Immersion trips connect USD to the border


Mexicans leaving their home country to come to America do so for a myriad of reasons. Reasons range from reuniting with family, avoiding cartels, gangs and violence, or for employment opportunities.

Crossing the border illegally is not an easy or safe feat by any means. The University of San Diego is approximately 23 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, which is about a 28 minute drive without traffic. Most San Diegans realize the close proximity but never drive down to understand what the border represents to both the United States and Mexico.

Jill Grant and Antonio Irastorza are border immersion leaders that work alongside The Mulvaney Center for Community Awareness and Social Action (CASA). Grant and Irastorza have been leading these immersion trips as a way for USD students to better understand Mexican influence and presence within the San Diego community. Both students take great pride in leading USD students on these types of trips.

Grant, a senior at USD, has been leading trips since September of last year. Her interest in this type of service was sparked by her photography project about the U.S.-Mexico border. Grant’s project explored what it means to live so close to the border and the effects it has on those in close proximity to it. Her respect for the border and the communities surrounding it encouraged her to share that type of fascination with fellow USD students.

After leading countless trips to the border, Grant said there is always something that keeps her coming back to continue her service.

“The reactions and initial silence in the car rides after leaving the border site really shows how much it affects them,” Grant said. “Then, someone always breaks the silence with an observation or something that really resonated within them, and it thrills me to know that the trip got through to them.”

Similar to Grant, Irastorza agrees that the best part of the experience is watching the students’ reactions.

“[The most rewarding aspect is] seeing when it all clicks and the theme gets through to the students,” Irastorza said.

Irastorza has been a part of this type of service since high school. Originally from Nogales Sonora, Mexico, he moved to the states as a child and decided to give back to the migrant community as he grew up. He continues his service in college here at USD, immediately joining CASA and leading trips his freshman year.

Irastorza leads trips to the border to both San Diego and Tijuana. He said that he is passionate about issues that stem from his frequent visits.

“Border immigration and the issues that follow it have always been important to me,” Irastorza said.

During his time at USD, Irastorza hopes to continue working with migrants and spreading awareness of immigrant issues.

Because of USD’s location, students have the opportunity to explore and to understand the border and what it represents within our community. Although it is usually associated with issues of illegal immigrants, drug cartels and other forms of unlawful activity, the border is not something to be feared or avoided.

The reputation of the border, and the taboo topics that go along with it, may be off-putting qualities, but it also holds rich history of San Diego for the USD community.