UPDATE: The article states that Patrick Furlong is the interim campus minister for faith and justice, however he is actually the campus minister for faith and justice.
“We are one. We’re going to get rid of the wall that builds bridges between our two cities. We are not two different peoples – we are one. We are going to make sure that we become one,” said San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders this past weekend in Friendship Park, located on the United States-Mexico border.
Breaking down borders and becoming one seemed to be the theme of the weekend for all at Friendship Park during the temporary opening of the border door. Among these people were the students of LMU’s De Colores service program, who said they felt lucky to witness a moving moment in history.
De Colores took its trip to Tijuana to build houses and community buildings with residents there and to learn about immigration and poverty, and participants saw more than they expected.
When Patrick Furlong, campus minister for faith and justice,took the De Colores students to Friendship Park on Sunday for the end of trip, there was more commotion than there had been on trips in the past. It was evident that something important was going on. In honor of Children’s Day, a Latin American holiday, a door in the fence of Friendship Park was opened for the first time in 20 years. One man was given the opportunity to hug his 5-year-old daughter for the first time in his life.
The De Colores students regularly end their weekend trips on Sundays in Friendship Park, one of the only places where people can interact face-to-face through a fence across the border.
“I got very emotional watching this touching moment, and couldn’t stop thinking how great it would be if this miraculous moment was instead what it should be: an everyday ordinary exchange of love between a father and his daughter,” said Furlong after witnessing the interaction.
According to the LMU website, the De Colores service trips are transformative for the students that attend, giving them the opportunity to witness the poverty and immigration issues in Tijuana, as well as the faith of the people that live there. The students literally step beyond the border to experience something out of their element, and this trip in particular opened their eyes to the harsh truths of immigration.
Like Furlong, junior communication studies major Carolyn Herrera was touched by the moment between the father and his daughter. “Among our group, I don’t think there was a dry eye that witnessed that special reunion. This moment really solidified the fact that immigration reform is not simply political rhetoric, but it is a human rights issue that affects many families. Immigration reform needs to happen,” she said.
Mollie Bruhl, a senior psychology major, also took part in the trip and was equally moved by what happened at the fence. “I will never forget the image of that little girl jumping into her father’s arms and how it brought me to tears. Those tears of anger are the fuel for the fight for immigration reform. It has to happen now. Regardless of one’s political beliefs, there is no arguing with the image of a 5-year-old little girl embracing the father she has never met,” she said.
Herrera said that she learned a lot from this De Colores trip, particularly about immigration policy. “This trip was the first time that I’ve actually seen a physical border between the U.S. and Mexico. Seeing a physical fence was eye-opening,” she said.
Furlong stated that on the March De Colores trip, he was asked by a student if the border door in Friendship Park is ever opened, to which he responded that it is not. Now, that is no longer true. He had a similar reaction to Herrera and Bruhl regarding immigration reform.
“We’ve got people who are vital to our economy, working to put food on the table not only here, but back home for a family they rarely get to see. It’s not a political issue; it’s a human issue and as a Catholic, I’m called to see it as such,” he said.
Students on the De Colores trip seemed grateful to see what happened this past weekend in Friendship Park. Through De Colores, LMU provides students with a unique opportunity to learn.
“[The trip] reaffirmed to me how valuable of a campus ministry program the De Colores program is. That’s not something you get at any university. It’s unique to us and our identity, and it makes me that much more proud of LMU. I can’t wait to see what the students who were on the trip do with the experience,” said Furlong.