by Abby Kassa
Today was a significantly influential beginning to our Border Immersion experience. We participated in a desert walk in Arivaca, Arizona approximately 5 miles from the border which also involved dropping off water and canned goods at three different points on this walk for the individuals and families migrating from Mexico. I found myself having conflicting thoughts and emotions throughout the experience. Although I developed a deep appreciation for our ability to gain the slightest insight into the harrowing journey that migrants experience and were able to provide a form of service through the placement of canned food and water at various points, it was difficult for me to realize the reality of my privileged position.
For us, this was a short hike in which many of us guiltily enjoyed the natural beauty of Arivaca’s landscape, found ourselves excited for the lunch that was promised and awaiting us back at the trailhead, and indulged in the comfortable thoughts of returning to the Borderlinks base in Tucson. We did not share the fear of migrant individuals hiding from life-threatening situations. We were not leaving our families behind—possibly for good. We were not on day seven of our journey: tired, famished, and dehydrated. We were not fearing individuals who consider us ‘aliens’. And we were not fearing that Border Patrol or right-winged activists would force us into detention centers, detain, harm, or kill us if they found us. Although this walk was thought provoking, I am mournful and angered by my inability to empathize with these oppressed migrants as I wish that I could. With the commencement of this immersion with the desert walk, I hope to continue through this week in a mindset that is aware of the privilege that I hold and how I can utilize and transform this privilege into fruitful action that aides to end the unjust, racially charged mistreatment of migrant individuals. I wish to aide in the hope for migrants that is expressed through the humanitarian efforts of various groups that we met—and will continue to meet throughout the week— such as those at Borderlinks and the No More Deaths Abuse Documentation Working Group. From the brutality and harrowing experience of the migrants that I have been made more clearly aware of today, I am reminded of the importance to perceive each human being on an individual level and to furtherly be a source of hope and relief for those individuals that need it the most.
by Vanessa Hernandez-Zepeda
Today was the first full day and I am already struggling to wrap my mind around what we have learned thus far. The day consisted of two main events: the desert walk and an abuse documentation presentation. Coming into the immersion, I was most looking forward to the walk through the Arivaca Desert. However, this initial excitement was quickly disturbed by the looming presence of border patrol agents located at the checkpoint and the trailhead. The walk through the desert served as an important reminder to check my privilege. Specifically, the hike was a reminder that we are participating in this immersion in solidarity with immigrants rather than charity. Although we were leaving water and canned food along the trail, the goal of this hike was to gain a better understanding of the treacherous journey individuals are willing to make in pursuit of a better life.
Throughout the hike, I found myself struggling to understand my place in this timeline. After all, both of my parents are immigrants from Mexico who came to the U.S. in search of stability. Reflecting on their experiences as immigrants was humbling. This realization made me grateful for the opportunity to share this experience with a group that understands the significance of taking up space in the desert. Even after learning about Prevention Through Deterrence – a border patrol strategy implemented in 1994 that forces immigrants to more remote and therefore dangerous border territories – we were able to come together as a group to engage in a larger conversation regarding what gives us hope. In an immersion where we are filled with so many reasons to not be hopeful, I am comforted by the fact that we can find hope through the meaningful conversations we have with one another.