U.S. Border Policy Study
From 2016-2019 I was on the Board of Directors for The Next Generation Sonoran Desert Researchers. As a board, we initiated several projects to bring more positive attention to the U.S.-Mexico border region, such as conducting the Border BioBlitz.
During that time, Dr. Scott Warren, an Arizona State University faculty associate in the School of Geographical Science and Urban Planning was arrested on 18 January, 2018 in Ajo, Arizona (about 40 miles north of Mexico) by the U.S. Border Patrol for providing humanitarian aid to migrants who had crossed the U.S. border. Dr. Warren is a geographer who has worked in the border region for over a decade and who actively works to help prevent the deaths of migrants crossing into the U.S.
As colleagues of Dr. Warren who work in the U.S./Mexico border region, we are deeply concerned that his humanitarian actions were characterized as criminal. We discussed our own experiences of encountering undocumented migrants while working in the field and what we have done when asked, “¿Tienes agua?” Could we be arrested for offering a dehydrated person water in the course of our work? While science can attempt to take an objective, quantitative approach toward its research subject, scientists are forced to consider political, social and ethical concerns while employing their research strategy. Scientists, like all individuals living in and working in this region cannot ignore that there is an ongoing humanitarian crisis that affects us personally and professionally.
U.S. and Mexican researchers who conduct field work on both sides of the border are faced with these challenges in the course of their daily work but unfortunately there is little data on the extent that border politics affect collaboration and researchers’ ability to perform their jobs. We conducted a survey through the Next-Generation Sonoran Desert Researchers (NGen) Network to document the interactions researchers working in the border region have with authorities, people crossing the US border, and others and how this affects our ability to conduct research.