Some students at the University of Arizona (UA) used their Spring Break to erect the largest mock border wall in the nation across the main traffic center of their campus. Part of Immigration Week at , the wall will spotlight the lethal effects of U.S. militarization, immigration and border enforcement policies both in the U.S. and abroad.
Equipped with barbed-wire and stretching nearly four football fields in length, the mock wall will divide the UA mall for ten days, creating a significant traffic disruption on campus. Their project is a statement on the impact of border walls like the wall on the US/Mexico border and the Israel/Palestine wall. Both situations share similar aspects of separation, segregation and militarization, say the students.
UA No Más Muertes/No More Deaths collaborated with several other groups working for nearly 8 months to bring this project to fruition, securing permits and insurance. The fencing , entitled "Wall to Wall - Concrete Connections/Conexiones Concretas," will be decorated with information, signs, messages, pictures and art to encourage dialogue and spread awareness of the issue of immigration, occupation and injustice.
The students say they are alarmed by increasing anti-immigrant legislation and sentiment throughout Arizona and the country. They note what they call "the ongoing repression of migrants, indigenous peoples and communities of color by U.S. Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) forces." The students also point to more than 6000 human remains recovered from the U.S./Mexico desert borderlands since the early 1990's, when the U.S. instituted harsh "deterrence" strategies targeting migrants crossing into the U.S.
The students' statement of purpose reads, "By voluntarily giving up the unjust privileges that we enjoy -- and symbolically taking those privileges away from you, our fellow students, faculty, administration and staff -- we aim to create an unavoidable crisis on campus to expose the larger human catastrophe which our community, by and large, continually fails to see..."
The mock wall also represents the harmful effects of Israel's apartheid wall that punctuates the Palestinian West Bank. An outgrowth of a 44-year military occupation, paid for by $3 billion in annual U.S. military aid, and built on occupied Palestinian territory, the wall was deemed illegal by the United Nations International Court of Justice in July 2004.
A Palestinian-American UA Engineering graduate student and coordinator of UA No Más Muertes' Palestinian solidarity program will lead guided tours of the mock wall's Palestine portion. Born in Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, this student was raised and schooled in Palestine, before moving to Tucson with his family while still in high school.
Packed into a 387-acre area of central Tucson, the University of Arizona educates and employs more than 50,000 students, faculty and staff, outnumbering the State of Arizona as the largest public employer in Southern Arizona. That makes it a good target for mass disruption, the students say.
"We won't let daily life continue while people are dying and suffering from abominable policies being funded with U.S. tax dollars," stated UA NMM coordinator and native Tucsonan, Gabriel Matthew Schivone. "We aim to disturb, to trouble our peers .... We hope to quicken the conscience of our community and shake them into action to end these abuses."
Several of the organizers come from backgrounds that correspond with those victimized by U.S. policy in AZ, Palestine, and beyond. Schivone is a Chicano-Jewish American whose mother was born in Mexico, crossed as a child and was naturalized while in her twenties.
NMM co-coordinator Daniel Curiel, was born on the now-militarized borderline dividing Yuma, AZ, from San Luís Río Colorado, Sonora. He says: "As a child and adolescent, I grew up witnessing the increasingly ravaging militarization of the border -- which to begin with, made the effort of just seeing my family and friends on the other side very difficult; I saw them less and less as the years went by."
Groups collaborating on the effort along with No More Deaths include Social Justice League, UA for Border Justice, JUNTOS, UNIDOS, Women's Resource Center, Vagina, AZ Jewish Voice for Peace, Students for Justice in Palestine, among others.