Annie Deitz, Campus Carrier Deputy News Editor
Last Thursday, Orgullo hosted their second Maze Runner event titled “Maze Runner: An Immigrant’s Experience.” The program aimed to exemplify the complexities of the American immigration system.
Orgullo President Suleima Millan-Salinas, senior, explained how the Maze Runner event evolved. The idea came about during fall of 2017, when the organization was planning out their year. Faced with the divisive rhetoric concerning migrants prevalent throughout the media, the group sought an avenue to educate the Berry community about the immigration process.
According to Millan-Salinas, the goal was to figure out a way to represent the confounded process of both receiving citizenship and immigrating to the United States.
“We just wanted to show that all of these people come from different backgrounds, and they all have different reasons as to why they became an immigrant,” Millan-Salinas explained. “We were like, ‘how do we showcase that?’ The process of getting your citizenship is so confusing and so tedious. Even if you go through the process, it isn’t guaranteed that you will get citizenship.
Junior Eddie Antunez, social media representative for Orgullo, initially came up with the idea for the maze. He thought that it would be a fantastic way to encourage understanding among people who have never had to go through the immigration system.
“Most people have misunderstandings about how the process works,” Antunez said. “People think others cross the borders because it’s an easier option, but it’s actually very difficult and expensive to be able to apply legally, with a Visa or other document, and half the time they get declined. A lot of people have misconceptions about that and I think getting them the perspective, to experience something similar to what immigrants go through, will help them understand what’s going on just past what they see in the news or social media.”
The event began around 10 minutes late. Although scheduled to begin at 5:30, the doors remained closed until around 5:40. Attendees were told it was due to a government shutdown. In reality, according to Antunez, it was due to technical difficulties. It gave Orgullo the opportunity to discuss another aspect of the immigration issue.
“During the event we were running late, we started late, and our excuse was that the government was shut down,” Antunez said. “People were confused about what that had to do with us not starting, but it actually does. The government shutdown affected not just American people, but people outside of the United States because they can’t hear anything back, they won’t hear their cases, they won’t consider anyone applying for visas because they’re so focused on fixing the government first. Those families are put on hold, and are still waiting to see if they have the chance to come over here.”
When the event began, students were given identity cards that stated information of migrants from places across the world, not limited just to Latin American countries.
Then, students waited in line to meet with customs officials, who aided in filling out paperwork concerning the migrants’ names and backgrounds. Afterwards, students were ushered from the lobby of the Ford Gym into the maze.
The maze spanned around a third of the gym, and included posted facts about immigration that the observer might not know. After successfully completing the maze, students were quizzed again about information concerning their identity. Some were allowed to leave the maze and sit down for the panel.
Others were brought to a detention center and were forced to stay there without information of when they could leave, or even whether or not they would receive their CE credits.
“We waited for everyone to go through the maze and then of course everyone in the detention center was let out and went to the panel,” Millan-Salinas said. “We were trying to make that the equivalent of becoming a U.S. citizen. We were thinking ‘what can we take away from you, or make you think that we are taking away from you, that will make you frustrated?’”
Members of Orgullo took on the role of “Berry agents,” modeled of off Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. Junior Orlin Gomez, who will be Orgullo’s event coordinator next year, was one of the agents.
“I was supposed to be an ICE agent, trying to make sure people knew where they were going, making sure the lines were moving,” Gomez said. “I wanted people to understand how that person standing there, giving orders, has so much control, psychologically and in general. People in line were getting frustrated from having to wait in line for so long. Some people didn’t even know why there were lines. It was really interesting”
After the maze, there was a panel of speakers from several organizations that encourage community activism in immigration issues, including BLUE Institute, Latin American Association, Galeo, and Fwd. Us. They discussed how students who are passionate about given issues can become involved. They talked about the power of activism and voting for creating a better future, both within the immigration issue, and in other political and social realms as well. Antunez described the panel as a powerful reminder that even just one person can make a difference.