PSU students share findings of 2,000 mile border trip - KPTV - FOX 12

PSU students share findings of 2,000 mile border trip

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The three students giving their presentation Friday. The three students giving their presentation Friday.

A group of student researchers from Portland State University shared their findings Friday, after spending two weeks traveling the length of the border between the United States and Mexico.

Alejandra Ruiz, Janna Ferguson and Genevieve Wasser are all graduate students in PSU’s architecture department and took the trip together as the basis for their joint thesis: “Architecture as Migration: Rerendering the U.S.-Mexico Border Through The Act of Storytelling.”

The students began their trip in San Diego and traveled 2,000 miles to Brownsville, Texas.

Along the way, they crossed the border on foot in several places and spoke with border patrol agents, residents, humanitarian workers, environmentalists, academics and architects.

They were inspired to embark on the journey after then presidential-candidate Donald Trump started talking about building a wall on the border between the two countries.

“I think we went down there with an open mind because we wanted to learn from all sides, from both sides,” said Ruiz, who was born in Mexico. “We interviewed residents from both sides, we talked to border patrol, we talked to activists, we talked to humanitarians, so we went there to go and learn as much as we could.”

In short, the students say the idea simply won’t work: the border isn’t an easily-accessible straight line, but rather a mix of harsh environmental landscapes and they say the wall would have a negative impact on the environment and society.

An existing fence in an area that struggles with flash flooding, for instance, is already poorly maintained. Plus, they say, a stretch of the border lies a Native American Reservation - sovereign land - where people say they won’t have a wall. In other places, the border lies in the middle of a river.

The students say a wall would also literally divide regions and towns that straddle both sides of the border, breaking up communities and commerce.

They say the people they spoke with were all against the idea of building a wall, except for one tourist from the Dakotas who they met on a rafting trip.

Even if a wall is built, the students say, it won’t be effective because people will find tunnels, ladders, or other ways to get around it.

The trip was funded by a $2,000 award from PSU’s School of Architecture.

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