News & Events


Sharing the Journey

by Sister Ruth Harkins, IHM

The Catholic University of America has intentionally chosen to focus time, energy, human and financial resources to increase awareness and education about the complexity of our current immigration crisis. The spring CUA Magazine will primarily focus on the various dimensions of immigration from history, advocacy, research, immigration law, personal stories and the Catholic response to immigration.

Sister Ruth Harkins led her seventh Border Immersion Trip for Catholic University during the week of March 7-14 to El Paso, Texas, and Las Cruces, New Mexico. This year’s trip included twelve students, Scranton native and co-worker Patrick Fricchione, one law professor, and six law students. They were joined by a videographer, photographer and reporter from the Public Relations department of CUA. The university strongly desires to share the photos and to create short videos that tell the story of migrants at the border through various lenses.

The trip began with a prayer service and ritual at the border led by Dylan Corbett from HOPE Border Institute. Each day, students were immersed
in diverse experiences that would open their eyes and hearts to the reality of migrants at the border. Students had an opportunity to work at a parish café, La Tilma Grill in El Paso, which serves the Spanish speaking parishioners. They also participated in a bilingual Mass with students at the University of Texas, El Paso, and shared a meal in their Neumann Center. Other experiences included: visiting a Detention Center for immigrants with criminal records; a talk by Border Patrol in El Paso; visiting a 500 bed shelter sponsored by Annunciation House which currently has only 20 migrants; participating in a sunrise Migrant Mass and working in an onion field for a few hours; observing Operation Streamline in the Federal Court in which over 30 migrants caught the night before were arraigned in small groups; presentations by two prominent interfaith organizations in Las Cruces, New Mexico; a presentation by Catholic Charities in El Paso on the legal process for unaccompanied children. As the week progressed, because of the spread of the coronavirus we were denied access to: the Federal Immigration Court in El Paso; children’s shelter in El Paso and a middle school program in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Students from various academic departments signed up to take a semester class and participate in the week long border immersion experience. They had a lot of questions and were seeking to better understand the current immigration crisis. However, they returned to campus with even more questions and with the harsh realization of the complexity of the current immigration crisis with no easy solution in sight. Because one of our students was DACA, we all learned first-hand from his tears the pain and struggle of individuals and families who choose to cross the border for a better life. He was eleven when he came to the United States from El Salvador. We re-lived with him his experience of crossing the border which was something very heart-wrenching and raw for all of us.

Even though the trip was laced with sadness, questions, anger, frustration and confusion, the students returned with hope. Every evening we gathered in prayer to reflect on the experiences – the sights, sounds, smells, stories – through the eyes of faith. Everyone spoke about how prayer and faith gives them strength and hope in humanity from the border patrol, detention center officers, lawyers, and every agency representative. On our last day in Las Cruces, NM, there was a sign of hope – a rainbow in the sky to remind us of God’s promise to be with us always.

031120 Sunrise Mass Onion Field Hatch NM-054
Sunrise mass in New Mexico