Contributed by Anne Gebelein
On Monday April 11th, Dodd Impact, El Instituto, and the Human Rights Institute, in collaboration with Skidmore College, celebrated the opening of an exhibit on children’s art created in the MPP camp of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The exhibit “Painting the Border” will be in the Dodd Center until the end of June, but it is also online and can be accessed at any time for classroom use: https://sway.office.com/LnDhhrRyoyvYQKiz?ref=email
To mark the opening of the exhibit, a panel of faculty and activists discussed the current situation of children in refugee camps created by the United States’ “Remain in Mexico” policy, as well as pressing concerns of youth who have arrived in CT. The panel “Youth Seeking Refuge: U.S. Immigration Policy, Mobility Justice and Human Rights” included speakers Dr Diana Barnes of Skidmore College, who created the exhibit; Dr Anne Gebelein of El Instituto; Katia Daley, Healthcare Campaign Organizer for CT Students for a Dream; and Lucero Claudia De Alva Fernandez, industrial engineer, business owner, and the lead creator and organizer of a 9-shelter school system for 484 migrant youth in Ciudad Juarez.
Panelists discussed the many consequences of the closing of the border under Title 42, from foreign nationals not being allowed to exercise their right to request asylum; to a buildup of people seeking entry since 2019; to gangs making fortunes from charging tolls to cross their territory, from kidnapping and extortion, and from human trafficking and slavery. Citizens in Ciudad Juarez worked hard to convert 24 unoccupied buildings into shelters to bring families off the streets in one of the most dangerous cities in the hemisphere, and to create a school system in which to give primarily Central American children some sense of normalcy. Even so, the pictures these children painted in an art workshop reveal anxiety about leaving their homes and traumas in confronting additional violence in their journeys to our border.