University of Arizona students are interviewing hundreds of deported illegal border crossers over the next year to document the connection between drugs, guns and violence on the border.
The study is funded by a $100,000 grant from the Ford Foundation, a private Michigan-based organization that awards grants to social-justice causes globally.
While the students' research won't be completed until early next year, preliminary returns from the surveys show that illegal border crossers are experiencing an increase in emotional and physical violence at the hands of smugglers and Border Patrol agents, said co-principal investigator Jeremy Slack.
The buildup of border enforcement and the overlap of drug- and human-smuggling appear central to a rise in violence over the last three years, Slack said.
"We are committed to tell this story by using their voices to tell the phenomena of the border," he said.
UA students from several academic areas work with professors and students from partnering Mexican universities to conduct the interviews. They are talking with deported border crossers at shelters in Tijuana; Nogales, Sonora; Ciudad Juarez; Matamoros; and Mexicali.
The project stems from a dissertation by Daniel E. Martinez, a University of Arizona Ph.D. student and research visitor at Notre Dame. He was introduced to the shelters through Anna Ochoa O'Leary, who was awarded a 2006 Fulbright grant for her survey-based research with female migrants.
Initial data collected focused mainly on Mexican migrants in shelters near Tucson. But with the grant, researchers now can expand beyond the Tucson-Nogales area, and Martinez said this change will broaden preliminary data for an executive summary to be released next spring.
The Ford Foundation also funds the University of California-San Diego's Mexican Migration Field Research Program, whose research is based on interviews with illegal border crossers. Researchers with that program conduct interviews in three Mexican communities with varying illegal-migration patterns and socioeconomic status.
A focus on how border enforcement is affecting migration is crucial, said Jonathan Hicken, a research associate with the Mexican Migration Field Research Program. The survey research adds a more human element missed in other, non-interview-based efforts, he said.
"It's in our best interest for programs like this to start sprouting up everywhere," Hicken said of the UA program.
to Read interviews
To read some of the interviews conducted by UA students with illegal border crossers, go to researchdiscuss.blogspot.com
Who's paying for it?
To learn more about the organization funding the research, go to the Ford Foundation's website: fordfoundation.org
Jazmine Woodberry is a University of Arizona student who is apprenticing at the Star. Contact her at starapprentice@azstarnet. com or 573-4128.