Learning about the Plight of Migrants

Students and staff at the Taos Education & Career Center got a lesson Wednesday, Dec. 7 on the severe price many pay as they attempt to migrate to the U.S.

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Jody Ipsen speaks at the Taos Education & Career Center.

Guest speaker Jody L. Ipsen, who was visiting from Arizona, talked about the Tucson Sector, where nearly 3,000 people have died from hypothermia, hyperthermia, and dehydration as they attempted to make their trek on foot across the border. She noted because the U.S. has limited access via walls, Mexican and Central American migrants must now travel through the desert and mountains.

Ipsen, who grew up in Tucson, first joined a group called Humane Borders that leaves jugs of water in the Sonoran Desert, where the temperature can reach 120 degrees in the summer. She has also camped in remote areas with doctors to provide medical care, food, and other supplies. Their aim, she said, was not to encourage the migrants but to help anyone in distress.

She is also a member of Los Desconocidos and The Migrant Quilt Project, which offers humanitarian aid by providing water and cleaning lay-up sites, where migrants leave behind possessions to lighten their load.

Ipsen displayed four quilts memorializing those who died along the way. Many of the dead were identified, but far more were unknown — desconocidos. The fabric used for the quilts was taken from the clothing found discarded at lay-up sites.

As part of her talk, Ipsen gave a PowerPoint presentation, in which she told the story in words and photos about a few women who had died during their crossing. “What the eyes don’t see, the heart can’t feel,” she said.

Ipsen also spoke about the impact of U.S. policies, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) passed in 1994 that she said has affected the Mexican economy negatively. In one story about a Mexican woman who was found dead, she noted the family had been farming beans for generations but could not compete with the cheap U.S. government-subsidized beans imported into that country.

To learn more about Los Desconocidos, visit www.losdesconocidos.org.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: A quilt created by Cornelia Bayley.

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