California State University, Fullerton

Crime and Justice
in the

Twelve Cal State Fullerton students spend five days along the vast stretch of land where California and Mexico meet, deconstructing the challenges surrounding immigration.

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Lily Jimenez tried to go shopping when she came back from the borderlands — a five-day trip to the Imperial Valley and San Diego, where the U.S. and Mexico meet. But on the first day she returned, Lily couldn’t quite jump back into the normalcy of life.

“There were so many people walking around, not aware of the situation at the border,” she says. “I just wanted to stop them and tell them, you don’t know. You have no idea.

Jimenez was one of 12 Cal State Fullerton juniors and seniors chosen to participate in Robert Castro’s “Crime and Justice at the U.S.-Mexico Border,” a winter session course that explores how justice is rendered at the borderlands and that lets students explore the challenges facing immigrants, law enforcement and the legal system as they intersect on the matters of the border and immigration.

In this course, Castro, professor of criminal justice at Cal State Fullerton, combines classroom teaching and online assignments with an immersive study-away experience that gives students a front-row seat to the operational realities and impact that national policies have on communities on both sides of the border — a concept Mitra Ebadolahi, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Border Litigation Project, explained was “a difficult, artificial construction that has serious consequences.”

At the start of the weeklong trip, Castro tells students, “It’s my responsibility as your professor to show you different perspectives of what is a complicated, organic and oftentimes unforgiving set of issues.”

At the end of the journey, Jimenez shares,

“This trip has changed my life.”

*Some names have been omitted.