Why do you think people choose to cross the border? That is the first of the “questions to consider” in the teaching resources section of the website for “The Undocumented”, an acclaimed documentary that aired last year on PBS, and covers the deadly journey across the Sonoran desert undertaken by so many north-bound migrants in hope of a life in the United States.
This website is fantastic; not only is it completely interactive and offers an in-depth, teacher-friendly resources section, it also offers the ability to play a unique video game, “The Migrant Trail”, designed as a supplementary medium for the documentary.
This game offers the user the option to play as a migrant or as a border patrol agent, and within each character there is a robust bevy of decisions to make, from paying Coyotes to choosing whether or not to provide medical aid to ailing border-crossers. The game creates the unique situation in which the users can immerse themselves into the daily realities and decisions made every day, by people on both sides of the fence. The overall premise of the game highlights the failure of U.S. border policies to respond to the realities of migrants’ decisions to cross the border and the immense amount of risk many are willing to take.
As Adam mentioned in a WWW post last year, the rationale for the creation of Operation Gatekeeper in 1994 was that no one would consider the trek across the brutal Arizona desert a worthwhile risk for entering the U.S. They were wrong. The website’s resource section illustrates how wrong they were with an interactive map of migrant deaths, providing individual names and stories, the reasons these women and men crossed the border, and explanations of how they died (due to the elements or, sometimes, gunshot wounds from Border Patrol Agents). The map reveals that many of the fatalities remain unidentified, their families back home never being able to know for sure what happened.
Although I could not imagine a better resource for teaching about the current realities on the border, another great online resource is National Geographic’s educational spotlight on the U.S.-Mexico Border. Aside from providing riveting photography of the border area, this page provides a concise overview of the actual places where people cross, a vocabulary of relevant terms and phrases, as well as a thorough list of further resources.
Although this is no doubt a tough issue to discuss in a classroom setting, these issues are real and current and deserve to be shared with the public, especially here in the U.S.
Image: Photograph by Paula Cabrera, MyShot, NatGeo