Speakers Bureau Spring 2021

The intention intention of the Spring 2021 Border Studies Program “Speaker’s Bureau” is to amplify critical voices from the transnational U.S. / Mexico borderlands, and to promote college and university students’ opportunities to interact with front-line activists, experts and community members involved in work around immigration, border militarization, human rights, language justice, and related social, political and environmental issues.

If you are interested in scheduling one of the following guest-speakers to appear remotely in your class, or for some other campus or community event, please contact us at borderstudiesprogramtucson@gmail.com.

The following is a list of those activists, practitioners, and researchers from the borderlands who have confirmed their participation:

Karla Bautista, Liberation Coordinator, Trans Queer Pueblo: Karla Bautista comes from Petén, Guatemala and is a transgender woman of Cakchiquel origin. Fleeing violence and homophobia in her country, she immigrated to the United States in 2005. In the United States, Karla was detained and placed in cold cells before being deported to Mexico. When she managed to cross on her sixth attempt, she did not imagine that she would be kidnapped, sexually abused and enslaved to forced labor. As she describes, that’s how her life in Phoenix began, with violence, racism, obstacles, and fear. She was invited to meet Trans Queer Pueblo at the end of 2017. This is how she obtained contact with the Liberation Clinic and took control of her health and hormonalization for the first time, that same year. In 2018 she was invited to attend the summit and then to participate in the legal course in which she became politicized, learning to represent herself legally and obtaining various tools. Today she has a pending application for political asylum and a T-visa. On January 11 of this year she had an interview where she met with a transphobic and racist officer who refused to speak about gender and community, canceling the interview. As she shares, this was what gave her the courage and strength to connect with Project Liberation as a transgender and undocumented woman and joined the fight to raise her voice, develop leadership and raise awareness for her LGBT+ migrant community.

Geoff Boyce PhD, Academic Director, Border Studies Program: Geoff Boyce is an academic expert on U.S. border enforcement and border militarization, including the U.S. Border Patrol’s strategy of Prevention Through Deterrence and the agency’s practices within its 100-mile border zone jurisdiction. Geoff has authored or co-authored 18 peer reviewed journal articles and has partnered with a number of community groups and advocacy organizations, including research reports co-authored with No More Deaths, La Coalición de Derechos Humanos, the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office, the University of Arizona Binational Migration Institute, and the ACLU of Michigan. This latter research partnership reflects a sustained interest in border and immigration enforcement practices and their impacts on immigrant communities in the U.S. midwest.

Luz Imelda Cortez, Paisanos Unidos: Luz Imelda Cortez is from a border town called Naco, Sonora that borders Naco, Arizona. She has shared that she had a beautiful childhood crossing these two countries, Mexico and the United States, with freedom, which today is difficult if you do not have documents that allows you to do so. Her family decided to come to live in Tucson, because there were no job opportunities in her town. At first, it was very difficult for her to live in this country, the United States, where you don’t talk to your neighbors, where you just have to be indoors, watching TV or cleaning the house. What motivated her to want to stay in this country was when her daughter started pre-kindergarten, she began then volunteering at her daughter’s school. Luz Imelda also became more involved in her community by taking English classes and taking advantage of all the workshops she was invited to. She had the opportunity to graduate from Pima College with a Community Health Advisory certificate, but since she had no documents in the U.S. at that time, she was not able to work. Luz Imelda was only able to volunteer as a health promoter in different organizations. As a migrant and without documents, she thought she had no rights in this country. When she learned that migrants have rights, she was motivated to tell her people to think like her- Don’t be afraid! Si se puede! (It can be done!) Now, Luz Imelda is part of Paisanos Unidos (United Paisanos), a grassroots group that supports families, giving information about their rights. She also achieved with effort and study her citizenship to the United States, so she has now dual citizenship and she is free to come and go to Mexico as when she was a child.

Nellie Jo David, O’odham Anti Border Collective: Nellie Jo David works to strengthen indigenous rights and autonomy on the imposed U.S./Mexico borderlands intersecting the Tohono O’odham Nation. Nellie is co-founder of the O’odham Anti Border Collective, a grassroots group dedicated to maintaining connections despite colonial barriers. She is from Ajo, Arizona, traditionally Hia-Ced O’odham territory, just West of the Tohono O’odham reservation, North of Mexico. Nellie was inspired to raise awareness on border issues upon witnessing the increased militarization of her community. Nellie obtained her J.D. with a certificate in indigenous law and policy from Michigan State University in 2014. She is currently working on her SJD at the University of Arizona IPLP Program.

Parker Dieghan, No More Deaths Abuse Documentation Team: The Abuse Documentation working group of No More Deaths (NMD) is a team of volunteers dedicated to witnessing, documenting, and publishing reports that expose the brutal and deadly practices of US Border Patrol and other government agencies in the borderlands. Their current report, Disappeared, is a three part series exposing US government policing tactics that cause the crisis of death and mass disappearance in the borderlands. Part 1 focuses on the Border Patrol practice of “chase and scatter” in the wilderness. Part 2 focuses on Border Patrol’s practice of destroying water and other humanitarian aid supplied left by volunteers along migrant trails and other patterns of interference with life-saving humanitarian aid. The final and most recent installment, Left to Die: Border Patrol, Search and Rescue, and the Crisis of Disappearance, focuses on discriminatory emergency response system in the borderlands, in which Border Patrol has taken over search and rescue response for lost migrants in distress, and then fails to respond- leaving people to die in the remote wilderness.

Dévora Gonzales, School of the Americas Watch: Devora Gonzalez was born and raised in Los Angeles to migrant parents that found refuge in the city. Being raised in a Central American community, the political and historical knowledge she gathered stemmed from oral history and narratives of migration from her family, friends, and community. Aware of the anti-migrant sentiment, structural border conditions that fueled deaths at the desert, and feeling a strong connection to the communities forced to migrate to the United States, she relocated to Tucson, Arizona in 2012. Since, she has been part of the Missing Migrant Crisis Hotline that was a project of the Coalición de Derechos Humanos and No More Deaths, has helped with abuse documentation for several reports, and has been active in migrant rights work, resistance, and resilience of Border Communities in the face of militarization. She is currently a field organizer with SOA Watch, focusing on the role and impact of US foreign policy and intervention as a root cause of migration.

Laiken Jordahl, Center for Biological Diversity: Laiken Jordahl works for the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson, AZ, where he works to protect wildlife, ecosystems and communities throughout the U.S.-Mexico borderlands and to draw attention to the costs of border wall construction and border militarization on the fragile Sonoran desert environment.

Taylor Levy, attorney and advocate at the El Paso / Juárez border: Taylor Levy is an immigration attorney in El Paso, Texas. After a decade working with various nonprofits, Taylor founded her own legal consulting firm dedicated to protecting the rights of asylum-seekers arriving at our southern border. Taylor currently provides pro bono legal assistance to asylum-seeking families who have been returned to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico under the “Remain in Mexico” program, formally known as the “Migrant Protection Protocols.” Taylor also provides education and advocacy around issues affecting asylum-seekers on the border, including mentoring other attorneys, presenting at conferences, speaking to the press, and hosting professional delegations visiting the area.

Eva Lewis, People Helping People in the Border Zone: Eva Lewis is a filmmaker and director of the film Undeterred: Community Resistance on the U.S. / Mexico Border. People Helping People in the Border Zone (PHP) was founded in 2012 and is an all-volunteer community organization based in Arivaca, AZ that works together for the protection of human life, regardless of immigration status. PHP organizes to stop Border Patrol abuse and the militarization of the borderlands. Arivaca is located in the eastern Sonoran Desert where the Border Patrol strategy of “Prevention Through Deterrence” pushes migrants and refugees into a deadly crossing. The community lives in the midst of a crisis of disappearance in the borderlands.

Jesús Lucero, Executive Team Member, ScholarshipsA-Z: Jesus Lucero is a queer migrant living in the United States since 2003. They did not come out as undocumented to their high school counselor until after they experienced state violence and family separation. The United States government kidnapped their dad, held him in captivity, and deprived him of adequate food and of his heart medication. During that traumatic time for their family, they were connected to ScholarshipsA-Z by a member of our team working at their high school. Jesus’ dad has since been released and is not currently being targeted by the government. Jesus was a participant of the first-ever Immigrant Scholarship Hustle, was a Program Coordinator for the third Tucson ISH, and is currently serving on the executive team.

Todd Miller, author and journalist: Todd Miller has researched and written about border issues for more than 15 years, the last eight as an independent journalist and writer. He resides in Tucson, Arizona, but also has spent many years living and working in Oaxaca, Mexico. His work has appeared in the New York Times, TomDispatch, The Nation, San Francisco Chronicle, In These Times, Guernica, and Al Jazeera English, among other places. Miller has authored three books: Empire of Borders: The Expansion of the U.S. Border Around the World (Verso, 2019), Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration, and Homeland Security (City Lights, 2017), and Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security (City Lights, 2014). He’s a contributing editor on border and immigration issues for NACLA Report on the Americas and its column “Border Wars”.

Carolina Silva, Executive Director, ScholarshipsA-Z: Carolina Silva is the Executive Director of ScholarshipsA-Z and came to the U.S. at the age of nine from Lima, Peru. Her work is situated at the intersection of education, immigration, and equity. She began organizing as an undocumented college student in Salt Lake City, Utah and received her PhD in Cultural Studies and Social Thought in Education at Washington State University.

Scott Warren, PhD, Ajo Samaritans: Scott Warren is a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Geography and Development at the University of Arizona. He is a long-time affiliate of the humanitarian organizations Ajo Samaritans and No More Deaths, and he has conducted academic research on the history of extractive industry in the U.S. / Mexico borderlands and its political economic relationship to contemporary patterns of border militarization. In 2019 an Arizona jury unanimously found him “not guilty,” after he was twice prosecuted by the U.S. government for his humanitarian work with in Ajo, AZ.

The Ajo Samaritans mission is to relieve suffering and prevent deaths of all travelers regardless of immigration status. Founded in early 2012 to respond to this crisis of death and disappearance in the deserts and remote mountains around our hometown, we are people of conscience who continue the historical work of providing humanitarian aid to travelers in the desert in the Ajo, Arizona area. Their work includes supporting migrant shelters in Northern Mexico; providing humanitarian aid and search and rescue/recovery in remote areas of the desert; and facilitating community meetings and opportunities for our friends and neighbors in Ajo and across the country to learn more about the humanitarian crisis at the border.