Students, panelists discuss stresses of migrants coming to America

Tehreem Shahab

Yasmin Boloori recounted when her grandparents underwent the difficult immigration process to move to the U.S. 

“My grandparents migrated here through my parents, and I had to watch them go through the immigration process,” psychology senior Boloori said. “It’s a very difficult process. It is straining, and it’s not the best it could be.” 

Six panelists and about 25 UT students participated in the on-campus discussion Monday about issues immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers face when migrating. The talk was hosted by GlobeMed, an organization that empowers communities to advocate for better healthcare access for people living in poverty across the world. The discussion, called World Cafe, is one of GlobeMed’s annual events to create awareness about social and health issues. 

Jennifer Long was a panelist and is the director of Casa Marianella, an Austin homeless shelter for immigrants. Long said migrants who come to the border don’t leave their countries lightly. 

“I think Americans tend to have a really egocentric attitude like, ‘Oh they’re so lucky to be here,’” Long said. “But frankly, people don’t leave their countries and their culture and their identities for fun. And so nobody who we run into at Casa Marianella has left for any reason other than they were absolutely desperate and things were catastrophic where they left.” 

Panelist Nestor Rodriguez has researched the unauthorized migration of unaccompanied minors. He said, based on his research of unaccompanied minors in detention centers, migrating alone is as traumatic as being in a war zone for children between the ages of 12 and 17. 

“These kids don’t get treated,” sociology professor Rodriguez said. “They don’t get therapy. Some of these kids suffer from depression, antisocial behavior. They have a lot of trauma, and we need to keep doing studies on them.” 

Virginia Raymond, an immigration and criminal defense lawyer, said to ease the transition for locally based immigrants and refugees, students need to vote, volunteer their time and use the knowledge they have to organize. 

“Use social media,” Raymond said. “We are more communicative than any generation anywhere in the world, and you have all of that at your disposal. Be creative and organize. Go out and get your other friends. Wherever you are, take this information there.”