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2012 Archives

‘Migration Matters’ series to examine complex border issues

Series Schedule

January 26

“Outlaws and Saints: An Evening with New York Times Best-Selling Author Luis Urrea.” Urrea will discuss the writing and reporting in The Devil’s Highway, The Hummingbird’s Daughter, Into the Beautiful North, and his most recent book, The Queen of America.
6:30–8:30 p.m., SMU McCord Auditorium, 306 Dallas Hall

February 9

The Route of Death: Migrants, Massacres and Cartels” will feature a screening of Una Ruta Nada Santa (“An Unholy Road”), which tells the stories of two survivors of a horrendous crime that occurred in August 2010, when a group of undocumented migrants crossed Mexico on a bus bound for the U.S., and only a few miles from their destination, 72 were massacred by a drug cartel. After the screening, a panel discussion will feature the film’s cinematographer and reporter Moises Gomez, its director, Hector Hugo Jimenez, and SMU Assistant Chief of Police Jim Walters, who worked on the case as director of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Southern Border Initiative.
7–9 p.m., SMU McCord Auditorium, 306 Dallas Hall

February 22

“Barbed-Wire Art, Border Myths and Immigration Violence” will be a panel discussion with Maria Herrera-Sobek, professor of Chicana/o and border studies at the University of California Santa Barbara; Josiah Heyman, anthropology professor at the University of Texas El Paso, and Roberto Villalon, sociology professor at St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
5:30–7:30 p.m., SMU McCord Auditorium, 306 Dallas Hall

March 29

“Elections, the Law and Languages at the Border” will feature a panel discussion by Luis Fraga, director of the Diversity Research Institute and political science professor at the University of Washington; Luis Plascencia, social and behavioral sciences professor at Arizona State University; and John Lipski, professor of Spanish linguistics at Pennsylvania State University.
5:30–7:30 p.m., SMU McCord Auditorium, 306 Dallas Hall

April 2

“What is New About Immigration in the United States?” Nancy Foner, a Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, will present SMU’s 2012 George and Mary Foster Lecture in Cultural Anthropology.
5:30–7:30 p.m., SMU McCord Auditorium, 306 Dallas Hall

April 4

“Screening of El Norte, with Commentary by SMU Distinguished Anthropology Professor Caroline B. Brettell.” The 1983 documentary El Norte, directed by Gregory Nava, is the story of two Guatemala Mayan peasants, a brother and sister, who flee their country because of political persecution and head north (“El Norte”). The film traces their journey, border crossing experiences, and subsequent life in the U.S. as undocumented migrants. It raises poignant questions about the concept of “home” and touches on a host of issues important to understanding U.S. immigration.
6:30–8:30 p.m., SMU McCord Auditorium, 306 Dallas Hall

April 26

“Environmental Justice and the Maquilladora Murders” will be presented by Daisy L. Machado, dean of Academic Affairs and professor of church history at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Providing input will be Evelyn Parker, associate professor of practical theology at SMU Perkins School of Theology, along with a special guest who will share a personal experience highlighting the dangers and difficulties of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
6:30–8 p.m., Prothro Hall at SMU Perkins School of Theology, 5901 Bishop Blvd.


January 24, 2012

DALLAS (SMU) — U.S.-Mexico border issue discussions stir powerful emotions often fueled by stereotypes and misinformation. SMU’s “Migration Matters: An Interdisciplinary Program on Immigration at the U.S.-Mexico Border” aims to change that.

The seven-part series, running Jan. 26–April 26, will feature compelling and knowledgeable artists, educators, faith leaders and law enforcement insiders to share the latest information on border-related migration trends, crime, politics, humanitarian efforts, art and literature. All events will be free and open to the community.

'Sacred Jump' by artist Consuelo Jimenez Underwood
“Sacred Jump”
By Consuelo Jimenez Underwood
(click image for hi-res version)
Author Luis Urrea, Pulitzer-prize winning finalist for The Devil’s Highway, kicked off the series Thursday with a discussion of his border-related writing and reportage. Four years ago, The Devil’s Highway — the true, gut-wrenching account of the deadly journey of 26 men attempting to cross the Mexican border into the desert of southern Arizona — was the Common Reading experience for SMU students, most of whom will be graduating this year.

“We want this to be a sustained discussion for our students, not just for these next four months, but one that will continue to influence their intellectual identities beyond their SMU years,” says Jayson Gonzales Sae-Saue, an SMU English professor who specializes in Chicano/a literature and “Migration Matters” coordinator. Literature can be a powerful conduit to discussing current events, Sae-Saue says.

“This subject isn’t about so-called ‘foreigners’ and making distinctions between ‘us’ and ‘them,’” he says. “It’s about understanding how we imagine complex social relationships that implicate everyone. It’s a community issue, one that will allow our students to learn to understand the broad scope of migration-related topics in this election year, and as they move into leadership positions after graduation.”

Urrea’s work in particular, Sae-Saue notes, “helps us make sense of the complicated social, cultural and economic dynamics at the U.S.-Mexico border, including the chaos and confusion regarding the dangerous journey people face when crossing it — and the hostility faced once they arrive here, if they arrive here.”

Sae-Saue calls the series an “innovative and comprehensive” approach to helping both students and the community see migration issues from cultural, legal, economic, theological and humanitarian angles. This emphasis is underscored by SMU’s commitment to engaged learning, “which helps students approach complex subjects from many different lenses of expertise,” says Rick Halperin, director of the Embrey Human Rights Program (EHRP) within Dedman College, co-sponsors of the “Migration Matters” program.

EHRP Associate Director Pat Davis has been working closely with Sae-Saue and SMU Distinguished Professor and anthropologist Caroline Brettell over the past year to help coordinate the series. “Even when migrants cross the border, they don’t leave behind their human rights behind,” Davis says. “Many migrants don’t intend to stay here, but because of current dangers crossing back and forth across the border, they’re forced to,” she adds. “Shelter directors south of the border tell us that the migrants they see are mostly going south, and won’t risk coming north again because the routes are controlled by cartels, which exposes women especially to rape and everyone to violence and the possibility of death.”

“It’s time to start looking at immigrant policy and not immigration policy,” Brettell adds.

Program support comes from the SMU Dedman College of Humanities & Sciences, the Geurin-Pettus Program, Scott-Hawkins Fund, the SMU Embrey Human Rights Program, the SMU Department of English, the George and Mary Foster Distinguished Lecture in Cultural Anthropology, and the Center for the Study of Latino/a Christianity at SMU Perkins School of Theology, with funding from the Henry Luce Foundation.

For more details, contact Jayson Gonzales Sae-Saue at

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