A group of migrants at a shelter near Puebla, Mexico, sat in a circle of chairs and stared nervously across at five students from Eva Dziadula's Economics of Immigration class and a few other Notre Dame students studying abroad there.
The migrants were nearly all young men from Honduras. How could they describe the harrowing decision to leave their families and homes or the tortuous trip of thousands of miles on top of dangerous freight trains to get to the border of the United States?
Finally, one took the lead and spoke up.
José said he hopes to do carpentry and painting in the U.S. to provide money for his family. At home, he said, he can't make much money no matter how hard he works, and if he saves anything, it's usually stolen. He was making his third attempt without a “coyote” guide, which can cost thousands of dollars he doesn't have.
Asked about dangers on the trip, José shed some tears talking about the violence they face from Mexican authorities and gangs that often rob or beat the migrants. He said they just want to help their families and hope to be treated like human beings.
The students listened in empathetic silence. Then Jack Kelly, a junior studying pre-health and English, responded in his best Spanish.
“Thank you for sharing your story,” Kelly said. “You deserve respect, both as a person and as someone willing to do whatever it takes to help your family. I'm sorry for what you've had to go through.”
With little more solace to offer, the students stood and shook hands with each migrant in the circle. This kind of face-to-face interaction is exactly why Dziadula brings groups of Notre Dame students to Puebla and Mexico City to witness the journey at its midway point—in a course that focuses on the economic factors and outcomes at the start and end of the volatile subject of immigration.
Originally published by news.nd.edu on June 15, 2023.at