Border Awareness Experience

Wednesday, February 01, 2012
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Earlier this month, Sr. Thea Bowman Center for Women Director Shannon O’Neill, Ph.D. and Associate Professor of Political Science Vera Eccarius-Kelly, Ph.D. led a trip to Anthony, New Mexico and El Paso, Texas. A group of eight students from a variety of majors and fields of study made the trek to learn about the challenges related to immigration and border security.

The group stayed at the Women’s Intercultural Center in Anthony. It coordinates site visits for groups interested in learning about issues related to human rights, law enforcement, health care, education and social challenges in the region.

“The Border Awareness Experience was an amazing trip that broadened my understanding about the immigration process in the United States,” said economics major Evan Peter ’14. “It allowed me to gain insights into the complexities of life for border communities … I would strongly recommend that students sign up for the travel opportunity next year.”

Social work major Marisely Rodriguez ’13 said participating in the Border Awareness Experience trip allowed her to form her own opinions about human struggles along the border. The group worked closely with professionals at the Women’s Intercultural Center.

“I particularly enjoyed our meetings with leaders at the Historic Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe because we were able to meet outstanding individuals,” Rodriguez said. “Estela Reyes inspired me with her passion, devotion, dedication and care for her community. La Fe Center provides a plethora of services for community members of Segundo Barrio, which is one of the poorest communities in the entire United States.”

Those services included computer classes for adults and labs that allow young students to complete their homework after school. The center resembles a comforting environment, but also offers a pharmacy, a dental office and other services not available to many impoverished and marginalized communities. The group also witnessed an immigration hearing in Las Cruces, New Mexico and interacted with a federal judge, a prosecutor and a defense attorney. In addition, the students and advisors participated in a border patrol tour, which brought them right to the fence that separates El Paso from Juarez.

After receiving permission from authorities, Rodriguez tried to scale the fence, “My fingers were probably the only ones that fit between the small holes of the double-mesh fence out of the entire group that traveled from Siena,” she said.

“Climbing the fence required incredible upper body strength—it’s certainly a deterrent that forces undocumented migrants to attempt to cross elsewhere, usually in remote, very dangerous desert areas,” Eccarius-Kelly said.

Andrea Caramore ’12, a Spanish language major, enjoyed the many opportunities to engage in conversations with documented and undocumented migrants during the week. “I now understand so much better the many struggles and dangers that migrants face when they hope to cross the desert to enter the United States.”