Watch CBSN Live

U. Oregon Summer Class Heads To The Border

This story was written by Jessie Higgins, Oregon Daily Emerald
The University of Oregon College of Education will be teaching an unconventional course this summer that will take 15 students to the U.S.-Mexico border to learn firsthand what life is like for some Mexican immigrants.

Edward Olivos, assistant professor of teacher education at the College of Education, developed the course, which is open to both undergraduate and graduate students of any major.

Olivos said the theme of the two-week course, which begins on July 31 and continues through Aug. 12, is citizenship and immigration.

"The reason for offering this course is the changing demographics in the state," said Olivos.

The class will include a combination of field work (both in Oregon and at the border), seminars and course work. Students will start at the University for some introductory coursework about immigration before traveling to the border near San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico, where they will spend four days doing intensive field work on both sides of the border.

While there, students will be assisting in some of the daily work that non-profit organization Border Angels does, which includes expeditions to the desert to leave water so that the people who are crossing won't die of dehydration. They'll also assist and interview immigrants who have been deported back to Tijuana, said Border Angels founder Enrique Morones.

Sign UpTo register, students must e-mail a faculty recommendation to Edward Olivos at Additionally, all students must have a valid U.S. Passport before departure as they will be working on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border. An informational meeting about the course will be held on Thursday, June 5 at 4 p.m. in room 151 Education. The two-week summer course, which will be held July 31 through August 12, will explore issues of immigration through field work and seminars on the U.S.-Mexican border in Tijuana and San Diego, and also in Woodburn. Students will receive a $300 stipend to offset travel expenses.

Border AngelsThe class will be working with Border Angels, a volunteer organization that works with immigrants on the U.S.-Mexican border. The organization hosts student groups year round. For more information on Border Angels visit After returning to Oregon, students will spend a day in Woodburn working with local immigrants, then return to the University to discuss their combined experiences.

Morones said that while in San Diego and Tijuana, the class will be working with the organization and experiencing what life is like for immigrants.

"I want the students to see what the (border) fence really looks like, and what the other side in Tijuana looks like," said Morones. "I want them to see what it feels like to cross the desert in August so they will get to feel what it is like to cross in these conditions."

Morones said temperatures in the area can climb as high as 130 degrees during the summer.

Morones said that he will also be taking the class to view the border fence up close, to an area where families who live on both sides of the border meet on either side of the fence for picnics or conversation because they are not allowed to cross to the other side.

"It will put a human face on (immigration)," said Morones.

Olivos said that while in San Diego and Tijuana, the students will spend five to six hours doing field work, followed by several more hours of seminars to help them make sense of what they have seen and experienced.

"It's so important to have this first-hand experience," said Morones. "This is the real deal."

Both Morones and Olivos stressed how important this first-hand education of immigration i for anyone who will have to either work with immigrants or the topic of immigration.

Part of the class will be examining myths surrounding immigration, which include immigrants not learning English, not paying taxes, increasing the crime rate, taking jobs away from Americans, draining the U.S. economy and burdening the health care system, according to the Border Angels Web site.

Olivos said that though he will continue teaching this course as part of the University curriculum, this may be the only opportunity for the class to experience the field work at the border because of funding issues.

This summer the course has been sponsored by The Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics, which awards an annual project grant based on its yearly theme. The 2008-2009 theme is "Democracy and Citizenship in the 21st Century," and the center has awarded four additional grants.

Olivos said the grant will be used to help offset travel expenses for the students, giving them each a $300 stipend, as well as to pay for the tour services on the San Diego-Tijuana border.

Olivos said he is uncertain if the program will be able to continue without the additional funding.

"If we have support in the future, we might be able to continue the field work," said Olivos, who considers the work at the border to be the most important aspect of the course.

So far only two students have registered for the summer course, said Olivos.

To register for the class, students must submit a recommendation from a faculty member. Olivos said this is just to make sure the students are enrolling for purely academic reasons.

The class will only take 15 students on a first-come, first-served basis. Olivos said he expects the class to be filled up by mid-June.