Sociology club sparks immigration discussion with documentary viewing

Sociology club sparks immigration discussion with documentary viewing

Photo courtesy of Elijah Cox.

On Thursday, Sept. 19, students congregated in the Johnson Lecture Hall to view a documentary entitled “Trail of Hope and Terror,” backed by the No Más Muertes (No More Deaths) humanitarian organization. 

After the screening, a panel of two Lee faculty and one student commenced the discussion on immigration. Senior sociology major Elijah Cox, one of the organizers of this event, believed the documentary was extremely relevant because of today’s political climate.

Cox learned of No More Deaths on a trip this past summer with associate professor of sociology, Dr. Arlie Tagayuna.

“[We] got the opportunity to go to the Arizona/Mexico border to conduct research on the evangelical church’s response to the migrant caravan and militarization of the border in that region,” Cox said. 

On their first day in the borderlands, they discovered an old theater where the organization was having a one-time showing of the documentary. According to the No More Deaths website, the organization based in southern Arizona intends to “end suffering and death in the Mexico-U.S. borderlands.”

Professor of English Dr. Carolyn Dirksen, a panel speaker, explained how the immigration discussion envelops all Americans. 

“Although this film is about the crisis at the border, this is everyone’s crisis,” Dirksen said. “I think we can all agree that our immigration system is broken. We need to find political and legal means to fix it; but in the meantime, we need to respond to the human suffering it creates.”

Cox resolved to bring the discussion to his peers through conversation with speakers of different backgrounds and perspectives on the issue. Senior theological and biblical studies major Franco Crosby, who had years of firsthand experience volunteering on the border, provided an eyewitness perspective to the panel. Dr. Stephanie Nordby, a visiting assistant professor of theological ethics, also helped “navigate through the lenses of Christianity and ethics” on the panel.  

Cox invited Dirksen, who grew up in Bisbee, Arizona on the borderland. According to Cox, she provided a historical perspective to the conversation.

“When I was a girl, there were four border guards at the sleepy little border crossing in my hometown. Now there are 1500, and the number keeps increasing,” Dirksen said. “The militarization of the border is really emblematic of our change in perspective of who the immigrants are.”

Freshman Briza Reyes-Cruz is a native of North Carolina, but her family migrated to the United States from Coahuila, Mexico. She said she left the panel feeling impacted because of its connection to her history. 

“I see [this documentary] from the eyes of a young Mexican-American,” Reyes-Cruz said. “[I see] the people in the documentary as though they easily could have been my family or myself.”

Reyes-Cruz hopes for more opportunities in the future to discuss immigration among her peers. However, Tagayuna said that most students on campus are unaware of these issues, in part due to a lack of on-campus outlets of productive immigration conversation. Cox believes awareness starts with the individual.

"The best way that people our age [can] get information on what is happening at the border is through educating themselves," Cox said. "This is a highly politicized time in our nation—and this is a hot-button topic. It's important that when looking for information you can take the bias and sway out of what you're looking at to find the facts."

To put this into practice, Cox suggests reading statistics and stories from the Department of Homeland Security, the Census Bureau and anything from Douglas Massey, a sociologist from Princeton University.

Another source of awareness is getting connected on campus. The Sociology Club is planning an immigration candle-light vigil for Oct. 24 at the Sharp Pedestrian Mall Amphitheater.

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