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.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Respecting Dignity

I came to Tucson with only a bit of knowledge of the legal aspects of immigration. Addition to that, the two days our group had a pre-Tucson training helped me to realize that there were many sides to this issue, including guest farm worker rights and DREAM Act.

However, my time in Tucson taught me the realities of the immigration issue, face to face.

Though I have already experienced some discrimination and prejudices earlier in my life, I’ve never seen the connection between white supremacy and privilege and immigration restrictions so clearly during our workshop in our delegation. I did not know anything about Operation Streamline, the fact that people are in shackles when they are being mass tried at 70 people in roughly an hour and thirty minutes. I didn’t know that the detention centers only fed immigrants peanut butter crackers for meals, gave water in buckets while their hands are still in shackles. I’ve heard that they don’t give women on their menstruation to have any sanitary means. And I’ve heard stories of families breaking apart during process of deportation. And of letting someone die on a hospital bed in shackles. These are the realities I came face to face.

I wrote an article once for The Chronicle featuring Archbishop Makhulu. What really struck me was how much he valued a person’s dignity. “Everyone inherently has dignity,” he said. Throughout my time in Tucson, I came to think a lot about dignity. Putting water out in the desert, a simple act such as that, shows that I respect of human life and dignity. Although much of the water, especially nowadays, have been drained by vandalism. However, I do think all the effort, time, and resources are worth giving if it can save even one person’s life.

Yes, many migrants have come here without documents. Yes, it may not be right for citizens to pay for certain fees to the government or healthcare while migrants may not be. However, we should never forget that they are human too, instead of labeling them as “illegals” or “undocumented immigrants.” Many of these migrants have come here because they have no other option but to come here and work to feed their family. To treat them with guns, shackles, and extreme unsanitary conditions are not only offensive to the dignity of these people, but is degrading the value of people who are doing these to them. What I got most out of this experience is that the important issue of immigration is not political, religious, or educational. It’s simply humanitarian. It is a humanitarian issue, as basic but important as giving someone water when they are dying of thirst.

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