Immigration Stories – Alternative Spring Break Arizona – by Megan Gonrowski. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Immigration Stories – Alternative Spring Break Arizona – by Megan Gonrowski. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports


(Our group with Bob, a Tucson Samaritan, on a hike in the desert and the border wall, March 2018)

Over spring break, I went with CSS Campus Ministry on an Alternative Break Experience to Arizona. The trip was originally supposed to include a day trip across the Mexican border, but the travel advisory for along the border of Mexico increased so we were not allowed to cross. The trip was not a service-based trip, unlike many of the other ABE trips that Campus Ministry organizes, instead it was a learning-based trip because there is much to learn about immigration and culture down on the border. Going into the trip I was most excited to experience a different culture than my own Midwestern culture and to use my Spanish because I am working on a Spanish major. While we were in Arizona we stayed with a four Sisters from the School Sisters of Notre Dame order. Everyone we met was super informed and hospitable and overall our time in Arizona was amazing.

We spent two days in Tucson, Arizona with a couple of Tucson Samaritans. This group is very active in the Pima county area and they often leave water in the desert and mountains for migrants. We also got to participate in leaving water for migrants, but we had to spend quite a few hours of hiking to get to more remote areas of the mountains. However, the desert hike was not a long distance, but every plant was prickly, so it took a few hours of cautious walking just to go a couple of miles. I was not expecting the mountainous terrain of the Southwest, but the desert did live up to my painful and dry expectations. The days we spent hiking were the days we put ourselves in a migrant’s shoes and walked the same paths that many people may have taken for a variety of reasons.

(Water with messages of hope in Spanish left in the mountains and border patrol officer)

For the majority of the week we stayed in Douglas, Arizona at the Sisters house. Here we met many people from the community such as faith leaders and border patrol officers. On the U.S. side the Douglas community focuses a lot on remembrance for the 306 migrants that have been found dead in the small town of Douglas. Overall, in Pima county Arizona there has been roughly 4,000 bodies found of presumed or known migrants, but many people think the death total is more around 7,000. While we were in Arizona, we realized that migration deaths increased in correlation with the most recent building of the border wall. We spoke with people who live on both sides of the border and they talked a lot about the current wall placement, but also about the trade deal NAFTA and how that has affected the flow of migration.

First off, the current larger bars of the border wall were slowly put in place to keep the flow of migration out of certain cities. Starting with San Diego and then El Paso. The border walls statistically did keep migrants from crossing over those cities borders, but the statistics did not consider that migrants were simply entering at different and less patrolled, more rural locations. Secondly, with the implementation of NAFTA the agricultural system in Mexico crashed because it became cheaper for Mexico to import U.S. produce rather than to try and compete with the United States’ agriculture. Long story short, this gave Mexico economic problems which caused a lot of people, specifically young men, to migrate to the U.S. to look for the economic stability that NAFTA had taken away from them.

(U.S. border wall view vs Mexico view)

The strengthening of security in certain areas has had unforeseen effects on migration and added danger to the frequented ways of passage. In other words, there have been so many recent deaths in Arizona because they have the dryness of the west desert and the harsh terrain of the mountain ranges. When the current border walls were built these dangerous geographically areas were left less patrolled because they were seen as “natural” or lethal deterrents to migration and the U.S. government thought migrants would know better than to try and cross in those areas. However, this is not the case and in the last 20 or so years they have seen an increase in deaths because of dangerous migration paths.

Overall, it was an eye-opening experience because in the North we do not always learn about the border history between the U.S. and Mexico or know the different mix of cultures and life that has been formed in the Southwest. My biggest take away would be that immigration policy is the most important reform that needs to be made to help make legal immigration easier for people who want to migrate. Migration is a normal human occurrence that has been happening since the beginning of time. Today, we have made something so natural a criminalized offence without trying to understand what is pushing or pulling a migrant to want a new life and be desperate enough to risk death. I believe that making immigration to this country easier and less financially taxing would decrease the flow of undocumented immigration and in turn help stop the deaths that occur because of the harsh terrain and lack of water in the Southwest.

Megan serves as an assistant editor for The North Star Reports.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our guiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In five years we have published over 300 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our volunteer student editors and writers come from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). We have an all volunteer staff. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang and NSR Student Editors and Writers. For a brief summary of our history, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Professor Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports. Ellie Swanson and Marin Ekstrom, Assistant Managing Editors, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

17 Comments

Filed under Megan Gonrowski, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

17 responses to “Immigration Stories – Alternative Spring Break Arizona – by Megan Gonrowski. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

  1. Cassandra Mahlberg

    Hi Megan! I know you wrote this article close to a year ago now, but I think it is just as relevant now as then. Being able to walk in the shoes of the migrants is an invaluable experience and those who haven’t done this can never truly begin to grasp the feelings these vulnerable people are dealing with for the hope of their futures. The act of leaving water and pray messages is nearly revolutionary in this political climate– the more people willing to do things like this, the less control the government really has. Movement of people should not be considered illegal in the first place considering the fact that borders are arbitrary man-made constructs, but since it is, it is extra necessary for people to be supportive of those willing to make this dangerous trek. I think it is interesting that you want to approach migration by making the legal processes easier, it sounds like a good way to look at things. I think one of our main problems is the misunderstanding and lack of education surrounding immigration policies in the US. Contrary to popular belief, the “illegal immigrants” showing up at our border in the “caravans” are NOT illegal. They are asylum seekers. While it is abstract to think of the southern border as a resident of northern Minnesota, I understand that people are not national security risks just because they are approaching the border and the rhetoric being used is negatively impacting the situation and the people involved.

  2. Samantha Willert

    Hello Megan,

    I hope you enjoyed your trip to Arizona! The weather there must be extremely better than the weather here around this time. The facts you were mentioning about the border and the number of deaths were very interesting. I had no idea! I also believe that there can be a better way to solve the problem, and I wish that we were able to do something. Thank you for sharing your story.

  3. Phillip Truax

    Dear Megan,
    Thank you for your story and input on immigration. I have done some extensive hiking in deserts but in Utah and I think its funny how any type of plant has thorns. To touch back on the immigration point i think its always important to realize no matter what the situation is there is always two sides of the story. Also it is so pertinent to think abstractly when dealing with economy’s like how you mentioned with mexico and NAFTA.

  4. DyAnna Grondahl

    Megan,

    Thank you for sharing your insights from this trip – they are incredibly meaningful. I am disturbed by the statistic you shared in regard to the 4,000-7,000 people who have died in Pima County, AZ, and the information you offered about the environmental conditions of migration terrain. Pairing these pieces of information, I think it necessary to recognize the issues at the border as a public health crisis, not a migration crisis as some may argue. Moving from home to make a better life in a new home should not require a brush with death like this.

    Thank you,
    DyAnna

  5. Madina

    Hello Megan!

    Thank you for sharing your ABE trip experience with us! It indeed is very sad that conditions have become so harsh for something that as you said “is so natural, a criminalized offence”. Conditions in the world today more than ever are forcing people away from their homes but unfortunately the political climate is not helping this situation. It is really sad to hear that this has resulted in several deaths in the Arizona region and probably elsewhere as well. I think the most crucial thing to do at this point is to educate. The more people are aware of problems, the more solutions can be implemented.

  6. Tamer Mische-Richter

    Megan,
    The point that you make that human migration is a natural occurrence really struck a cord with me. Without migration the United States would not be what it is today. There are limits to physical space in a country, however I think that the density of the US is not near its maximum. I am not advocating for full fledged high density living, but saying that we are able to physically handle more people. The infrastructure that is in place currently however is where we are coming short for handling an increase of migrants in the US. Whether we want to welcome more people or deter them is the true political issue.

  7. Elijah Ortega

    Hello Megan,
    What a great experience you got to have down on the border. The necessity to migrate in many peoples minds outweighs the dangers in many peoples minds. Im glad to see that the community down there mourns the loss of migrants and looks to better their dangerous conditions of which they are subjected to.
    Thank you for the read.

  8. Aleah Rubio

    Hello Megan,
    I really enjoyed reading your article! When my parents were still married, we would drive from St.Paul, Minnesota to Quebratantadero, Mexico.We would drive on 35 all the way to Texas to cross the border. The drive was about 4 days with stops and 2.5 days without stops besides for gas and using the bathroom. I remember crossing the border and my experiences were always different. One time, we crossed within 10 min. Another time, we were stopped for about 2 hours since my father was being questioned due to his citizenship. I am very happy I had the opportunity to drive to Mexico since now it can be a very dangerous drive. Thank you for sharing!

    -Aleah

  9. Katelyn Fischer

    Hey Megan!!!
    I am so glad you enjoyed your trip to Arizona. It must have been an absolutely amazing experience. I think it is great that you got to experience part of what migrants go through for long periods of time. And it is fantastic that you were able to leave supplies for anyone that might need them.

  10. Marissa Mikrot

    Hi Megan,
    This ABE trip in particular I have had an interest in going on so I think it’s great that you shared your experiences there. I love that messages of hope are placed on gallons of water throughout the desert. However I hate that videos have surfaced of patrol officers walking around slicing the jugs. I think it would be interesting to hear from a patrol officer in such a town as this where they’re aware of the many deaths and are remorseful about it.

  11. Sarah Bowman

    Megan,
    I chose your article because I was drawn to the topic highlighted in your title since immigration is such a large and controversial topic in today’s society. It was cool to hear about your experience hiking and placing water for migrants, especially since it was for a cause. I was taken by surprise at the amount of deaths due to migration that are estimated. I had little knowledge about this particular topic but it is clear to see that the additions to the wall have caused an increase in these death tolls. It is saddening to read about these unkown migrants who are being found dead. I personally really enjoyed how you concluded this article of migration bringing it back to our roots as human beings. As explained in “Worlds Together Worlds Apart” by Tignor et al., we once all migrated freely across the continent and land bridge that allowed the original inhabitants to find what is currently America (2018). Our species migrated to find hospitable environments and establish lives where there were sources of food and water for survival. I do not think the reasons people migrate today are so different. People are still moving and traveling to establish a better life and it is saddening lives are being lost over such an idea. Your article was well written and very informative, I appreciate you sharing your experiences and opinions.

    Sincerely,
    Sarah Bowman

  12. Kasey Kalthoff

    Hi Megan,
    I was actually just in Arizona last week for Spring Break. I know how cruel that desert sun is and I cannot imagine using such a difficult terrain as an escape to “freedom” as the immigrants do. Yes, immigrating to America should be doable but I think it is important to think about the countries that these immigrants come from. In this scenario, they are coming from Mexico. The more people that migrate to America, the less people their are to work for Mexico. I have talked to foreigners about what they think about people who leave their home country to work in America. They say it makes them sad because their own country invested in them and educated them only to have them pick up and leave. I just think it is important to think of the perspective of the home country in any kind of immigration situation.
    Loved your story and am happy that you had such an eye opening experience.
    Thanks for sharing,
    Kasey

    • Kasey Kalthoff

      I would also like to comment that we have seen this type of migration behavior before in history. Our textbook “Worlds Together Worlds Apart” explains how humans have constantly been migrating following food, better environments, and easier lifestyles. If you think about it, migration nowadays is no different (Tignor et al., W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 2018). Immigrants are looking for a better life and are looking for work to feed themselves and their families. Interesting how this idea of migration for survival is still occurring even today.
      Kasey

  13. Grace Macor

    Hi, Megan!
    It sounds like you had an eye-opening experience! Immigration is a hot topic in the United States right now. I feel sometimes politics can just be a battle between two parties, rather than a robust conversation. In “Worlds Together, Worlds Apart,” Tignor concludes that the basis of man kind likely originated in African (2018, p. 1-2). Clearly, the world population does not purely reside in Africa. Meaning, immigration must have occurred. This has occurred throughout a large portion of time, but we must recognize that immigration has influenced us all. Whether it was centuries ago or modern day, people immigrate to help adapt and better their lives.

  14. Matthew Breeze

    Thank you Megan this is great. I can imagine that coming from the land of 10,000 lakes and going to the Southwestern desert wold be quite a shock. I imagine that the people you met were inspiring and must have shared some amazing stories with you. I would love to pick your brain about it the next time I see you.

  15. Tanner Egelkraut

    Hello Megan,
    This sounds like such an amazing experience for you! I was really interested to hear about how much migration is really happening along the border wall. Like you said, we don’t hear much about the history of migration or the southern wall because we are so far north. I feel that migration is a very important part of our human history especially early human history. Homo sapiens were thought to have first originated in a small area in Africa around 200,000 years ago. Around about 100,000 years ago these early humans migrated out of Africa to other lands (Tignor et al., 2018 p. 3). Similar to how modern day migrants are moving for better opportunities, early humans likely did to follow the food, to find a more suitable environment, or to spread out from other tribes of people. Migration is something that even Europeans did to the Americas. I feel that we should cherish migration and not punish it. Glad you had a great experience!

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