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
The case of migration is no different. There are very few stories in the media that go beyond the basics of the issue. I mostly see stories about SB 1070 or people arguing with each other over immigration. However, there is a lack of information on what the immigrants must do to cross Arizona and what their lives are like when they are here. This is not to say that 1070 is not important, but rather that focusing on it to such an extent leaves huge gaps in the migrant story. I also find it interesting that the biggest controversy over 1070 seems to be that it will lead to increased racial profiling. While I think this is a significant problem with the bill, I see many other issues with it. By just pointing out the aspect of racial profiling, people seem to be suggesting that it is okay to harass undocumented workers currently in the U.S., just as long as you can separate them from legal citizens. I would like to see more people upset over the way the bill pressures the police to make more deportations and increases the fear that migrants have of the police.
The overall story of the migrant that this news depicts is not overly sympathetic. I have seen many reports about jobs being ‘taken’ by migrants, although I have seen comparatively fewer stories detailing the terrible working conditions that these people must endure. Few people think about what the farmers are going through to grow their crops. The migrants that work as farmers are typically paid very low wages for long hours of doing extremely difficult work under abusive bosses. I think a greater appreciation of the migrant’s situation once they come to the US would be part of a more balanced presentation. These people are not coming to the US and taking easy jobs. Rather, they are extremely hardworking and dedicated. Often they send every extra bit they make to their families.
I also notice that the news media blows every act of violence along the border out of proportion. For instance, in the case of the Arizona rancher that was recently killed the media made it a breaking news story. Though, there seems to be no rationale for considering this event as much more significant than other murders that occur every day in the United States. Given that the media highlights such cases, people get the impression that many of the migrants are violent criminals or drug smugglers. This impression is reinforced by anti-immigrant politicians, who exaggerate the number of migrants involved in illicit activities. For instance, Jan Brewer recently claimed that the majority of the illegal trespassers that are coming into the state of Arizona are under the direction and control of organized drug cartels and they are bringing drugs in. There are also many claims that migrants are causing crime to increase greatly. However, the vast majority just want a better life for themselves. Nearly all the migrants I have spoken to have been kind and respectful. Crime has in fact been decreasing as the immigrant population goes up and contrary to what Ms. Brewer asserts, the majority of migrants are not drug smugglers.
There is also a dearth of information on how the judicial process works for undocumented immigrants. Specifically, the media makes little effort to explain what deportation actually entails. Most people, including myself before this trip, have never even heard of Operation Streamline. They do not realize that some migrants may serve time in jail before being deported. During their time in jail the migrants are just provided packages of crackers rather than real meals. People are also ignorant of the fact that many migrants are separated from their family that they have been traveling with and are bused to cities in Mexico that are usually very far from where their hometown is located. To add to their difficulties, the migrants have little or no money on them when they are deported and no help is provided to them. I get the sense that the portrayal of the deportation process is one in which the migrants are escorted back to their home country in a respectful manner. However, I think this assessment to miss out on a lot of the details.
My conclusion is that the media presents a very superficial analysis of the migrant story. It is not necessarily meant to serve an anti-migrant agenda, but the media is unconcerned with getting all the details (as is the case for most subjects). It is important that people seek out more information so that when they are considering immigration as a policy issue, they know the true story of what is going on.