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With the DukeEngage Tucson program, we spent the first week to learn about the U.S. immigration issues at BorderLinks. Starting from the second week, we furthered our understanding of the issues and provided service to the local community by doing a full-time internship with organizations. The organizations we work with are mostly grass-roots organizations that fight for human rights for migrants, LGBTQ, and Latin Americans; seek better wage and working conditions for workers; assist undocumented folks with achieving higher education.

I work with School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch), a grass-roots organization advocating for the closure of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), previously called the School of the Americas (SOA), a U.S. Department of Defense Institute that provides military training to government personnel in U.S.-allied Latin American nations, due mainly to the human rights violations done by its graduates. Through the organization, I learned about the “pushing forces” that many of the Latin Americans experience: repression by the state, domestic violence, political unrest, and a lack of job opportunities. I am not even talking about a quality education or reliable and accessible healthcare; I am talking about the things that we, as human beings, should all have — things that satisfy our physiological and safety needs. Disappointingly, however, the U.S. government is partially responsible for the mess in those countries, with WHINSEC being an example of how the U.S. “manipulates” those countries for, ultimately, its own interests. These understandings allowed me to become more empathizing with the migrants and reminded me of the importance to not make judgements before having a decent understanding of the various aspects related to an issue.

As an intern with the Interim Media and Communications Coordinator of the SOA Watch, I am responsible for posting updates related to immigration issues, U.S./Latin American relations, and WHINSEC on social media on a daily basis. I am also working on an overhaul for SOA Watch’s website.

After staying at BorderLinks for the first three weeks of the program, we moved in to our home-stays. My host family has 4 members: mom, 2 teenage boys, and a 1-year-old girl. The family takes good care of Cristina, another member of our DukeEngage group, and I. Since this is my first time staying with a host family, the relatively different living condition and style from those that I am used to growing up gave me an opportunity to appreciate the things that I have always taken for granted, such as an illuminated and quiet space for working and studying (But my host family is very accommodating; they took me to Target for me to buy a lamp). Learning to adapt is also another type of growth!