Guest Column: Build a culture, not a wall

Tess Riecke, Photography Editor

For the fourth year, I am traveling to Mexico to help build a house for people living in Puerto Peñasco. Every year I learn something different that influences my world view. It may seem obvious that I learn how to love people who are different than I am and have learned that not everyone lives the same way I do.

You would be surprised by how many people I meet who have never had the experience to learn these important life lessons. You don’t have to leave the country—sometimes just opening your mind and heart to those around you can facilitate these lessons.

Something that always sticks out in my mind is how much people change when they travel outside of where they grew up. I’ve always been very supportive of having the doors to the U.S. open, and letting all those who wish to better their lives through education or job opportunities have the option to.

I have seen firsthand what people from Mexico are leaving behind. Puerto Peñasco is relatively close to the border, about two hours, and it’s easy to see why thousands of people brave the desert to get into the U.S.

Plenty of Americans are in poverty and desperately need help, but most still have some basic needs that can be met—shelters, halfway houses, food banks, etc. In Mexico, there are very few resources available to those in poverty. The neighborhood we work in didn’t have any water or electricity during the first couple of years I went.

This is why I have a hard time accepting why anyone could truly want to deny access to this great country to those who really need it. Now, this opens up the argument for the legality of people coming. Currently, it’s easier to get student and work visas for people from Asian countries than it is for those from Latin America. It needs to be fair across the board. Everyone deserves the chance to come here legally if they choose.

My grandfather is from South Dakota and has lived most of his adult life in Nebraska. He and my grandmother moved to Arizona to retire, and I was shocked by how much he changed. Before, he wasn’t especially outspoken about illegal immigration, but I know he took the stance of most conservative Nebraskans—keep them out.

As he explained it to me, he had one conversation with someone who immigrated illegally and crossed the desert to get into the U.S., and that changed my grandpa’s entire outlook on it. Now, he and my grandma donate money to an organization called No More Deaths that drops food and water across the Sonoran Desert in hopes to reduce the number of deaths from those trying to cross.

There is a lot you can learn about the world around you. Sometimes it takes getting out of your comfort zone. Sometimes, it’s a simple conversation. But don’t pass judgements on a culture or an idea that you only know one side of.