Whitman students experience U.S.-Mexico borderland injustice, provide humanitarian aid
Tuesday, Apr 10, 2012
The best way to fight injustice is to share our stories.
This was the message delivered in a lecture titled “No Más Muertes: Injustice in the Borderlands,” by a panel of seven students who discussed their experiences in Arizona, along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The group spent a week in the Arizona desert over Spring break volunteering for the humanitarian organization, No More Deaths. The purpose of the trip was to learn first-hand about the border crossing experience and provide humanitarian aid.
Keiler Beers ’14 told the story of a group of young men he met crossing into the U.S., and the desperation with which one, about his age, hung on to a small piece of paper – the college diploma he hoped to show to future employers once he made it across the border.
“For me, that really underscores the desperation that goes into it,” Beers stated, noting that the wait for legal immigration is more than 20 years.
“Once you put a face on an issue, it’s no longer just an issue,” stated Lauren McCullough ’12, emphasizing the importance of a narrative in creating awareness for humanitarian efforts in the battle over illegal immigration.
The students camped in the desert 19 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. Each day they divided into three or four groups and went on missions through frequently traversed paths to leave water and supplies for immigrants who had made it across the border.
“We were waking up with the sun and going to sleep with the sun as well,” Beers stated.
Politics Professors Apostolidis and Aaron Bobrow-Strain also attended the panel discussion.
Borbrow-Strain noted that the area is “haunted by some of the saddest stories on the continent,” and that it is “hard to come back from, hard to recover from, and hard to know what to do next.” Both professors, however, offered advice to the students on how they can use their experience to affect change in border politics.
“When you come back from No More Deaths and tell your stories, what kind of world are you building when you do that?” Apostolidis asked students attending the lecture, urging them to exercise their abilities to stir change in the world around them.
The students emphasized that by sharing stories an issue can change from political to personal.
“One of the most important things about this experience is just taking the stories to other people,” Maren Schiffer ’14 stated. “By sharing personal experiences with others, an issue becomes more tangible and gains power as a humanitarian movement.”
The panelists stressed that conflict regarding immigration issues occurs across the country, not just in the borderlands. Apostolidis shared his own experiences listening to the stories of Mexican immigrants here in Washington, urging the audience to recognize the very real connections our community has to this issue. The students speaking reiterated this sentiment.
“It’s important to think of borders as being beyond lines on a map and to recognize that there are very real borders that exist even here in our community,” McCullough stated.
An art exhibit currently located in the Stevens Gallery in Reid Campus center continues to tell the stories of the students’ who participated in the trip and spread awareness to more individuals.
Elizabeth Cole ’15