Migration, U.S-Mexico border issues are focus of new SIT Study Abroad program

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December 6, 2017

Contact: Kate Casa 802-258-3527

MexicoBRATTLEBORO, Vt. – A new SIT Study Abroad program will give undergraduate students a first-hand look at migration along both sides of U.S. and Mexican borders and its tremendous human, social, and political implications.

Enrollment opens Dec. 15 for Mexico: Migration, Borders, and Transnational Communities, an intensive, semester-long program based in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, where there is a long history of migration to the United States. The program launches in fall 2018.

“Migration and borders, especially with Mexico, are vital issues facing the United States today and this program provides a unique opportunity to gain knowledge about international migration and borders from the U.S. side and from the perspectives of migrant-sending communities,” said Aynn Setright, SIT academic dean for Latin America. “Students will achieve a deeper understanding of our southern neighbors and overall migration policy and its impacts.”

Students will start the semester in Tucson, Ariz., a major point of entry for undocumented migrants entering the United States. There, they will meet with grassroots leaders organizing immigrants’ rights groups and talk with undocumented migrants about their journey to the United States and what they face once they’re here.

In Oaxaca, they’ll learn how generations of cyclical migration to and from the United States has affected rural and urban communities, and how increased border enforcement has resulted in death, disappearance, and separation from family and friends.

Students will also travel to the Mexican state of Chiapas, to Mexico City, and to a border community in Guatemala to understand the very different experiences that Central Americans face in their attempts to cross into Mexico and to enter the United States.

SIT Study Abroad Director of Special Projects Riley Merline helped design the new SIT program. Merline spent about a decade working on the U.S. southern border starting in 2006 with the Tucson-based nonprofit BorderLinks and as director of Earlham College’s Border Studies Program. During that time, he saw dramatic changes along the border, including the militarization of U.S. enforcement that has constricted what was once a routine flow of migrants to and from the United States for work, shopping and education. This development has pushed migrants into the shadows, where they face violence and death, Merline pointed out.

“In a world of inequality, a world of climate change, where the U.S. and other powerful nations have a big responsibly in the global economy and carbon emissions, what does it mean to seal off the borders between well-to-do nations and those that aren’t doing so well?” Merline asks in an SIT podcast. “What does it mean from an ethical perspective to say ‘you don’t have access to this space’? Push ourselves down the road a few decades and imagine a world where there’s a Fortress America and a Fortress Europe barricaded off from the rest of the world. Is that a world we want to live in? In some ways, imagining borders in that context can help us think more concretely and have more motivation to make sure that economic gains and wealth distribution and climate change are addressed in ways that help us not come to that reality.”

  • Click here to listen to On Site: Immigration and the Mexico-U.S. Border

SIT Study Abroad programs are characterized by hands-on, experiential learning and immersion into local cultures through meetings with local leaders and activists, intensive language instruction, and homestays with local families. Because this program is taught in Spanish, students must have at least three recent semesters of college-level Spanish or the equivalent, and the ability to follow coursework in Spanish. The 16-credit program includes a four-credit independent study project or a four-week internship with a community or research organization, business, or international NGO.

Click here to find out how to apply, or go to the SIT program page website to learn more about Mexico: Migration, Borders, and Transnational Communities.

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SIT Study Abroad offers more than 80 semester and summer programs for undergraduate students in Asia and the Pacific, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East, including comparative programs in multiple locations. Students step beyond the boundaries of a traditional classroom to analyze the critical issues shaping local communities around the globe.