[This is a student reflection of a Project Week Trip from March 2019. Students drove from Montezuma, NM to Tucson, AZ to learn about and hear the many perspectives of the people who live on or near the border. UWC-USA students participate in Project Week trips which are essentially spring break work/study trips that provide valuable outside perspective on issues relevant to the UWC mission.]
Our Project Week group went to Tucson, AZ to be close to the border and understand the controversial topic of illegal immigration in the USA. At the beginning of the trip, the group camped and met with the Sierra Club where we learned about the issues with border and idea of “the wall” and how that impacts wildlife. Something that stayed with us was that Homeland Security can abolish any law or any federal protected status.
Then we drove to the border and got to see for ourselves the military and border patrol working on creating a fence across a river.
The group later got an unexpected visit by a border patrol agent who answered our questions which prepared us for the next day with the Pima County Sheriff. Over the course of the day we heard the perspectives of a Sheriff, Border Patrol agents, and detectives.
We were aware that the next day would be challenging, but in the end, no one was ready to witness Operation Streamline in a courtroom in Tucson. Operation Streamline is a program that increases the speed with which immigrants detained over the past 72 hours are processed in the courts – essentially criminalizing 75 immigrants in an hour. We saw all the men and women held in chains as a judge sat before them and read them their rights. I will never forget the sound the chains made in a room where a boy our age was deported. Louie, a woman who was our guide for the day, took us to a press conference afterwards.
The press conference was about the deportation of a family after they were stopped for having tinted windows. The daughter in the family was 12 years old and a U.S. citizen — she was separated from her parents and sent to a detention facility. Her aunts were at the press conference and mentioned how ICE wouldn’t let them get their niece back to her family. It was difficult for all of us to sit there, to listen to the pain these people felt, and the warnings they were sending to other families.
As we debriefed the day in court and the press conference, we talked about the privilege we all enjoy – after all, we sat in the back of the court instead of the front. On Thursday, we went to a wildlife refuge and did community service by helping create shelters for an endangered animal in the desert. While the sun was setting, we made a final dinner in the refuge’s volunteer house.
We are all grateful for being able to listen and witness different perspectives and for attending an unforgettable trip.