Humanitarian Crisis at the Border Conference


Aimée Santillán, Contributor

The Hope Border Institute, in collaboration with UTEP’s Center for Inter-American and Border Studies, the Department of Political Science and the Department of Sociology, will host a teach-in border and immigration issues conference on Sept. 6 at the UTEP Tomás Rivera Conference Center.

The primary goal for this conference, according to Hope Institute’s Director of Advocacy, Leadership and Research, Camilo Perez-Bustillo, is to bring awareness to current border and immigration issues, as well as to provide with community solutions, educate the public on how to deal with these issues and to press on the importance of political involvement.

“The border is at an emergency situation in terms of human rights,” Perez-Bustillo said. “Due to policies given by the Trump Administration. If you look at the media, you would think that the emergency has passed, when it comes to family separation, but it hasn’t. There are families that are still separated.”

The conference will include a variety of local, national and international speakers that will provide updates on these issues and give options for the community to get involved. Some of the speakers will include Professor Ryan Matlow of the Human Rights Trauma Lab at Stanford University, Blanca Navarrete of Derechos Humanos Integrales en Acción (DHIA) in Ciudad Juárez, among others, and will feature a variety of local organizations as well.

The conference will also be aimed at educating university students about their community and encouraging them to get involved, according to the Chair of the Political Science Department, Dr. Charles Boehmer.

“It’s a teach-in, and teach-in is a very important word with a long history,” Dr. Boehmer said. “It actually goes back to the beginnings of the peace movement, in response to the Vietnam War in 1965 and a teach-in goes around the idea of creating educational opportunities for students that are relevant to the major publications of our day, and in this case, it’s the ongoing administratively-caused crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.”

There will be a variety of local organizations at the conference that could inform students about volunteering opportunities as well as providing information on issues that might be directly affecting them, according to Boehmer. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center and the Border Network for Human Rights will be some of the organizations that are going to be present at the event.

UTEP’s partnership in the organization of this event is an attempt by the university to also show students the university’s support, according to Political Science Professor Dr. Irasema Coronado.

“Many of our students are affected by these issues,” Dr. Coronado said. “Many of our students come from families where immigration is front and center of their family life because they might have a legal permanent residency, or they’re trying to become citizens, or they might have undocumented family members. You know, it’s a challenge, and that’s why it’s important for our students to know that we are concerned with what is going on with these policies and we want to be part of a solution.”

The Humanitarian Crisis at the Border conference will be the beginning of a series of border issues talks and teach-ins that will run from Sept. 6 to Sept. 9–each event will focus on specific issues, according to Perez-Bustillo. These conferences will be free and open to the public.

Aimee Santillan may be reached at [email protected]