Student trip helps ‘put a human face on abstract questions’ about immigration issues
by Andrea Miller
WHITMAN COLLEGE PIONEER
Though many complain about the lack of “real world” relevance of a liberal arts education, one group of students has gone to great lengths to see, experience and change what they have learned in their Whitman studies.
During the four-day vacation, 20 students traveled all over Eastern Washington and Oregon to study the Immigration Debate. Senior Laura Hanson, one of the coordinators of “The Border in Our Backyard: The Immigration Debate in Eastern Washington,” emphasized the word ‘debate’ because the group met with government officials, activists supportive of immigration and anti-immigration fundamentalists.
The trip was planned as a result of reflections of students who had traveled to Sonora, Mexico to study immigration. Border trip and alternative four-day trip attendee junior Griff Lambert said the experience was a “very good follow-up [to Mexico]” because it provided such a “good understanding of things happening in Washington.”
In Yakima, Wash., the group stopped at the American Legion to meet with members of Grassroots on Fire, a group “decided to mobilize and take action regarding the utter failure of [its] government and elected officials who have refused to control the invasion of foreign nationals who have entered [its] country illegally.”
Grassroots on Fire supports California’s Proposition 187 and the aim to restrict public resources to United States citizens only. At the time of the students’ visit, activists were protesting the group outside the American Legion. For Hanson, the juxtaposition of the Grassroots on Fire and its protestors was very lasting, and one of the more important moments of the trip. Lambert cites the group’s emphasis on “fact” as one of the more frustrating elements of the trip because the situation is made all the more “difficult in looking towards the future for change.”
Trip-goers plan to extend their experiences out to the Whitman community. The group is planning a trip for students to Broetje Orchards.
Furthermore, a new class is being designed that aims to bridge the “academic with real world experiences.” The class would be comprised of readings and discussions, as well as internships to get the students into the community and experiencing the issue firsthand.
Students are also working on collaborating with community groups from Walla Walla Community College and Walla Walla College. According to Hanson, the projects in Mexico, Washington and at Whitman all help to “put a human face on abstract questions.”