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Students study real world of immigration

March 31, 2017

Photo courtesy of Monmouth College.

While other students were spending time on the beach or partying, ten members of the Monmouth College community traveled south in order to gain a better understanding of the Mexico-United States border and the issues surrounding immigration.

Before heading on their trip, the students who wanted to attend the program had to complete a short application. Seven were selected and led by Professor Tim Gaster, Professor Dan Ott, and Associate Chaplain Jessica Hawkinson. When asked about the selection process, Ott stated that “we tried to assemble a diverse group with various backgrounds and various levels of knowledge around the issues of immigration.

Sponsored by the Lux Center, the trip lasted five days with the group experiencing different parts of the immigration debate throughout. They began their experience by visiting Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, where they visited the border wall as well as a governmental agency that provides social services to migrants, many who were recently deported from the U.S. The group also took part in a hike through the desert near Arivaca, Arizona in order to have a better understanding of how migrants traveled and what they faced. They also took the opportunity to leave food and water on a trail that had been used by migrants in the past.

The ten from Monmouth took the opportunity to visit Central Arizona Detention Center, a privately owned detention center that is contracted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. While in Florence, they volunteered with non-profit group Mariposas Sin Fronteras by interviewing detainees at the detention center. The organization focuses on LGBTQ+ migrants who seek asylum due to persecution in Mexico and are being mistreated in the U.S. immigration detention systems. The group ended the trip by visiting Southsides Presbyterian Church in Tucson, which was one of the original sanctuary churches beginning in the 1980s.

Regarding the trip, Ott said that the policies that the U.S. currently has leads to deaths in the desert. When discussing the border, Ott stated that the militarization of the ports of entry has “driven migrants into the desert. There, migrants die by the thousands. This practice has not prevented migrants from entering, but it has caused a great deal of loss of life.”

Junior Diana Rubi was one of the seven students who went on the trip and was impacted the most by the detention center due to the unprofessional behavior of the staff and the rules regarding interactions with the migrants being detained. Rubi stated that “When we left the detention center, for the rest of the day, I couldn’t do anything. It was a very heavy experience.” She empathized the point that “migrants are people and it’s not okay to profit off of human struggle. It’s not okay to laugh in the midst of human pain.” Rubi ended by stating that “that when people say anti-immigrant rhetoric, they have no idea, no idea what that pain is and that is troubling.”

Jacob Marx
Political Editor

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