Panelists discuss experiences with asylum seekers at US-Mexico border

Maysa Mustafa

Former UT professor and author Irma Guadarrama spoke Tuesday on the impact asylum seekers had on her understanding of the border crisis.

“There’s structural violence in these countries that affects these people,” Guadarrama said. “They’re here because they believe they’ll be killed if they stay where they are from.”

Guadarrama was one of four panelists at a roundtable discussing the trauma involved with border separations.

Gillman said the public’s participation during the separations was valuable, but there needs to be equal attention now on the detention centers currently holding asylum seekers.

“We need people to educate,” Gillman said. “It’s amazing that some people don’t know that only two hours away from here are 2,400 women and children locked up for seeking protection.” 

Like the three other panelists, sociology professor Nestor Rodriguez stressed the trauma the asylum seekers encounter. 

“We found that children have trauma before they leave their country, due to the encounters of what they are fleeing,” Rodriguez said. “We found that the journey from Mexico to the United States is equally traumatic.”

Rodriguez also said the border crisis is one manufactured by the government and has no factual basis. 

“It’s hard to say there’s a border crises,” Rodriguez said. “Even though 1.2 million (migrants) sounds like a lot, there has been an 87 percent decrease in migrants at the border since 2005.”

Panelist Gabriel Solis said he created the website Texas After Violence to document stories in a responsible way, so there is a platform that doesn’t perpetuate violence for attention.

“The way people retell their stories in itself has meaning,” Solis said. “Victims want to share their own stories — but in their own way.”

Marjorie Gonzalez, communications sciences and disorders senior, said she appreciated the panelists provided their experiences and data to the public because it equips others to educate. 

“You have to get the quantitative and qualitative aspects to get the people who don’t necessarily care about these issues to find a relevance to it in their lives,” Gonzalez said. “At the end of the day, the people who didn’t come to this event are the people that need to hear them the most. Now at least the people here know the information so we can reiterate it to them.”