Mexican Rights Advocate to Speak on Abandoned Communities

Robin Wasserman

Jaqueline García Salamanca, advocate for Mexican rights, will lead a discussion next Thursday, Oct. 20, covering what some see as the often overlooked side of migration issues: the communities that immigrants leave behind. The talk, part of a tour by Witness for Peace, will be held at Craig Lecture Hall at 7 p.m.

Professor of history and Chair of the Latin American Studies department Steve Volk, organizer of the event, explained that the talk is designed to “help people understand at least one other piece of this puzzle which we often don’t see. … One of the really destructive parts of the immigration debate is that it’s a very complex system and all we think about is one piece.”

Salamanca works with the Jesuit Service to Migrants in Veracruz, Mexico, to help communities that have been greatly impacted by the high rate of immigration to the United States, providing social services such as counseling and the building of support networks.

According to Volk, “Since NAFTA was passed, the nature of immigration from Mexico to the United States has changed. Prior to that time, most migrants came from the four northern states. But now they are coming from every state, especially from the South.” This migration leaves behind communities that lack family members and the social structure that family units provide, fracturing communities and creating hardship.

Salamanca also works to provide basic levels of security to those traveling on La Bestia (or “the Beast”), the train that migrants ride north in search of work. According to Volk, this journey can be incredibly dangerous, as migrants not only face the possibility of falling from the train, but are also preyed upon by criminals and gang members.

Salamanca has experienced the adverse effects of immigration firsthand, as her father left her family to go to the United States when she was four years old and never returned. When her mother left to search for her father, Salamanca was put in the care of her grandparents.

“She knows firsthand what [effects] the experience of migration has on a familial level and on a communal level, which got her into… working with migrant communities,” Volk said.