University of Michigan professor uses lost objects to tell stories of illegal border crossings
A University of Michigan professor is amassing an anthropological and archeological treasure chest of remnants found in the American Southwest in an effort to tell little-known stories about illegal immigration and those who cross the U.S.-Mexico border, the Detroit Free Press writes.
Since beginning his Undocumented Migration Project in 2008, professor Jason De Leon and his students have collected roughly 10,000 worn shoes, socks, backpacks, parts of birth certificates, water bottles and other belongings dropped by migrant workers while crossing the desert.
He also combines the artifacts with interviews with people who have made the crossing to illustrate the realities faced by people who sneak into the United States.
He’s found, for instance, that white water bottles cause problems for people trying to hide from Border Patrol agents because the white reflects searchlights. But darker-colored jugs heat up too much in the desert sun and are dead giveaways for infrared surveillance technology.
De Leon has family members who were migrant workers, he studied archeology in school and wrote his dissertation about ancient stone tools. He says his goal is to show the realities of what it’s like to cross the border and illustrate how the process is “politically gray.”