When Celeste González de Bustamante, an assistant professor at the UA School of Journalism, met Yvonne Latty in New York City in June, the two professors decided to start Beyond the Border, a program that provides journalism students with hands-on experience writing about life on both sides of the border. This month, about 17 students from New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute arrived to work alongside UA students. Next week, Bustamante and those UA students will travel to New York to learn about life for immigrants working and living in cities far from home. For more information on the project, visit www.beyondtheborder.net, or e-mail Bustamante at email@example.com.
What a great opportunity for these students.
Especially for these students from New York; most of them have never been to the border, (nor have) the faculty members collaborating with us. Yvonne Latty was completely overwhelmed by what she saw in Nogales. She was expecting it to be desolate, but discovered that these are thriving communities on both sides of the border.
What about the UA students going to New York?
A few have been to New York, but most haven't. One of the themes ... is that we are trying to look at what happens to immigrants once they make it across the border. In New York, there are ethnic tensions that have occurred and have played out in different ways, so one of the goals is to give students training on how to report these events and produce multimedia reports about areas of historical conflict.
How did you and Yvonne Latty start the project?
We met after a summer program we attended at the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma in New York. We talked about what she is doing at NYU and what I was doing here, and we decided we should bring our students together to learn more about the border. We had to get funding for it quickly to get it off the ground this fall. She had funding. Luckily, we were able to get funding from the Marshall Foundation, the (College of Social and) Behavioral Sciences—of which the School of Journalism is a part—the Dart Center and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. (Full disclosure: The Tucson Weekly is also supporting the project.)
How have the New York students reacted to life on the border?
I think they were struck. I didn't talk to every student, but I know that one in particular was struck emotionally, going out into the desert and looking at volunteers setting up water stations. She saw some of the (used) bottles that had been left out in the desert. She could tell by looking at them that they hadn't been out for very long and realized that these are real people who are coming through here.
What are some of the issues the UA students will discover in New York?
In New York, one of the fastest-growing populations is Mexican. The demographics are changing. Many of these people came into the United States through Sonora. If someone only reads mainstream media, then you think all of these people are drug-smugglers, especially in this political season. But a project like this can shed light on the human side of things. This is not just a two-dimensional issue. It is much more complex.
Are there specific issues in New York that Mexican immigrants face?
One student is looking at a story on recent attacks on Mexicans. In Staten Island, there are tensions between blacks and Mexicans in this neighborhood.
As a journalist, why is a project like this important?
When my friend Ted Robbins and I worked for Arizona Public Media, after about 100 people had died in the desert, we both thought we had to do something. We said, "We have to take this to a national level. We know this story in Arizona, but we have to take it to Bill Moyers, PBS national," but nobody would bite. Now, close to 2,000 people have died, and we are still in this standstill. Immigration policy hasn't changed. We keep doing the status quo, and it has its economic benefits for many people, but it also has social challenges. One of the things I do is get my students thinking about why are we in this status quo, and why is there real resistance to immigration reform.