Amidst Battle Over Border Wall, MSW Students Study Migrant Issues in Puebla, Mexico

January 10, 2019

As the battle over the President's proposed border wall rages in Washington, eight NYU Silver MSW students are in Puebla, Mexico, taking an intensive, January-term course on Migration and The Trump Wall: Health and Social Welfare Issues of Latino Migrants. Taught by Professor and Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health Director Vincent Guilamo-Ramos and Professor María de Lourdes Rosas López of NYU’s partner university Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla (UPAEP), the course combines substantive lectures, structured group discussions, student presentations, and case examples with site visits to social service and health providers along the migratory path and a trip to “La Bestia,” the freight trains on which migrants travel, for cultural exchange with migrants themselves.

Dr. Guilamo-Ramos noted he has taught an annual course on migration from Latin America to the United States since 2013 but it has taken on added significance during the Trump presidency. “The course seeks to expose students to the complex and urgent social welfare issue of Latino migrants in the U.S. by providing an overview of the multifaceted issues currently impacting migrants,” he said. “The intense stressors affecting the health and well-being of migrants have increasingly been exacerbated by chronic poverty and violence in the countries of origin and the difficulties we in the United States have had in responding to this humanitarian crisis.”

Through their classroom and field experiences in Puebla, Dr. Guilamo-Ramos said, students gain a deeper understanding of migration through a regional perspective and develop the ability to critically and reflectively analyze how socio-political processes affect migration throughout Mexico, Central America, and the United States. “Students complete the course with a solid foundation in the stages of migration and their impact on the health and social welfare of migrant populations as well the impact the current socio-economic and political context have on trajectories of Latino populations born in the United States,” he said. “This understanding of the unique issues and challenges experienced by migrants and other Latino communities in the U.S. will prepare students to better respond to the needs of these vulnerable populations.”

Dr. Rosas added, "To observe migrants aboard 'La Bestia' in route to the United States represents a unique opportunity to better understand the reasons why migrants leave their countries of origin, the adverse conditions and extreme risks experienced by migrants while in transit to the United States, and the hopes and dreams of migrants seeking a better life in the United States. This course provides participants with greater comprehension of how best to address the ongoing migratory dynamics and humanitarian needs of migrants traveling to the United States from Central America and Mexico.”

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