By: Roxane Ramos
Traversing thousands of miles to make their way to family members and economic opportunities in the U.S., migrants stay in makeshift shelters and leave behind signs of the journey’s harsh realities.
The road to a better life is full of hopes, dreams, and essential resourcefulness. Near the U.S.–Mexico border, deserted buildings, ramshackle lean-tos and shaded areas provide shelter for migrants making the crossing. These structures are inadequate at best, but the migrants gravitate toward the protection they offer and the opportunity to rest and share stories, until they have a place they can once again call home. Often sleeping during the day and moving at night, these travelers have left everything behind, and to make their journey as unencumbered as possible, discard any items that are worn, battered, or no longer serviceable. These possessions become artifacts, marking the route of the migrants and the places they’ve stayed.
In April, Ryan Demo traveled to the border for a 5-day KBI immersion trip with his teachers, Joe Cussen and Chris Cozort, and seven classmates from Bellarmine College Preparatory, a Jesuit high school in San Jose, California. Then a senior, he documented their experience in photos, a selection of which we include here. The students had a chance to engage the border first-hand, touring the city of Nogales, Sonora, meeting deported migrants at the KBI comedor, and helping to serve meals there. The walk in the desert was particularly eye-opening, as it is for so many immersion visitors. “Hiking along the border was a bit surreal for me,” Ryan remembers. “Seeing all the abandoned shelters and personal items while trying to fathom how much strength it takes to not only endure that brutal desert crossing, but also to leave one’s entire life behind in hopes of a better one, really showed me the human side of the immigration issue.”
Both his transformative KBI immersion experience and his service-oriented education at Bellarmine have influenced Ryan deeply. As a freshman majoring in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, he is also a member of the campus chapter of Engineers Without Borders, a group committed to working with local partners to design and implement engineering solutions in developing parts of the world. Thanks to Ryan for the generous permission to use his photos.