Day Two: "We are not 'illegal aliens'; We are people."
After a much-needed 8 hours of peaceful sleep and a healthy breakfast, we walked to attend the Palm Sunday mass service at Southside Presbyterian Church. There, we were warmly welcomed by members of the community. From children gleefully processing in holding palm branches to individual members of the community expressing their very own prayer intentions in front of their fellow parishoners, the sense of community that the church itself fostered was very obvious and prevalent. We even had the opportunity to witness the baptism of an adorable little girl named Ellie! Afterwards, the van took us to a street fair where we were greeted with the inviting scent of kettle corn and tents of the most unique and colorful hand-made items. Though we were only there for a brief amount of time, it was enough for us to absorb a fascinating part of Tucson culture. After enjoying the fair, we went back to home base to have lunch and listen to three presenters speak on behalf of Scholarships A-Z, a non-profit organization that provides resources for undocumented students seek financial aid for college. The presenters, Daria, Manny and Eddie, began with information regarding Proposition 300 (a legislative act that requires all undocumented students in Arizona pursuing a college education to pay tuition at the out-of-state rate), the DREAM act, and about DACA (Deferred Action Credibility Assessment). They then elaborated on the history and mission of Scholarships A-Z. We also had the honor of hearing each of them individually tell their own stories on how they tackled the struggles of being undocumented and obtaining an good and affordable college education, of working in a system that wasn't made to work for them. We learned of their most recent achievement of advocating for state legislators to vote in favor of an act letting DACA recipients pay for college at the in-state rate as well as their goal to make this act known to all educational institutions statewide as quickly as possible.
Next, we headed to Casa Mariposa (Butterfly House), a home started by a group of individuals from different religious denominations for immigrants transitioning to a new life in America. During our visit to Casa Mariposa, we met an ex-journalist and artist from Guatemala named Cesar. He shared with us his experience attempting to gain entry to America - which he did no less than nine times. Along the way he witnessed unspeakable brutality, mostly from a Mexico-based drug cartel called the Zetas. Fortunately, he eventually gained political asylum, but even this has its challenges. He is not able to work in America, which means it is difficult for him to support himself. Instead, he sells his paintings to buy basic necessities. Each one is a beautiful portrait of the hardships of immigrant life, which he portrays through symbols. Since the rest of his work is in a gallery, he painted three new pictures especially to show us! Three of our lucky group members were able to buy them. On a happier note, we ended our day with some delicious Sonoran-style hot dogs and horchata. We then returned to Borderlinks to write, chat, and reflect on our days.