Surprise Border Crossing Draws Attention to Issues of Immigration, Rights

Student at Mock BorderWhat if you had to produce “papers” in order to get where you wanted to go?

To draw attention to strict immigration policies and the rights of individuals in the U.S. and internationally, a dramatic “border crossing” simulation was carried out on Saint Mary’s Chapel Plaza on March 28.

Posing as border agents, with yellow CAUTION-tape sashes, about 15 student volunteers from Mission & Ministry, CILSA, Hermanas Unidas and other campus groups guarded checkpoints along the makeshift border of portable fencing during the College’s busy lunch break.

Students, faculty and staff were ordered to hand over their papers – their Saint Mary’s ID cards – in order to pass through the barriers. Those who didn’t have proper ID had to take a longer, more circuitous route to their destination.

“This is the reality for some people every day,” said Sister Jodi Min, who organized the border crossing event. “We’re inconvenienced for a few minutes. Just imagine what it’s like for those who are less fortunate and have to face this every day.”

The purpose of the event, she said, was to raise awareness of immigration issues and the barriers societies create to separate "others" from ourselves. To educate the campus community, the student volunteers handed out flyers that listed examples of such barriers worldwide, including the Israel-Palestine border, South Africa’s apartheid-era segregated black townships, and the U.S.-Mexico border. 

View the flyer

Student being interviewedThese borders “objectify and dehumanize people and make it easier for us to discriminate,” said Sister Jodi. “But when you see them as the same as my sisters and my brothers, it’s more difficult to ignore their suffering.”

The event drew a large amount of interest from both national and local media outlets. It was covered by the Good Morning America website, KGO radio, Telemundo and Univision

The reaction by those who stumbled across the unexpected border crossing was mixed, said Zach Farley, one of the student volunteers. “It was about 30 percent confusion, 30 percent appreciation and 30 percent profanity,” he said. Most students, staff and faculty members, seemed to take the inconvenience in stride, and many said they understood its message.

Rock McKenzie, an SMC junior, produced his I.D. and passed through the border with a smile, saying “I’m legal!”

“Although it’s much less intense than a real border crossing, it’s a good way to raise awareness of the issue,” he said.

Later on Wednesday, Mission & Ministry and CILSA screened the film "Dying to Live," followed by a discussion, facilitated by Sister Jodi and student Selam Kidane, about immigration issues portrayed in the movie.

Wednesday’s events were tied to Mission & Ministry’s weeklong Border Lives Immersion Program at the U.S.-Mexico border, which began on Saturday, and to this year’s January Term theme at Saint Mary’s, which was "Crossing Borders."

Teresa Castle
Office of College Communications

View a photo slideshow of the Border Crossing event.

Photos by Andrew Nguyen '15