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.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Did I Learn?

I have spent the last eight weeks in Tucson, Arizona and Nogales, Mexico. At the beginning of these eight weeks, I challenged myself with this goal:

“So, why am I here? I am here to learn. To learn in order to better understand. To learn in order to be able to make informed decisions regarding immigration. To learn in order to be better able to serve. But especially, to learn in order to be qualified to educate for change.”—blog post To Learn June 6, 2010

I did learn.

I learned during the first two weeks we spent on the border participating in an educational delegation, the first week of which we spent in Tucson, Arizona where we met with activists in the community, served breakfast at a local church, met with a Border Patrol agent and a public defender, and watched a Streamline trial. The second week of the delegation, we spent in Nogales, Mexico where we visited a maquiladora; held a camp for neighborhood children; visited Altar, Mexico, a common migrant stop before entering the US; and lived in homestays.

I learned during the next six weeks we spent in Tucson, Arizona working at our nonprofit placements. I worked at a Southside Day Labor Center in South Tucson. The Center is a place where people can come and negotiate employment. Every morning at 6:30, laborers participate in a raffle which determines the order in which they will get work. First raffle ticket, first job. They then spend the rest of the morning waiting for bosses to come by and pick them up.

During our six weeks at the Center, the two other volunteers and I did what we could to best fill these waiting hours. We first talked to the laborers and tried to determine how we could best serve them. We did one-on-one English tutoring, watched the World Cup, held computer classes, talked with the laborers, gave a health presentation, helped make Center IDs, helped with leadership and community development activities, made an orientation video for new laborers, put together an orientation packet for new volunteers, and gave a presentation to the congregation of the church that houses the Day Labor Center in the hopes of recruiting volunteers to fill our shoes once we left Tucson.

And I learned during out last two days of delegation at the end of our stay in Arizona. We spent these two days planning how we would take what we had learned in Arizona home, attending the SB1070 hearings in Phoenix, and visiting the Florence Project, a nonprofit organization that provides legal services to men, women, and children being held in detention for “immigration removal proceedings.”

I learned more in these past eight weeks than I ever thought I would. But I also know that there is still more to learn, that a lifetime on the border wouldn’t be enough. In my blog posts, I have recorded what I could of these last eight weeks. When I return to Duke, I hope to take what I have learned and to work with my peers to pass this knowledge on to others. I also know that it remains my responsibility to keep on learning.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

El Final?

When I tell people about my project in Arizona, the first questions I'll probably be met with will have to do with SB 1070. "Oh, you were on the ground when all the protests were going on?" or "You're happy about that injunction, right?" or even "Wait, Duke put together a DukeEngage program for 1070 so quickly?"

That's where the interest will stem from. And that's completely understandable.

But as I look back on my two months on the Arizona-Sonora border, I'll know that that's not all there was to it. SB 1070 rallied America's attention, yes, polarized groups on the immigration and documentation issue. It got people talking. In a twisted way, I and many people are grateful for that at least. This is an issue that needs discussion, but it shouldn't stop at the scrutiny of one poorly-written bill. It should even extend beyond Tom Horne's ban of ethnic studies and the proposals to deny people, born in Arizona, U.S. citizenship. The issue is huge, complicated, and 1070 is already in effect in some ways, as Arizonans could tell you.

The 1070 fight hit home pretty hard at my own internship, which I was sad to leave behind. Working at the Southside Day Labor Center was a struggle, but a healthy one. Most days, I had no idea was success looked like, was hard put to see hope when day after day the men went without work and money for their children. But I hope we made an impact in some ways, with our English tutoring, our computer classes, the advertising, health workshop, and every other way we tried to fill in the cracks of the laborers' needs.

Sustainability, though, was our primary goal as we worked through the summer. We tried to engage the church congregation–which seemed disconnected from the day labor program—hoping members could carry the torch when we left. That, we thought, would be the true test of solidarity.

It was the fateful date, July 29, which showed us the fruits of our labors. We weren't there to witness it, but the church pastor and the Tucson Sentinel (http://www.tucsonsentinel.com/local/report/072910_anti1070allnighter) alike reported what we'd unknowingly hoped for. Instead of watching the activities on the news or waiting for much-needed work, the Southside laborers, along with 60 church members marched to downtown Tucson to protest 1070 last Thursday.

Now I look forward to how I, how we, can bring all the experiences back to Duke. As I consider it, think of revamping a campus group, bringing speakers, teaching a course, I keep the image of the protesting laborers in my mind--as well as the pastor's quote: "Todos somos jornaleros" (We are all laborers).