As college students, we take great pride in the new experiences that offer themselves up all around us. If you’re like me, you might have lived your entire pre-college life in a small county in rural Oregon, then suddenly found yourself at a charmingly vibrant school in a place you grew to love. Or maybe you’re not like me, which is just as wonderful.
Yet one thing I think we all are guilty of from time to time, especially as we grow out of our freshmen phase, is forgetting to keep actively expanding our horizons.
You might settle into a major with the same set of classmates, or build up interests at a job you’ve had for years. These aren’t necessarily bad things, and in fact this is how you build lifelong connections.
Nonetheless, it also makes it easy to establish a bubble of familiarity, outside which we don’t wander for too long. We miss out on a lot this way.
I walked into Caffe Montecassino aweekagosoIcouldgrababitetoeat and study for class. As I came in, I had an eye-opening discussion with owner Karen Mossbarger.
She told me about long time Forest Grove resident Paulino Ruiz, who was scheduled to be deported that very day. As of this writing, my understanding is that at least a temporary delay was afforded him, thanks to a letter writing campaign to Forest Grove Police Chief Janie Schutz urging the granting of a U-Visa.
Ruiz, who became a legal resident of America at age three, served and completed a sentence for robbery. When he was released, he was placed in the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash. and deportation proceedings began.
While there, Ruiz began a hunger strike to protest poor conditions at the prison, in which was soon joined by more than 700 others. For his work, Ruiz received the City of Seattle Human Rights Award in 2014, and has been featured in The Nation magazine.
It wasn’t so much that I didn’t know about cases like this on paper. After all, I consider myself to be a relatively informed citizen, and if I have not completely immersed myself in immigration policy, I know enough to understand the basics of the situation.
Yet putting a name to or seeing a picture of someone who is affected by these policies somehow made the situation seem more tangibly real to me. Here is somebody who clearly matters to those in the community who know him, enough that a letter writing campaign to the chief of police was started.
Maybe that’s one of the sadder parts of human nature, that we don’t always react to suffering until it is happening to someone right in front of us.
It is important that we are aware of issues like this, and stepping out of our boundaries and routines is an effective way to begin learning about them. If I hadn’t walked into that coffeshop, I might never have heard this story.
These opportunities to engage with communities, both old and newfound, are crucial experiences in our growth as human beings. By stepping out of our comfort zones and learning about how other people live, we gain an important part of our humanity.