Campus / National / News / May 27, 2009

Arizona trip revisited with photo presentation

Students Without Borders presented their pictures, thoughts, and experiences about their spring break trip bringing humanitarian aid to immigrants traveling through Arizona and the Mexican border. Through the organization No More Deaths/No Más Muertes, students saw and experienced firsthand the perils immigrants go through while crossing the Mexican border into the United States.

Students would split up into groups, with a Spanish speaker in each one, and go on different trails. At drop off points, they would place gallons of water and food for immigrants crossing. At the presentation students discussed the causes and myths of immigration. Samir Bakhshi talked about the myth of immigrants taking U.S. jobs—how the U.S. foreign trade policy of the North American Free Trade Agreement back in the Clinton Administration caused Mexican farmers to go out of business. The problem is not as economic as it is political.

Due to how America approaches immigration, fences are implemented, but some are left unfinished. As a way to make up for this, immigrants are forced to hike into the treacherous mountains and many die on the way. As people crossing the border tire, they discard and abandon belongings, such as filled bottles of Gatorade or clothing. The desert heat causes dehydration rapidly and they are not able to carry enough water to sustain themselves.

The terrain is not the only thing immigrants have to fear. Shanna Collins said girls as young as fourteen would take birth control pills because they feared being raped by their coyote after they guided them across. Students witnessed bras hanging over the branches of a tree, which indicated where girls and women were raped.

Featured on the Mexican side of the wall separating the border, is a steel depiction of a border patrol car with skulls filling its space. Immigrants would be deprived of food or water and beat up by border patrol.

Assistant Professor of Computer Science Don Blaheta talked about how militarized the immigration policy has become and how he felt as though he were in a war zone. As they were camped out in the desert, a helicopter flew by to shine a light on them. The U.S.’s approach to immigration is dehumanizing as at the border, in Spanish, immigrants are referred to as “foreigner” but in English, they are called “aliens.”

As students were crossing the Mexican border, guards would use racial profiling, looking over the passengers in vans if they looked Hispanic. Javier Bermudez had trouble at the check point because he was from Spain and spoke Spanish.

Since the border has become harder to cross, people that would have previously crossed alone to make money and then return home now must bring their entire families. The harsh immigration policy has broken up families as Mary Reindl spoke of an undocumented man who worked in the U.S. who married a U.S. citizen and after visiting relatives in Mexico was denied entry into America. He was forced to cross the desert and was never heard of again.

Sheena Leano

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