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.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Before Arizona

I didn’t know most of this before I came to Arizona.

It is not easy for a migrant to enter the US. They must pass through an incredibly dangerous and hostile environment to get in to the country. This year, to date, 130 people have died crossing the desert in Arizona alone. 5000 have died since 1994. 209 died last year. These numbers reflect only found bodies. These found bodies in turn are believed to comprise only 25 percent of the total number of migrant deaths that occur in the desert each year. Many who die are not found. Therefore, the adjusted number of deaths could mean that 520 people have died in the desert this year and 20,000 people have died since 1994. Most Americans don’t know these numbers. I didn’t. This story is not discussed in the media.

(Migrant belongings left behind in desert)

On a perfect journey through the desert, a migrant would suffer at the very least from dehydration. There is no thing as a perfect journey. All migrants face the risk of being caught by Border Patrol. Many suffer from heat sickness; exploitation at the hands of their coyotes; risk of attack by drug traffickers, human traffickers, or bandits; rape; life-threatening blisters that cover their whole feet; hunger; thirst; fear. All pay inordinate fees to their coyotes, the “mafia,” and other exploiters along the route. And this is all just in the walk through the desert to get in to the US. Most Americans don’t know this story. I didn’t. This journey is not deemed newsworthy.

(Wackenhut bus waiting in desert to deport migrants back to Mexico)

If a migrant successfully enters the US, they have to start a new life from nothing. Among other hardships, they often end up working for less than minimum wage, and that is only if they are lucky enough to find work. They may be exploited by their bosses. Many cannot afford health insurance. They pay taxes and social security, yet they do not benefit from them. If they are abused by their fellows, by their bosses, by the cops, by the border patrol, they often do not seek legal recourse. They are afraid they will be caught by Border Patrol. The result is that crimes go unsolved and unpunished. Justice does not prevail. Fear does. Most Americans don’t know this life. I didn’t. This life does not make headlines.

These numbers, this journey, and this life are real.

Yet they are not the narrative we are presented. They are not the stories we read. I didn’t know them before I came to Arizona. I didn’t know this narrative. Now that I do, it is my duty to tell it.

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