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Immigrant Activists Discuss Work

Megan Bell ‘19, Clarke Forum Columnist

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On Wednesday, February 8, Clarke Forum hosted two immigration activists who discussed their work with undocumented and disabled immigrants.

Hugo Castro, of the organization Border Angels, and José Luis Hernandez Cruz, of the organization AMIREDIS (Association of Returned Migrants with Disabilities), have each been organizing for migrant rights for years. Over 100 individuals from Dickinson and the Carlisle community attended the event.

Castro began the lecture by discussing the work of Border Angels, with which he has been involved in since 2009. The organization provides resources and support to migrants along the border. One of the group’s popular volunteer missions is the water drop, in which volunteers leave water jugs along popular migrant paths. Castro noted that “after the election of Donald Trump, from being a group of 15-20 volunteers going to drop waters in the desert, now we have a group of more than 400.” Castro also detailed the movements to protest Mexican police brutality that he has been involved in, which were similar in nature to the occupy movements.

Hernandez Cruz, who spoke Spanish with Castro as a translator, detailed an incident that occurred while riding a cargo train through Mexico that disabled him and eventually inspired him to found AMIREDIS. He spoke of the campaign that the organization coordinated to travel migrant routes through Mexico in order to spread awareness of the dangers of migration and of riding the cargo trains north.

Additionally, Hernandez Cruz spoke of issues that many individuals face in their homes countries—a lack of economic opportunities or instability—and how that pushes people to try to migrate to the U.S. While discussing these issues, Hernandez Cruz reiterated that in order to find sustainable solutions, there need to be more investment in and commitment to improving the migrant countries of origin; then individuals would be less likely to try to migrate.

Rowan Humphries ’19, commented that “Hernandez Cruz’s story made the struggle of migrants so much more personal for me. When we think about immigration policy in the U.S., we should also think about the root of the problem: political and social turmoil in the countries the migrants are fleeing.”

Lilly Beardsley ’17 was also affected by how personal the speakers’ stories were.  “It was really [moving] to see real people rather than just what you hear on the news and what you read in articles,” she said.  “It’s cool to see real people and the real faces of the issues.”  Beardsley was also appreciative of the real life application that the talk gave to the issue.  “It was really cool to see not just what I’m seeing [in class] in relation to education but also in relation to the political atmosphere right now,” she elaborated.     

The event was followed by a question and answer session, during which students asked about the work of their organizations, sustainable immigration policy, and the issues facing their countries of origin.

Hernandez Cruz then ended the event by performing a song that is a favorite of his.

Ryan Murphy ’20 thought “it was a very informational talk, very eye opening.”  He described a feeling that “There seems to be two sides to the coin” and cited how “what you see in the news is sometimes sympathetic and you definitely feel for the people who are trying to establish a new life in the US and sometimes see things that are very anti-immigration” as a dividing factor in American politics today.  He was impressed by how the speakers made him feel that “people who come here should be welcome not because of emotions but because of facts.  [Hernandez Cruz and Castro] put out several numbers of all the people who have died or been mutilated trying to come here… [it] is a crisis that needs to be fixed.  I don’t necessarily think that it’s the United States’ responsibility, but it’s definitely a crisis that needs to be changed in this world.”

Becca Stout ‘20, staff writer, contributed to the reporting of this article.

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Immigrant Activists Discuss Work