DU Students Study Immigration Issues on the US-Mexico Border
One student accounts her experience of the travel course.
Lisette Zamora-Galarza and four other University of Denver students were enrolled in Margie Thompson's Media, Film & Journalism Studies travel course — Immigration, Communication and Border Cultures — in the summer of 2019. The course involved a week-long trip to Tucson, AZ, to study immigration issues in collaboration with the BorderLinks educational organization. Students travel south to the US-Mexico border region to see firsthand what many immigrants from Mexico experience.
One night, our group and I were returning to Tucson from Sells, Arizona. It was pitch black outside, and everyone was quiet during the trip. We were all exhausted, and many of us began to doze off. We knew we had a long drive ahead of us.
Suddenly, I felt the van come to a complete stop, and I woke up. We were at a Border Patrol checkpoint. The Border Patrol agents needed to check our van, and although I knew there was nothing to be afraid of, I was quite anxious. He asked each individual in the van about their status, and for a second I hesitated.
After passing the checkpoint, I began to think about my identity: I am an American citizen, but all of my family is from Mexico. I have always identified myself as Mexican American but questioning my own status in this country put things into a different perspective for me. Yo no soy ni de aquí, ni de allá. I am neither from here nor from there. My identity belongs in both Mexico and the United States.
Going to Tucson, Arizona was one of the most life-changing experiences that I have had. It was a humbling experience, and it was a moment when I profoundly understood the sacrifices my parents made when they decided to immigrate to the United States. Immigration is a very important topic in my family, and I wanted to take the time to learn more about it. I developed another crucial part of my identity in Tucson. I am the PROUD daughter of immigrant parents.
Before taking this course, I thought I had a proficient understanding of immigration, but that could not have been farther from the truth. Upon arriving at BorderLinks, an organization that offers educational experiences around immigration, I realized that there was so much for me to learn. I was surrounded by people who had experienced firsthand the dangers of crossing the border, and they opened up and told their stories. We walked the migrant trail in Arivaca, Arizona, and we went to Nogales, Arizona to view the border wall.
The migrant trail was the most impactful part of the trip for me, although we only got a small taste of what immigrants go through when crossing the desert. Being in over 100-degree weather over the course of four hours was humbling, but I realized that this is only a small part of what people who cross the border endure. The border itself was a reminder of the division between people, and it broke my heart to learn that families meet on each side of the border to have meals together.
I became angry at the US immigration system; I was angry that people had to go through such dangers for a better life in the United States. I called my parents to thank them for everything they have done so that I can have a better future.
I encourage anyone who is interested in taking this course to apply. It is an opportunity unlike any other, and it is a course that will challenge students to think outside of their comfort zone. After all, discomfort is important in order to grow.