The U.S.-Mexico Border Program

Aaron Bobrow-Strain with studentsThe U.S.-Mexico Border Program offers students two weeks of intensive, academically rigorous experiential education aimed at exposing participants to a wide range of perspectives on key border issues. During the program, which runs every other June (the next program will be in 2015), students grapple with difficult questions related to immigration policy, national security, globalization, the environment, and U.S.-Mexico relations. Days are packed with meetings on both sides of the Arizona-Sonora border with government officials, community organizers, immigrant rights activists, business owners, immigration attorneys, and migrants themselves.

Traveling to the border opened my eyes to the U.S. immigration system in ways that classroom learning would never have been able to. I entered with vague opinions about immigration and the border and left with anger, passion and a desire to change the atrocities that I witnessed. For two weeks we were completely immersed in border politics as we traveled throughout the borderlands, beginning every morning and ending every evening with impassioned discussions of what we had seen that day. The thoughts and feelings I experienced on the trip have stayed with me since I left Arizona, influencing both my future career aspirations and my academic pursuits.
Kate McMurchie '15

Whitman's U.S. Mexico Border Trip opened my eyes to the complex world of immigration and globalization politics. The trip was a transformational experience for me; it inspired my academic focus while at Whitman and sparked my career in immigrant rights and social justice. I am now the Executive Director of Causa, Oregon's leading Latino immigrant rights organization. I wouldn't be in this position today had I not experienced Whitman's U.S. Mexico Border Trip.
Andrea Miller '09

Group at the U.S. - Mexico Border

Homestay Community

Meeting with Border Patrol

Meeting with ecologist

Talking with migrants about to cross the border

Some nights students stay in migrant shelters where they share meals and spend time talking with Mexican and Central Americans who have gone through harrowing experiences of migration, border crossing, deportation, family separation, and violence.  Other nights students stay in homestays with Mexican families in one of the poor neighborhoods that ring Nogales, Sonora.

Almost in direct contrast to the dry heat of the desert Aaron inundated us with information, opportunities to talk to those affected by border politics, and experiences that would drastically change our perspectives. Never in my life have I been more academically and emotionally awake. I remember leaving the courtroom of the US district court in downtown Arizona desperately looking for a private nook in their modern foyer so I could quietly cry. In one short hour I had watched thirty migrants in wrist to ankle shackles be sentenced to months in prison before deportation. It's one thing to read about injustices, it's another to watch them blatantly unfold as court room theatrics. Aaron's trip afforded me the opportunity to think critically about what this meant, and his pedagogy encouraged us to see that borders exist everywhere. Traveling to the border is only the beginning step in making them visible and challenging them.
Genevieve Jones '14

As part of a new focus on borderlands environmental politics, students meet with ecologists, conservationists, and ranchers to discuss the impact of intensified border enforcement and migrant flows on the Sonoran desert.

After the trip, students work together to develop a multi-media community presentation and other follow-up activities.  In the past students have written senior honors theses based on the program, organized community roundtables on immigration in their hometowns, created public art works related to border politics, and used the border program itself as a case study in "citizen diplomacy" for a student foreign policy workshop at Princeton University.  Many Border Program alumni have gone on to careers in immigration law, community organizing, and policy advocacy.

Please contact Aaron Bobrow-Strain for more information about the program.