Skip to main content

Community Engagement & Service

Between Life and Death for a Better Tomorrow: The Journey of the Migrant on the U.S./Mexico Border

US MEX BORDER Alt Break 2016-2017

The Program:

Immigration is synonymous with the founding of the United States. Waves of migration have characterized the development of the country throughout its 250 plus year history, with notable populations coming from Western and Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, and, most recently, Latin America. At the U.S./ Mexico border, although Latinos have long been present in the United States, the influx of migrants coming from various Latin American countries in recent years has once again revived fear and xenophobia into the conversations concerning immigration and national security. We will explore a variety of themes, from the root causes of immigration– such as foreign policy decisions, environmental destruction, economic trade, or crime– to the impacts that immigration has on people–such as lack of healthcare, labor rights violations, criminal justice violations, and education. Ultimately, this program hopes to create awareness of the multiple issues that migrants face when crossing the U.S./Mexico border and living in the United States, and shed light on how the current immigration system and foreign policy exacerbates the issue.

Engagement Itinerary:*

For the 2017 U.S.-Mexico Border Alternative Break, we would like to take the program to Tucson, AZ and McAllen, TX. Preferably, leaving on Monday, May 15th (right after commencement weekend) and coming back on May 27th. We would like to spend the first week in AZ working with different organizations that are directly related to our social justice theme. In AZ, we would like to work with Border Links which is an organization that facilitates activities and learning experiences related to immigration such as, completing a border awareness experience, attending immigration hearings in Tucson, and participating in public art projects focused on immigration in the southern Arizona Community. During our first week, we would also love to visit University of Arizona and have professors (preferably someone who is specialized in immigration) come in and speak to us about their experience at the Border.

Note: Subject to change, but we might have to take a long bus ride to McAllen, TX. 

For the second week of the program, we hope to engage with community partners in McAllen, TX. Our goal is to work with the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s rights, Human Respite Center, Proyecto Azteca, and the South Texas Human Rights Center. Whether is assembling water stations for migrants crossing the border at the South Texas Human Rights Center or cooking at the Respite Human Center, we believe these experiences are going to be life-changing experience for our participants. These activities will allow us to have first-hand experience with migrant families and the community organizers in McAllen, TX.

*subject to change as planning proceeds.

Quick Facts



Meet Your Student Leaders!

Shirley Araiza is currently a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs pursuing a double major in Political Science and Public Health. Born and raised in Hillsboro, Oregon, she grew up the daughter of Mexican immigrants who picked crops for many years in Oregon’s agriculture industry. As the current Social Media Coordinator for the League of United Latin American Citizens, Araiza hopes to help create a more welcoming and opportune environment for the Latino students at American University. In the future, Araiza hopes to attend graduate school or law school, with the hopes of giving back to her community in Oregon.

"I look forward to teaching and collaborating with other students about the issues of immigration and how we can address such a subject that is so broad."

Kathia Mejia Chevez is currently a junior in the School of Public Affairs pursuing a major in interdisciplinary studies: Communications, Legal Institutions, Economics and Government. She was born in El Salvador, but immigrated to the U.S. in 2008, with her mom and sisters after being away from her dad for years. Kathia is the current AU League of United Latin American Citizens Vice President who is working very hard to make the AU campus a more inclusive and Latino-friendly community. Additionally, she is also working with the Latino Student Fund as a program assistant.  In the future, Kathia hopes to work in the nonprofit sector with focus on higher education access for minorities in the DC Metro Area.

“I want to help raise awareness of the challenges faced by migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border and at our local communities.”