Border Studies Program Offers Chance to Learn about Migrants and Border Wall Firsthand
BU students, faculty reflect on recent trip to Rio Grande Valley
It’s one thing to study the US/Mexico border, US immigration policy, and the complex challenges facing migrants in the classroom. It’s another kind of learning altogether to travel with BU faculty to the Rio Grande Valley to see the border wall and meet the migrants and the people working with them firsthand.
Nine students in BU’s 2022 Mexico-US Border Studies Program—part of the University-wide Initiative on Forced Displacement led by Carrie Preston, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of English and of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, and Muhammad Zaman, a College of Engineering professor of biomedical engineering and of materials science and engineering—had the opportunity to do both this year.
After a series of seminars, readings, and class discussions this past fall, with topics ranging from the history of US immigration policy to migrant health during the pandemic, the students, along with Preston, director of the Border Studies Program, and Luz M. López, a School of Social Work clinical professor and director of the Global Health Core at the Center of Innovation in Social Work & Health at SSW, spent nearly two weeks earlier this month visiting the lower Rio Grande Valley, an area that encompasses Brownsville and McAllen, Tex., and Matamoros and Reynosa, Mexico. While there, they volunteered with a number of nonprofits that support migrants, including Refugee Services of Texas, Rio Grande Relief Projects, Team Brownsville, the Humanitarian Respite Center, La Posada Providencia, and LUPE.
“We discussed the question of ‘helping’ a lot,” says Preston, “because fundamentally this is an educational trip and our students benefited more from the program than any individual migrant.”
Below, some of the participants share their impressions—their “briefs,” as Preston calls them—about what they learned.