Last week, the New Mexico chapter of the United World College sent 13 students from 11 different countries to the border town of Douglas, Ariz. to explore the complex issue of immigration between Mexico and the US. Students visited a coffee farm, a migrant research center and a feather-making factory to learn more about immigration issues.
Over the course of the five-day trip, the group headed to the border towns of Agua Prieta, Mexico and Douglas to explore immigration issues from both sides. The group visited a coffee cooperative in Agua Prieta to meet Mexican nationals who have stayed in their country for work. The group also spent a day volunteering at a local migrant research center, where students gained some insight into the facts behind growing issue of illegal immigration in Douglas.
“I really gained a lot of insight into what is going on down there,” UWC-USA student Sophia Bennett tells SFR. “The images [I saw] will be on a table in my mind for a long time.”
Bennett attends UWC-USA alongside 200 students from over 80 countries world-wide. The Montezuma, NM school is part of the United World College, a network of 13 international schools founded in 1962 aimed at promoting intercultural communication and educating young adults across borders. In light of this, last week, the New Mexico chapter offered 10 different field trips across the region as part of its Southwest Studies program.
Aside from trips to the Grand Canyon and Colorado, a small number of students received the privilege of traveling through Arizona and Mexico to tackle immigration and border security in the American Southwest. Trip leader Naomi Swinton reports that “three times as many students were interested in this trip than we could take.”
Bennett, who grew up in Blaine, WA (the third-busiest border town on the US-Canada border) was shocked at the difference between Douglas and her hometown.
“There’s no fence where I’m from. The walls were the big difference, along with the enforcement, the lights, the guards,” Bennett explains. “The people in Douglas were a lot more interested in defense.”
The students also had the opportunity to meet several border patrol servicemen who work every day to keep our border secure.
Muhammed Mucaquiq, a UWC-USA student from Afghanistan (who was more impressed by the Mexican food than anything else), was quite stricken by the men patrolling the wall. “It was amazing. They were very strict, they had a huge responsibility to duty. The [Mexican] drug trafficking is not good for the American society,” Mucaquiq says. “Their job is very important because immigration causes unemployment in Arizona if migrants move in.”
The group wrapped up their trip with a visit to the border wall and, of course, a three-hour wait at the immigration office.