“Walk a Mile in their Shoes” hopes to provide education and empathy

Photo courtesy of CLA Change Team

Photo courtesy of CLA Change Team

In celebration of Constitution Day, the CLA Change Team will be hosting “Walk a Mile in their Shoes: An Immigration Simulation” at Chester Park 105 on Tuesday, Sept. 17 from 1:30-4 p.m.

The CLA Change Team works to accomplish UMD Strategic Goal #2: Creating an inclusive campus aimed toward advancing equity, diversity & social justice. They work across the campus and are a part of one of many unit change teams.

The event is for students and community members. Participants will be sent through a 30 minute, six stage simulation taking them through the U.S. citizenship process. Kevin Swanberg, a member of the CLA Change team, was inspired to curate this event by Churches United in Ministry (CHUM) when they had a homeless simulation at Bayfront.

“We thought if we have folks simulate the process of coming to America and understand the challenges that it entails, that it might create a better understanding or engagement with the issue,” Swanberg said.

The first of six stages is a streamlined 10-question citizenship test. Questions may include: “When is the last day you can send in federal income tax forms?” or “What territory did the United States buy from France in 1803?” If the test is failed, guests will be given a card with an immigrant story according to Sara Sowers-Wills, a member of the CLA Change Team and a leading organizer of this event.

“The story will include information like where they came from, who they came with and why they left,” Wills said. “Then they’ll proceed to station two, which concerns entry into the border.”

At station two they will attempt to legally enter a port of entry, but because entries can be capped at many ports, they may be denied legal entry. Guests will then be directed to try to cross the border on their own. They will roll a dice to see if they will die on the passage to America or detained by ICE according to Sowers-Wills. 

At the station, participants detained will be sent to a detention facility and wait for their court date. The remaining stations guide guests through the lengthy process of court dates, a career center to try and find a job, and a reflection of what they had been through. 

“Our role as educators at a public university is to create students that have a global mindset and are thoughtful of people outside of their own culture,” Swanberg said. “If we can achieve that by interacting with an issue that is directly impacting our neighbors and community members, I think that's really valuable and helps make a student make a decision about this issue not from a reactionary place but with empathy.”

Editors note: A previous version of this story misspelled a sources name. We were alerted to the error and the correction has been made.

CultureJakob Bermas