Alternative Migrant Trail Featured Speakers

We are excited to have the following amazing community leaders take part in the Alternative Migrant Trail.

Lupe Castillo

Community Historian

Talk title: “Broadening our Borderlands History”

Date: Monday, May 25, 2020

Lupe Castillo is a retired history professor at Pima Community College in Tucson as well as an activist in the Chicano civil rights movement. Born and raised in Tucson, Arizona, Lupe is a co-founder of the University of Arizona’s Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA). In 1970, she helped organize Tucson residents to establish the El Rio Neighborhood Center and fought to build the Joaquin Murrieta Park on Tucson’s west side.  At Pima Community College, she was one of the first professors to develop Chicano/a studies courses.  She has encouraged students to see education as a tool that will enable positive change, and she has been a fierce advocate of the community for various social issues for more than 40 years.  Today she continues to work with the Keep Tucson Together project and has been present for nearly every migrant trail. 

Lupe will invite us to see the borderlands from the perspectives of various indigenous, Mexican and Mexican-American communities. These alternative ways of seeing and knowing the “southwestern United States” expose how colonial ideas and practices persist to this day, while broadening our capacity to imagine alternatives for those who have long made the borderlands their home.

Nellie Jo David

Cofounder, O’odham Anti Border Collective

Talk title: “O’odham Roots Run Deeper than Walls”

Date: Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Nellie Jo David works to strengthen Indigenous rights and autonomy on the imposed U.S./Mexico borderlands intersecting the Tohono O’odham Nation. Nellie is co-founder of the O’odham Anti Border Collective, a grassroots group dedicated to maintaining connections despite colonial barriers. She is from Ajo, Arizona, traditionally Hia-Ced O’odham territory, just West of the Tohono O’odham reservation, North of Mexico. Nellie was inspired to raise awareness on border issues upon witnessing the increased militarization of her community. Nellie obtained her J.D. with a certificate in Indigenous law and policy from Michigan State University in 2014. She is currently working on her SJD at the University of Arizona in the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program. 

As construction workers accelerate construction of a wall on the U.S. Mexico Territory, unceded O’odham territory is forever altered. Bulldozers plow through Hia Ced O’odham burial grounds and sacred water sources, meanwhile O’odham fight to retain roots on their territorial homelands. 

In the face of ongoing militarization in the designated Prevention Through Deterrence corridor, Nellie Jo will discuss her involvement in collective efforts to secure human rights and dignity for Indigenous and undocumented peoples.

Todd Miller

Journalist and Author

Talk title: “In an Empire of Borders, Build Bridges, Not Walls”

Date: Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Journalist and Author, Todd Miller has researched and written about border issues for more than 15 years.   He resides in Tucson, Arizona, but also has spent many years living and working in Oaxaca, Mexico. His work has appeared in the New York Times, TomDispatch, The Nation, San Francisco Chronicle, In These Times, Guernica, and Al Jazeera English, among other places.

Todd  has authored four books: Build Bridges, Not Walls ( City Lights, 2021), Empire of Borders: The Expansion of the U.S. Border Around the World (Verso, 2019),  Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration, and Homeland Security (City Lights, 2017), and Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security (City Lights, 2014). Todd is a contributing editor on border and immigration issues for NACLA Report on the Americas and its column “Border Wars”.  Todd was active in the planning of the very first Migrant Trail and has walked many times.  His forthcoming book, Build Bridges, Not Walls, draws on his twenty years of activism and reporting, calling us to imagine a world without borders. 

Todd will share his insights on the global expansion of the U.S. border and its relation to policing climate-driven migration around the world.

Dan Millis

Borderlands Program Manager for Arizona’s Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club

Talk title: “The Environmental Implications of Border Militarization”

Date: Thursday, May 28, 2020

Born and raised in Arizona, Dan has worked on border and immigration issues on occupied native lands in Arizona since 2003. Dan is the Borderlands Program Manager for Arizona’s Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club, working to  protect and restore border landscapes, wildlife and communities that have been impacted by militarization.  In 2005, he began his humanitarian work as a desert aid volunteer for No More Deaths.  In 2008, Dan was with a group from No More Deaths that discovered the body of a 14-year-old Josseline Quinteros, a girl from  El Salvador who had died during the crossing. Days later, federal law enforcement officials issued Dan a Class B Misdemeanor citation for “littering” for leaving drinking water on migrant trails. Dan was convicted and appealed, but in the meantime was hired to his current position, making him the first convicted litterer ever hired by Sierra Club! Dan lost his appeal and appealed again, this time winning, erasing his prior conviction and helping reinforce the precedent that Humanitarian Aid is Never a Crime. 

Border militarization and wall construction are causing widespread destruction in the México-U.S. borderlands, Indigenous lands that host vibrant communities and many of the region’s most precious water resources. More than 650 miles of barriers and walls have already been built without regard for dozens of laws that protect land, air, water, historic and cultural sites and religious freedom. Instead of addressing issues at the root of human migration, today’s administration and the U.S. Congress are doubling down on nearly three decades of failed border policy: more walls, agents, and sweetheart deals for security contractors and wall-builders. Dan will discuss his work with the Sierra Club to fight for better border policies and the protection of our  communities, natural areas and wildlife.

Jessica Rodriguez

Lead Organizer, Southside Worker Center

Talk title: “Living DACAmented”

Date: Friday, May 29, 2020

Jessica Rodriguez is a Tucson based organizer and activist. Currently she is the Lead Organizer for the Southside Worker Center. The Southside Worker Center supports a community of worker-leaders building collective power and raising the standards of worker conditions so that workers can take part in dignified work and earn just wages.

Throughout her work at the Southside Worker Center, Jessica has helped to recover thousands of dollars in wages for workers, stop criminalization, detention and deportations of families, defend the rights migrant workers, and develop migrant led worker-owned cooperatives.

For the Virtual Migrant Trail, Jessica will share her personal experience as a DACA recipient in Arizona.

Margo Cowan

Immigration Attorney and Community Leader

Talk title: “Community Organizing and Legal Justice in the Borderlands”

Date: Saturday, May 30, 2020

Margo Cowan has been an advocate for migrant justice for over 30 years and has been involved with the Migrant Trail since our first journey in 2004. Prior to becoming an attorney she was a farm worker organizer mentored by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. Margo’s efforts in the areas of border and immigration policy, as well as the development and representation of undocumented persons and refugees, has spanned decades. She is the Defense Attorney for the Pima County Public Defender, was the lead council for the Sanctuary movement, where churches and synagogues offered sanctuary to the undocumented facing deportation, and co-founded the organization No More Deaths, that seeks to reduce the amount of deaths in the Arizona Desert. 

She is also the Project Coordinator for  Keep Tucson Together, a grassroots, pro-bono project  that is working directly with community members to stop deportations and the separation of families in Southern Arizona. 

Margo will share with us a history and perspective on the power of community organization in the legal fight for  justice in the borderlands.