Undergraduates Shiriel King Abramson (American Studies) and Courtney Cooperman (Political Science) published an opinon editorial this week about their experience working with detained asylum-seeking families in Dilley, Texas in June.
The trip was part of a pair of community engaged learning courses Abramson and Cooperman enrolled in last Spring, SPANLANG 108SL and HUMRTS 108: Spanish Immersion Service-Learning: Migration, Asylum, and Human Rights at the U.S. Mexico Border. Sponsored by the Language Center, Stanford Global Studies, the Haas Center for Public Service, and the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, the courses were designed to help students develop advanced Spanish language proficiency through examination of issues surrounding current immigration and refugee crises.
The spring coursework involved learning, entirely in Spanish, about regional geopolitics, history, international human rights treaties, and U.S. immigration law, and the medical and psychological implications of migration. Students then traveled with course instructor Vivian Brates, and Associate Director of the Center for Human Rights and International Justice, Penelope Van Tuyl, to a family detention facility in Dilley, Texas in June where they volunteered with the Dilley Pro Bono Project, preparing Spanish-speaking asylum seekers them for their credible fear interviews with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Due to the high volume of interest in this course, it is being offered again in the 2019-20 Academic Year, with opportunities to work in Dilley immediately following in the Fall and Winter terms.
Abramson and Cooperman, both in their senior year at Stanford, wrote movingly about the experience they had and the clients they encountered during their week Dilley:
"The women and children in Dilley have committed no crime. They exercised a fundamental human right and crossed our borders seeking protection. In return, our government herded them through a hellish process, assigning them 'alien detainee' numbers and discarding their humanity. Here were our hemisphere’s tired and poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. But our southern border lies beyond Lady Liberty’s peripheral vision, so we usher asylum seekers into cages and ice-cold warehouses––when we even let them in at all."
You can read their full editorial in the San Francisco Examiner online: Opinion: Family detention is a far cry from summer camp.