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.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Hearing the Narrative (Ignorance, Part II)

They call it "blind" ignorance sometimes.

For a while this summer, my ignorance blinded me, made me forgetful of the fact that immigration laws should not be about fear and hiding in the shadows, but about having the courage to ensure that those who harm others are brought to justice, no matter the consequences.

A few weeks ago, a man "with papers" attacked one without. The result was physical and psychological harm, not to mention fear. I tried to give what advice I could, consulting people with more knowledge than I, and came to the conclusion that testifying was out of the question. Better to stay hidden.

"He [the attacker] will be released, though," I was told urgently. My mind wasn't changed.

They say ignorance is blind, but I've got news for you: it can be deaf, too.

In a recent, fluffy speech on immigration and SB 1070, President Obama reasoned that, "Among other things, [1070] puts pressure on police officers to enforce rules that are "unenforceable" while making communities less safe -- in part, by making people more reluctant to report crimes.

If only he knew. If only he'd lend us an ear.

Ultimately, my and the lawyers' advice were not followed, and I'm glad of it. It was discovered that the police–though sometimes easily painted as the persecutors and those empowered by 1070–wanted justice to be done, too.

After all, what kind of society would we have if a few pieces of paper could keep a good, hardworking person in fear for himself and his family, and at the same time keep a violent one on the streets?

That's the kind of society that already lives and breathes in Arizona and many other parts of country. If only Obama could see that. I'm fortunate to have learned that in my time here.

In many ways, papers give you a voice in this country and you're totally disempowered without them. If you're mistreated, denied wages, denied water and basic human rights, very few bother to listen.

That's a shame for countless reasons, but one is that what nearly all the people I've worked with at the Day Labor Center--no matter their status--have to say is so crucial to the immigration debate, not to mention damn interesting. Their voices are the ones so often missing. The result of our own policies, by the way. In the way that the deaths of the less fortunate migrants are on our hands, and the abuses that continue to go unheeded fall to us to resolve, though resolve them we won't.

All because we don't want to hear, or just don't know what to listen for.

Before coming to Arizona, I never thought I could have felt so strongly about amnesty. But if there is no pathway to citizenship for those 11 million+ living in silence, their opinions and voices go on muted. The wrongs, real crimes that certainly trump an offense that is nothing more or less than trespassing, will continue.

And the narrative, though it's being spoken, whispered in every corner of our country, goes unheard.

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