Interdisciplinary Border Project takes its fifth visit to the US/Mexico border

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After delay due to the pandemic, the Interdisciplinary Border Project is back to traveling. Over spring break, Webster faculty and students took their fifth trip to the border of the US and Mexico in Texas. The trip this past week saw individuals from the legal studies, Spanish and nursing departments at Webster heading to the border to support immigrants with the organization ARISE Adelante.

Recent immigrants gather together with their belongings. The photo was taken from a previous trip to US/Mexico border. Contributed by Anne Geraghty- Rathert.

The Project started five years ago when nursing professor Mary Ann Drake and legal studies professor Anne Geraghty-Rathert saw the turmoil at the border in the news due to changing legislation regarding immigration. Drake went to the border that summer and found ARISE as the perfect organization to work with.

“[ARISE members] have been at the border for like, over 30 years,” Geraghty-Rathert said. “They are people who are immigrants themselves, who live in the community and who are doing this work on a daily basis. [It’s] just an amazing empowered organization, run by women who are in various stages of immigration.”

ARISE Adelante is a community based program in southern Texas providing resources and connections for immigrant women. The program helps develop professional skills, community and provide social justice advocacy for women and children in all stages of immigration.

On each trip, students and faculty develop presentations and research specific topics about the legality of immigration. This year’s topic was about the “good moral character” requirement for citizenship from the USCIS. Students also helped train members of the organization to become notaries in Texas, helping to notarize documents for those filling out immigration paperwork. On top of these projects, some students also taught classes to immigrants of all ages on the use and importance of technology, specifically Google Suite.

Freshman Alinka Brigas was one of the students teaching this class, expecting to go to the border just to teach and help translate from Spanish to English.

“Even though this was a trip for me to go help, I think I got more out of it,” Brigas said. “And I think pretty much everyone felt the same thing. It was really raw.”

The Project also hits home for Brigas especially because her parents are Mexican immigrants. Brigas described a story of a woman who immigrated to the US completely on her own, worked difficult housekeeping jobs and ended up having children and joining ARISE. The woman–referred to as Miss Lucia–described how through her hardships, her children are her hope and give her faith.

“It’s like, how are these people still not breaking down when in [these] positions?” Brigas said. “I cannot imagine it because I’m in the situation I am now thanks to my parents, thanks to their hard work.”

The Project affected Brigas heavily. She currently works at a local immigration law firm as an administrative assistant, a job she got through volunteering translating at her church every Sunday since eighth grade. Brigas was invited on the trip by her Spanish professor, but ended up solidifying her plan to continue studying immigration law.

“I’m even more passionate about coming back from the trip . . . I feel like I’m getting signals from the world telling me ‘this is what you’re supposed to be,’” Brigas said.

While the trip is mainly advertised for legal studies, Spanish and nursing majors, all majors are welcome. Other majors in the past that have joined include history and international human rights for example.

“Anybody can come with us and we will absolutely figure out a way to help them apply their own education,” Geraghty-Rathert said. “There are a million things that people can do to help when they’re there. They don’t have to be committed to immigration law or nursing to be able to contribute.”

“All the things we get to go through in a short time,” Brigas said. “It’s like a moment to open your eyes to what’s going on. And I know we have so many other issues going on in the world, in the country, even in the state, but it’s happening to people who need help. And that’s what I strive to do . . . I want to help.”

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Alexandria Darmody (she/they) was the editor-in-chief for the Journal in fall of 2022. She graduated with a degree in journalism along with an FTVP minor. She's also written for the Webster-Kirkwood Times and was involved with the university's speech and debate team.