is nationally recognized for preparing intellectually engaged, ethically grounded, globally connected and socially responsible graduates. Visit for further information.

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