Looking at the border through the world’s eyes

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After we got the seating order figured out, the joint Humphrey-Murrow session yesterday was really enlightening for me. It had never occurred to me how the immigration crisis in Arizona would be perceived by intelligent, international observers.

A few things about the Murrow Fellows’ reactions were surprising to me:

  • Fixation on the physical border fence in Nogales
  • Insistence that Americans should feel a deep sense of shame for this situation
  • Lack of interest in why Americans (or rather, Arizonans) are reacting as they are to immigration

All of this adds up to treating “immigration” as a topic or an event in Arizona, rather than as an active problem with tangible causes and solutions. Though I wasn’t expecting this reaction, I completely understand it. Our guests were right to point out the hypocrisy of having a border fence in The Land of the Free. Our guests were right to say we should care more how the border fence looks as a symbol internationally. Our guests were justified in focusing on the visible, symbolic aspects of the immigration crisis, because that’s all they really got a chance to see.

photo from United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website

As journalists in Arizona, however, I think myself and the other attaches need to consider more real-world aspects of the situation. What factors make border immigration dangerous, besides the desert? What social services and networks are now available to immigrants, legal and non-, and are these fair? How are language and cultural barriers affecting perceptions?

And the best question of the day, asked by Shaima:

Have we made immigration about Joe Arpaio, or Joe Arpaio about immigration?

But in conclusion, I’d like to stress how fascinating and amazing it was to hear the opinions of the Murrow Fellows and Humphrey Fellows (and Goran). Only good things can happen when great journalistic minds from across the world talk together openly for two hours, and receive Saguaro-shaped cookies at the end.

One Comment on “Looking at the border through the world’s eyes”

  1. I had an interesting experience with this perception, as well, when I studied abroad in Costa Rica fall 2010. It was my experience that at least university-age Costa Ricans tend to be very involved in politics and have very well-defined (and often strong) opinions. My host mom, too. I remember one morning at breakfast, when she asked me very directly if I hated Mexicans because I was from Arizona… (The answer is no.)

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