Am I part of the problem? by Julia Corcoran

23rd March 2016 - by Julia Corcoran

As part of the group that is spending Holy week in El Paso, Julia Corcoran, the ‘Faith in Action volunteer’ reflects on the role each of us play as part of the many different crisis’ around the world.

It is easy to make the refugee crisis about ‘us’ and ‘them’. Whether in the US or in the UK. We’ve all heard statements such as “It is our land” or “It’s our jobs they are taken”. We can easily separate our lives from the lives of those who are trying to leave their country. We can find it easy to disconnect and not see it as our issue. Unless we hear a real life story in front of us.

A constant theme of today for me was the reminder that this is our issue whether we are looking at the US/ Mexico border or the refugee crisis in Europe. There is no ‘us’ and ‘them’, we are all connected.

This morning we went to immigration court. I was struck by how efficient the court was. Each case was brought forward to the judge and then the judge asked a few questions and a decision was made. None of the 10 or so cases we saw today involved anyone being removed (deported) but at the same time our hour or so in court left me feeling emotionally drained. My degree and Masters is in law and so I knew what to expect but still I was shocked by how the cases were decided. One of the attorneys on the phone was asked about the papers he had submitted and he admited to not having the file in front of him. The judge seemed like an understanding but very busy judge. He even allowed us time to ask questions once all the cases had been seen. Today he will have seen 50 cases and with that, he and the others involved must have to remove themself from getting too involved in each cases otherwise they too will be left emotional drained as I was.

the group outside the immigration court

This afternoon we had two talks, both having similar themes. Both reminding us that the refugee crisis is not separate from us. The first was by Ruben Garcia at the Annunciation House. (Here is a talk I found on of his youtube He talked to us for nearly two hours and discussed a variety of things including how the issues in Mexico are due to the issues of consumption in the US. He shared with us stories of people he’s met and why they’ve tried to migrate. Each of the stories involving violence. After his talk each of us felt challenged by his words and were left feeling uncomfortable especially when he reminded us that there is a connection between the way we act and the way the rest of the world is treated. If we only pay a small amount of money for our clothes we have to think why and remember that somebody is suffering because of it and struggling to survive with the small amount of money they have. This lack of money leaves a gap in the market. He also reminded us that as Christians we have to remember our responsibility to work with the poor and that does not just mean giving money in aid.

Our second talk of today was given by Fr Bill, a Columban priest here on the border. He reminded us of the importance of not consuming too much whether that’s electricity, water, food, internet or anything else that is either going to harm the environment or the poor. We have to remember others when we become consumers. An issue many of us struggle to remember. He discussed with us alternatives and one of the things I have been most impressed with here is the sustainability of the Columban house here on the border. Any spare water is saved and used for watering plants or filling up the drinking water machine. Food is recycled and there is solar panels that have more power than is used in the house.

Also today we had an opporunity to go see the whole city of El Paso and over the border into Juarez. It was a fantastic opportunity to be able to see everything.

This evening we were joined in the house by the El Paso young adult ministry group (YAM). They led us in prayer, reflection and provided dinner. We ended the night with some fun games and it was a real opportunity to learn a bit more about life in El Paso as well as a chance to share with others of our faith.

Today has been a day of deep reflection that has made me think about my responsibilites and the actions I take in my every day life. The title of this blog is ‘Am I part of the problem?’ And after today I’m sure that unintentionally the answer is yes but I hope that when I head back I can start to act towards creating a solution, even if that’s just changing the way I act.