Student & Faculty Collaboration

Students Volunteer at US–Mexico Border

History, Law and Society Students Provide Legal Guidance to Those Seeking Asylum

Professors Wu and Kuo with students in Texas

When walls go up, it’s not always possible to take them down. However, there’s always something to be done to make life easier for the people now facing a barrier. In June 2019, students from the Department of History joined Professors Michelle Kuo and Albert Wu in Texas to volunteer in a migrant detention center near the US–Mexico border. Participants worked long hours – sometimes late into the night – to guide asylum seekers through the often-complicated process of applying for asylum. 

Ten students – all of whom were majoring in history or history, law and society – participated in the project, in which they worked closely with RAICES, the largest organization offering legal aid to immigrants in Texas. “Hearing the individual stories about torturous journeys to the United States was heart-wrenching,” says Professor Kuo, who, along with Professor Wu, volunteered for the organization in 2018. “Many had lived through unspeakable, harrowing experiences – threats of violence, kidnapping, torture and separation from their children. Their resilience made a deep impression on us.” 

Students got a firsthand glimpse at the extent of the hardship that migrants endure when traveling to the United States. “My time volunteering with RAICES required incredible stamina,” says Indigo Golub ’20, a double major in history, law and society and Middle Eastern pluralities. Her daily tasks included conducting research, drafting legal declarations and giving guidance to people being released from the center. “Given the importance of the work, I felt that every job deserved my full attention and effort.” 

For many, the most difficult part of the experience was informing people their asylum applications had been rejected. In these cases, students often went on to write legal declarations – a supporting document submitted to an immigration judge – for appeals cases. In Indigo’s case, the students’ appeal was successful. She worked with another student, Alessandra Campell ’20, on the case of a young woman from El Salvador. After several rounds of drafting, editing and proofreading the declaration, they received word that the asylum application had been successful. “I felt genuine pride for the asylum seeker, for Alessandra and for myself,” says Indigo. “It was truly a team effort and I absolutely relished the empowerment we shared.” 

On AUP’s campus, migrant justice is a topic that continually inspires global explorers to make a positive change in the world.