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

Walls Change the Game

I have spent the past eleven summers surrounded by hundred year old pines, basking in 90% humidity, and chasing mosquitoes away from my ankles. So were the summers of my childhood spent in Camp Juliette Low, a camp for the woodsy sort in northwest Georgia. We would often attempt to make the hot Georgia nights a little more interesting by taking to the playing field for intense competitions of capture the flag. We would don a hodgepodge of camouflage clothing and war paint, in the end looking more like a misfit army than cohesive team. We’d gather in a pregame huddle and come up with intimidating chants asserting our superior flag-capturing and opponent-tagging abilities.

We would consult our generals, usually counselors who were the ripe old age of 18, on the best strategies and war tactics to render the other team helpless and establish us victorious. We marched onto the field, crunched up noses, snarled expressions, the look of destruction in our eyes. We constructed a human barrier of counselors – the symbolic fence between our territory and theirs. We strategically hid the flag, positioned guards, established chasers. As you can see, it was a pretty sophisticated operation for a group of twenty 13 year old girls.

The whistle blew and we would all be a little too scared to make the first move. Eventually the younger of the teams would make an advance, sending only the stealthiest infantry troops into enemy territory. But the older girls were quick and knew the drill (for we had once been that age), and would retaliate with a sophisticated defense strategy. You see, we would build a human chain. We would line girls up shoulder to shoulder along enemy boundaries, clasping hands and ensuring no one could steal the flag or stir up a jail break. But inevitably the game would come to a grinding halt. All tagging, jail breaking, and flag stealing would come to an end.

The younger girls would flood the line attempting to find holes, inconsistency in our plan, the weak link. We would stand shoulder to shoulder glaring down at the younger girls, staring blankly and becoming increasingly bored. You see, these human chains, or invisible walls, defeated the purpose of our game. This was supposed to be warfare, retribution, fun. However, constructing a fence erased everything exhilarating from the nature of the game. You see, every member of the team was so fixated on forming the chain and such a strong defensive strategy had left us no infantry of our own to attack and capture the opponent’s flag. Thankfully the human chain kept the younger girls out of our half of the field, but they also kept us in.

Las week I found myself comparing much of my summer in Arizona to these very same games I used to play in the Georgia woods. Granted, Arizona has far fewer trees, not as many mosquitoes, and about 0% humidity, but it does have walls. I’ve heard stories from liberals, conservatives (thank you, Granny), and moderates. I’ve heard them from adults, children, Christians and Jews. I’ve heard them from socialists and capitalists, environmentalists and industrialists. And the one thing I keep coming back to is that walls defeat the purpose of the game. We are keeping undocumented immigrants out, yes, but we are also keeping ourselves in. We are inhibiting the free flow of labor, of resources, of art, of culture, of music, and of life. We are inhibiting fun.

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