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History and Politics

Students Discuss Their Time Volunteering on US–Mexico Border

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On Thursday, January 30, 2020, AUP’s student-led Migrant Justice Club held its first event of the year, in which seven of the club’s founding members addressed an audience of faculty, staff and students on their experiences volunteering in a migrant detention center near the US–Mexico border. In 2019, eight young women traveled to a detention center near San Antonio, Texas, to work with RAICES, one of the oldest US-based migrant justice NGOs providing legal services to detained migrants. The trip was organized by Professors Michelle Kuo and Albert Wu from the Department of History and funded by the George and Irina Schaeffer Center for the Study of Genocide, Human Rights and Conflict Prevention.

Each of the students presented on a different aspect of the experience, explaining the work that the group carried out for RAICES helping draft migrants’ legal appeals and recounting the stories of the asylum seekers the students worked to protect. Despite studying in the Department of History, the students took on the complex legal language inherent in such processes, often working late into the night to write legal declarations – a supporting document submitted to an immigration judge – for appeals cases. The students recounted the often complex and invasive process migrants must go through when applying for asylum, before discussing how the experience of working with people who had in many instances been through traumatic and violent encounters personally changed them.

 “Professor Wu and I were so impressed and so proud of these students for the sensitivity and humility with which they approached their work,” said Kuo, when introducing the event. “They learned how to treat the migrants they worked with with kindness and had a real, authentic, warm presence.” Following their time in Texas, the students founded the Migrant Justice Club, which aims to create awareness among the AUP community of issues relating to human rights and humanitarian law. In 2020, Professors Kuo and Wu plan to take a second group of students to volunteer with RAICES in Texas. 

Watch the full video of the students' presentation below.