Oberlin Blogs

Attacking the Chain

March 30, 2009

Alice Ollstein ’10

This report is the big news down here, because it shines a light on some of the awful practices that have emerged from our mentality that migrants are criminals that have no civil or human rights. Amnesty International also found that illegal and legal migrants plus people seeking political asylum because of persecution or torture in their home countries are all swept up under this system and languish in (privately owned) jails for years. Additionally, because of a lack of oversight, agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (or ICE) act as they see fit, arresting parents in front of their young, U.S. citizen children, transferring them to jails in other states to ensure that their families and lawyers have no access to them, refusing translation services and basic medical care to people in need, and neglecting to adequately explain options besides voluntary deportation to those detained. 

So I read a report like this, or I read about the sharp increase of migrants dying in the desert because of border militarization, or I see first-hand the devastating effects of our neo-liberal policies on small towns in Mexico, and I get all riled up and ready to DO something. But one problem with learning about the woes of the world is that it is extremely easy to feel overwhelmed and paralyzed. Especially with migration. The whole chain is messed up, but where do we attack? Do we make sure arrested migrants like those interviewed by Amnesty International receive due process? Do we volunteer with an organization like Samaritans (I start working for them on Wednesday) that makes sure the actual crossing experience isn't so lethal? Do we lobby the Department of Homeland Security so that migrants don't have to walk for four days in the desert to cross? Or do we lobby our own government to alter or ditch NAFTA so that people aren't robbed of their livelihood and forced to migrate in the first place?

We just started reading the ideas of Paulo Freire, an educator from Brazil who believed that if you volunteer to help someone in need without questioning WHY they're in need in the first place, you're just perpetuating the system of oppression and dependence. I can give water to a migrant in the desert, but there will just be another one after him, and another, and another. In addition to this work, I also want to fight to change U.S. practices in Latin America so that groups like Samaritans are no longer necessary. It's good for my group and me to volunteer here in Tucson, but we also need to reflect on why things are the way they are. Only then can we create real change.

Responses to this Entry

This is crazy! Yet again, America amazes me. Really.

I'm no immigration expert, but wouldn't it make it easier on everybody involved (you, me, the taxpayer, the immigrant, everybody, etc.) to make things...easier? If it was easier to immigrate to the US, then maybe people wouldn't have to run across borders for days and nights. If it was easier for people to find jobs where they are, whether it be Latin America or Idaho, they wouldn't have to move. And all that would mean we wouldn't have to arrest and detain anybody! A lot of things with the goverment seem overly complicated to me. Or maybe it's not as easy as I make it...

By the way, it's GREAT that you're volunteering! I just thought I'd point out that awesomeness.

Posted by: Ariel on March 31, 2009 2:12 PM

While the current system is terrible for migrants, it's great for certain politicians (they get to look "tough on immigrants"), employers (their workers can be paid almost nothing and can't unionize) and corporations (the private companies that run the jails) like the system just the way it is, and will fight any efforts to change it. Not to mention the Mexican government, which is perfectly happy that its people are leaving by the millions instead of staying and demanding better care. I've learned on this program to always look at who is benefiting from a situation...it's usually their fault! Also, the fact that the situation is confusing and complicated works to their advantage.
Thanks for reading,

Posted by: Alice on March 31, 2009 4:42 PM

As someone who works with immigration issues, I have enjoyed your posts. Your analysis is spot on. People out there just have no clue what the real situation is. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: anonymous on April 1, 2009 3:18 PM

Dear Anonymous,
Thank you for your supportive comments. What kind of work do you do? I'm always looking for more ways to get involved. You can just e-mail me if you don't want to post on the public blog.
Hope to hear from you soon,

Posted by: Alice on April 1, 2009 5:12 PM

I emailed you at the Oberlin Review email, since I couldn't find another for you. I hope it gets to you.

Posted by: anonymous on April 2, 2009 6:50 PM

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