“Immigration was something I was confused about,” said Ava Petrecca ’18. “I didn’t know enough about it to have an opinion. I wanted to know more.”
The trip was led, in part, by the Kino Border Initiative, which seeks to humanize the immigration issue through education. Students said they came away with the knowledge that it is a complex issue without a simple solution.
The group visited and gathered information from:
an immigration court, where they saw dozens of undocumented immigrants deported;
a shelter in Nogales, Mexico, where they helped serve recent deportees meals and listened to their stories;
a women’s shelter, where victims of domestic and sexual violence had sought refuge;
a U.S. Border Patrol station, where agents explained their roles and responsibilities;
U.S. ranchers living on the border who struggle to stem the tide of immigrants who travel across their lands.
“In many spots, the ranchers are securing the borders,” said Ava, noting that border fences can be posts with a few strings of barbed wire which are easily breached. “It’s a great imposition on the ranchers, who find barrels of marijuana flown over the border fences in (gliders) and dropped (on their lands). We need more (federal) protection to stop criminals and to keep immigrants from dying crossing the desert.”
The students took a short, guided hike in the desert where immigrants walk for days eluding border patrol, and where hundreds die trying to cross each year.
“We saw a lot of discarded clothes and items in the desert,” noted Kennedy Burroughs ’19. But her most vivid impression was speaking to a Honduran man at the shelter who had lost an arm. He did so when he fell off the top of a train attempting to cross Mexico on his way to the U.S. border.
“I had preconceived notions that the immigration system was working and that a lot of the people trying to come here (illegally) were bad people, like drug dealers,” said Adam Zucatti ’18. “On the trip, I realized there are a lot of reasons people try to come, such as economic opportunity, and to escape domestic or gang violence. My biggest take-away was that being humanitarian has to take precedence over politics and parties. These are people, too, and treating them like they aren’t is beyond wrong, it’s dehumanizing.”
Michael Alonzo ’18, started the trip with “very strong feelings” that more immigrants should be allowed into the country.
“I still think that, but I feel that we need more security along the borders. There are people who want to bring drugs into the country and do bad things. The problem can’t be solved by adhering to one side of the argument,” he said. “All sides have to come together; the answer to the problem is somewhere in the middle.”