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Theme 3: Self-Reflection/Recognition of Social Location

In the class reflections, nine of the students indicated that they were aware of their social location; that is, they reflected in ways that acknowledged their citizenship status, their religion, or their privilege. For example, one student noted, “Although I am safe from this ..., I fear heavily for those who are not safe from it.” Another student remarked, “As being a privileged documented citizen sometimes you don’t understand the things undocumented people go through.” After attending the interfaith prayer vigil, a student wrote, “The prayer vigil opened my eyes to how other religions besides Catholicism have an impact on Latinos.” Participating in an interfaith vigil opened the student’s eyes to other faith traditions and revealed their own limited exposure.

Theme 4: Call to Action

In what we have categorized as “Call to Action,” 12 students expressed their desire to do something and sometimes talked about specific changes they would make. A student with an interest in law said, “I can now say that I am taking action to help more than I was before. I hope to be doing justice to my community in 15 years.” Another shared, “Now I am much more in-tune with the real-world effects of the problematic system of immigration in our country, and I feel compelled to take part in efforts to show support, speak out, and hope for changes in the system.” Another described the importance of being personally involved: “If I want to make a difference in society, then I need to physically go to the source of the issue and work from there, not stand back and wait for someone else to do it for me.” In light of statements like these, we recognize that saying that one wants to do something is not the same thing as doing it. We also recognize that educators and institutions of higher education have an important role to play in cultivating, nurturing, and supporting these expressed desires to act.

Theme 5: Connection to Politics

Finally, four of the students connected the immersion experiences to the current political situation. After attending Courtwatch, one student wrote, “This opened my eyes that the rich have a bigger advantage than the working class when it comes to the justice system.” Another said, “I got a glimpse into the realities of our current immigration system and how a perpetual cycle of keeping the detainees behind bars remains prevalent in the United States.” Significantly, the students attended Courtwatch soon after Donald Trump won the electoral college vote for president. As one student commented, “When attending the court proceedings, I felt a sense of sadness. I think that attending the court the day after Donald became president was quite possibly the worst time to go, but nonetheless I found the courage to attend.” In another especially prescient reflection, a student wrote:

In light of the recent (and tragic) presidential election, I have been thinking even more about the scary reality of Latinx immigration and undocumented immigrants living in the United States. It is hard to stay optimistic that there will be any sort of progress in ethical and progressive immigration reform policies. Nor do I have much faith in the government that undocumented immigrants and their families will be protected under this new Trump regime. Not only are undocumented immigrants and their families forced to deal with racism and violence at the hands of our new “president,” but they also have to deal with the more visible and normalized violence at the hands of Trump supporters. There is no doubt in my mind that the next four years and years after will be tainted by racial violence. As of right now, I live each day with a heavy heart filled with uncertainty in the United States.

The participation in Courtwatch and the writing prompt were jumping off points for this student to reflect on and share larger concerns about the national tenor and direction of the country and express their own struggle.

Considered together, our thematic findings suggest that half-day immersion experiences, coupled with students’ written reflections, enhanced student learning. Using Clingerman and Locklin’s (2016) CLEA model as a guidepost, this coupling offered the students multiple entry points for learning. We arc encouraged that these short field exposures led to student responses that indicate growth and that they can be mapped onto the four areas of the model. Not only did students grow in terms of intellectual complexity (C), but they also became more aware of their own frame of reference and social location (L), they were more likely to become empa-thetically accountable (E), and they often expressed a desire to engage in some form of motivated action (A).

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