About DukeEngage Tucson 2010

Immigration is perhaps the single largest domestic challenge facing both the United States and Mexico today. People die nearly every week attempting to cross the border. Hostilities against immigrants in the U.S. rise daily. Local, state, and international relations are increasingly strained.

For eight weeks this summer, seven students have been given the opportunity to travel to Tucson, Arizona and Nogales, Mexico to study the many faces of immigration. Following two weeks of meetings with local activists, a Border Patrol agent, a federal public defender, lawyers, members of the Tohono O’odham Nation, maquiladora owners, Grupos Beta employees, migrants, and local farmers, we will spend six weeks partnered with Southside Day Labor Camp, BorderLinks, or Humane Borders in order to further immerse ourselves in the issues of immigration.

This blog chronicles our experiences and our perspectives on what we learn while here in Arizona. We hope our stories are interesting and informative.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Did I Learn?

I have spent the last eight weeks in Tucson, Arizona and Nogales, Mexico. At the beginning of these eight weeks, I challenged myself with this goal:

“So, why am I here? I am here to learn. To learn in order to better understand. To learn in order to be able to make informed decisions regarding immigration. To learn in order to be better able to serve. But especially, to learn in order to be qualified to educate for change.”—blog post To Learn June 6, 2010

I did learn.

I learned during the first two weeks we spent on the border participating in an educational delegation, the first week of which we spent in Tucson, Arizona where we met with activists in the community, served breakfast at a local church, met with a Border Patrol agent and a public defender, and watched a Streamline trial. The second week of the delegation, we spent in Nogales, Mexico where we visited a maquiladora; held a camp for neighborhood children; visited Altar, Mexico, a common migrant stop before entering the US; and lived in homestays.

I learned during the next six weeks we spent in Tucson, Arizona working at our nonprofit placements. I worked at a Southside Day Labor Center in South Tucson. The Center is a place where people can come and negotiate employment. Every morning at 6:30, laborers participate in a raffle which determines the order in which they will get work. First raffle ticket, first job. They then spend the rest of the morning waiting for bosses to come by and pick them up.

During our six weeks at the Center, the two other volunteers and I did what we could to best fill these waiting hours. We first talked to the laborers and tried to determine how we could best serve them. We did one-on-one English tutoring, watched the World Cup, held computer classes, talked with the laborers, gave a health presentation, helped make Center IDs, helped with leadership and community development activities, made an orientation video for new laborers, put together an orientation packet for new volunteers, and gave a presentation to the congregation of the church that houses the Day Labor Center in the hopes of recruiting volunteers to fill our shoes once we left Tucson.

And I learned during out last two days of delegation at the end of our stay in Arizona. We spent these two days planning how we would take what we had learned in Arizona home, attending the SB1070 hearings in Phoenix, and visiting the Florence Project, a nonprofit organization that provides legal services to men, women, and children being held in detention for “immigration removal proceedings.”

I learned more in these past eight weeks than I ever thought I would. But I also know that there is still more to learn, that a lifetime on the border wouldn’t be enough. In my blog posts, I have recorded what I could of these last eight weeks. When I return to Duke, I hope to take what I have learned and to work with my peers to pass this knowledge on to others. I also know that it remains my responsibility to keep on learning.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

El Final?

When I tell people about my project in Arizona, the first questions I'll probably be met with will have to do with SB 1070. "Oh, you were on the ground when all the protests were going on?" or "You're happy about that injunction, right?" or even "Wait, Duke put together a DukeEngage program for 1070 so quickly?"

That's where the interest will stem from. And that's completely understandable.

But as I look back on my two months on the Arizona-Sonora border, I'll know that that's not all there was to it. SB 1070 rallied America's attention, yes, polarized groups on the immigration and documentation issue. It got people talking. In a twisted way, I and many people are grateful for that at least. This is an issue that needs discussion, but it shouldn't stop at the scrutiny of one poorly-written bill. It should even extend beyond Tom Horne's ban of ethnic studies and the proposals to deny people, born in Arizona, U.S. citizenship. The issue is huge, complicated, and 1070 is already in effect in some ways, as Arizonans could tell you.

The 1070 fight hit home pretty hard at my own internship, which I was sad to leave behind. Working at the Southside Day Labor Center was a struggle, but a healthy one. Most days, I had no idea was success looked like, was hard put to see hope when day after day the men went without work and money for their children. But I hope we made an impact in some ways, with our English tutoring, our computer classes, the advertising, health workshop, and every other way we tried to fill in the cracks of the laborers' needs.

Sustainability, though, was our primary goal as we worked through the summer. We tried to engage the church congregation–which seemed disconnected from the day labor program—hoping members could carry the torch when we left. That, we thought, would be the true test of solidarity.

It was the fateful date, July 29, which showed us the fruits of our labors. We weren't there to witness it, but the church pastor and the Tucson Sentinel (http://www.tucsonsentinel.com/local/report/072910_anti1070allnighter) alike reported what we'd unknowingly hoped for. Instead of watching the activities on the news or waiting for much-needed work, the Southside laborers, along with 60 church members marched to downtown Tucson to protest 1070 last Thursday.

Now I look forward to how I, how we, can bring all the experiences back to Duke. As I consider it, think of revamping a campus group, bringing speakers, teaching a course, I keep the image of the protesting laborers in my mind--as well as the pastor's quote: "Todos somos jornaleros" (We are all laborers).

Friday, July 30, 2010

Part 4: Images of the Wall

The collage above depicts several views of the border wall dividing Nogales, Mexico from Nogales, Arizona. All pictures are from the Mexico side as the US will not allow art on the US side of the wall.

Part 3: Law and the Border Wall

In 2005, the Real ID Act was passed by Congress. Section 102 of this act gave the US Department of Homeland Security the authority to “to waive all local, state and federal laws that the secretary deems an impediment to building walls and roads along U.S. borders.” The result is that thirty-six laws have been waived since 2005 in the construction of the border wall. They are listed below:

• National Environmental Policy Act
• Endangered Species Act
• Clean Water Act
• National Historic Preservation Act
• Migratory Bird Treaty Act
• Clean Air Act
• Archaeological Resources Protection Act
• Safe Drinking Water Act
• Noise Control Act
• Solid Waste Disposal Act
• Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act
• Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act
• Antiquities Act
• Historic Sites, Buildings, and Antiquities Act
• Wild and Scenic Rivers Act
• Farmland Protection Policy Act
• Coastal Zone Management Act
• Wilderness Act
• Federal Land Policy and Management Act
• National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act
• Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956
• Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act
• Administrative Procedure Act
• Otay Mountain Wilderness Act of 1999
• California Desert Protection Act
• National Park Service Organic Act
• National Park Service General Authorities Act
• National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978
• Arizona Desert Wilderness Act
• Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899
• Eagle Protection Act
• Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act
• American Indian Religious Freedom Act
• Religious Freedom Restoration Act
• National Forest Management Act of 1976
• Multiple Use and Sustained Yield Act of 1960

The Real ID Act has set a dangerous precedent. What other laws will be waived in the future? Will we know they are being waived?

Sources: The Sierra Club, http://www.sierraclub.org/borderlands/realID.aspx

"No one deserves to die in the desert for lack of a glass of water"

(Gallon jug left along migrant routes in the Arizona desert, photo taken by Sarah)

It is virtually impossible for a migrant to carry enough water to make it through the desert from Mexico to Tucson without becoming severely dehydrated. Humanitarian groups such as No More Deaths and Samaritans put out gallons of water such as the one above along well known migrant trails in the hopes of reducing the number of deaths that occur in the desert due to dehydration and other heat related illnesses.

In July alone, 57 bodies have been brought in to the Pima County morgue. The majority had died within the previous week. The morgue is so overrun with bodies that some have to be stored in cooler trucks outside. Many of these bodies have been rendered unidentifiable by exposure. Others lack any identifying documents or characteristics. The New York Times released a recent article on this topic: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/29/us/29border.html?scp=1&sq=immigration%20deaths&st=cse.

Though the number of people crossing the desert has decreased this summer due to increased border enforcement, high summer temperatures, and a poor US economy, the number of deaths has increased. This is because the border wall and increased border militarization is forcing migrants in to more hostile and dangerous territory where they are forced to walk for days through the desert in order to enter the US. Those who cannot make it--whether they are injured or otherwise physically unable to walk--are left behind. The result is that more people are dying because they are unprepared for the harsh conditions of the desert.

(Humane Borders truck with water barrels, photo taken by Sarah)

Humane Borders, another humanitarian group that maintains water stations throughout the Arizona desert (see image above), has compiled a map indicating the location of migrant deaths throughout the desert. The map can be found here: http://www.humaneborders.org/news/documents/cumulativemap20002007.pdf. As can be seen on the map, a majority of the deaths occurring in the desert happen in a specific valley called the Baboquivari Valley on the Tohono O'odham Nation. This high death rate may be due to the fact that Nation leaders will not allow humanitarian groups to leave water along this valley.

When you look at the death statistics, whether or not migrants should be entering the United States becomes irrelevant. What matters is that people are dying and that they are often dying because they need a drink of water.

(Socks left by migrant along trail in Arizona desert, photo taken by Sarah)

Part 2: The Environmental Impact of the Border Wall

(Picture of Border Wall from Nogales, Mexico side)

They are trashing the desert. They are polluting the environment. They are damaging vegetation. They are disturbing wildlife. These arguments are used by some to argue for a closed border. The migration through the deserts of Arizona is damaging the environment and therefore needs to stop. The migrants and their journeys are to blame for the environmental destruction scarring the Arizona desert.

According to the Sierra Club, though, it is not the migrants who are causing real and long lasting damage to the many and priceless ecosystems of the border region. It is the border wall that is doing so. The trash can always be picked up. The trails can be repaired. The vegetation can grow back. But animals that go extinct will not come back. Cities that are buried under meters of water won’t ever be the same.

(Arizona Desert Landscape)

Research conducted by professors at the University of Arizona and the University of California, Berkeley with the help of the Defenders of Wildlife and the US Fish and Wildlife Service have found that natural movement of the pygmy owl and the bighorn sheep is affected by the border wall. The result is that natural migration of animals is stymied and gene flow is impeded, thus decreasing the diversity of the border region and changing natural wildlife patterns. Images and videos of javelinas and deer stopped at the wall show that owls and sheep are not the only animals affected by the wall. The wall is changing the natural environment of ecologically sensitive and unique areas, such as the Cabeza Prieta Wilderness Refuge, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the Barry M. Goldwater Range, Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, and the Sonoran Desert, among others.

Migrants will enter the US regardless of the size of the walls built. As I said in my earlier post, the wall slows migrants down by only 5 minutes. Instead of keeping migrants out, the border wall is instead pushing migrants in to more ecologically sensitive areas, such as mountain ranges and National Wildlife areas. The Border Patrol in turn builds roads to pursue these migrants, roads that cause even greater damage to the environment. Without the border wall, the damage caused by migrants would be limited to trash collection and trail use, both easily repaired.

(Trash left by migrants along trails in the Arizona desert)