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Saint Mary’s student speaks about internship at border as part of ‘I Stand with Immigrants’ initiative

This week, Saint Mary’s hosted multiple events as part of its ‘I Stand with Immigrants’ initiative, designed to commemorate immigrants who have traveled to the United States. Two events were hosted in Rice Commons on Tuesday ahead of the nationwide Day of Action for Immigrants on Wednesday.

The Office for Common Good, the Office of Inclusion and Equity and La Fuerza, a club dedicated to promoting Hispanic and Latino diversity at Saint Mary’s, sponsored the events.

La Fuerza president Jackie Junco said the club was happy to participate in the I stand with Immigrants festivities. 

“A lot of our students who come here are first-generation and coming from migrant families. I think it is important that we highlight not only the students but their families and their courage to come here and do the hard work,” Junco said.

Tuesday’s events fell on the Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos. Junco said the two events are related because a lot of immigrants may not have the means to survive their journey to the U.S.

“We wanted to combine this with the holiday because a lot of immigrants don’t have the means to survive their journey. I think it’s important to see this is not just to come here for no reason but it is also very dangerous and takes a lot of valor,” she said.

The first event involved decorating sugar skulls and making paper cempasúchils, a marigold flower commonly used in Day of the Dead celebrations. Sophomore Liliana Lomeli then spoke about her summer internship working as a Borderlands ambassador with the Border Community Alliance organization at the U.S. and Mexico border. 

“My purpose in life personally is I want to positively impact anyone around me,” Lomeli said. “I knew immigration, especially with my family’s history, was something I wanted to focus on.” 

Lomeli’s father immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 14 years old. 

During her presentation, Lomeli talked about her duties as an ambassador, which included traveling into the desert to drop supplies for crossing migrants.

“We would do water drops, just leaving water in the desert for migrants who do need to cross,” she said.

Lomeli said she draws on her memory of hiking in the Sonoran Desert, one of the hottest deserts in North America, to try to connect with the struggle migrants go through during their migration. 

Lomeli then discussed Title 42, a rule that allows the U.S. to prevent migrants from seeking asylum at the border as a means of stopping the spread of COVID-19.

“Title 42 has virtually forced migrants who are seeking safety and security to resort to cross illegally,” she said. “We see migrants that were being dropped off in bus loads at the border with no shoes, none of the items they crossed with.”

Lomeli ended her presentation by asking everyone to think about how the struggles of immigrants do not end when they reach the U.S. 

Contact Katelyn Waldschmidt at kwaldschmidt01@saintmarys.edu.

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