Backpack Journalism at Creighton University is a collaboration between the Theology Department and the Journalism, Media, & Computing Department. It came about because of a theologian interested in social justice and filmmaking and a journalist and an artist interested in filmmaking and social justice.
Each summer, a small group of students travels to a community in search of a story. Led by professors Dr. John O’Keefe, Tim Guthrie, and Carol Zuegner, the students immerse themselves in the communities, interviewing, filming, recording, and writing. When they return to Creighton, they take the stories they have collected and develop them into a short documentary film. The Backpack Journalism documentaries have been accepted at several film festivals, including the Omaha Film Festival. The class has traveled to such far-flung places as the Dominican Republic and Uganda, Bethel Alaska and Nogales Arizona/Sonora. The next project is tentatively planned for Northern Uganda in 2018.
I heard the word “culpable” in the US Federal District Court in Tucson, Arizona during the hearings of detained migrants about 35 times yesterday. I would have heard it another 30 times if our group stayed in the courtroom for another fifteen minutes. 30 guilty pleas in 15 minutes may not sound right, but it unfortunately is: the plead of “guilty” was said about every 30 seconds in that courtroom.
Operation: Streamline is an initiative that began in 2005 under the Bush administration in an effort to create a zero tolerance policy against the undocumented crossing over of migrants from Mexico into the U.S. Every migrant who has been detained meets with a lawyer, who strongly encourages them to plead guilty, and has their hearing within one day. These hearings are en masse, where up to 70 migrants are all tried in one courtroom session: rarely do they ever plead innocent. In exchange for their cooperation of pleading guilty, their sentences typically range from 30 to 180 days.
This process with this many individuals happens every weekday in that courtroom, as well as a couple others along the southern states.
I want to keep this blog short so I can get some sleep but I wanted to update everyone on what we did today.
A small group of us went into Nogales, Sonora at sunrise to shoot some b-roll of the city coming to life. It was really fun and I love being on the Mexico side. Then we went to McDonalds where it was Nico’s first time ever eating food there.
Later we drove to Tuscon where we went to the courthouse and witnessed the stream line. This is when 50 to 70 illegal immigrants are put on trial. 5 go up at a time and they all plead guilty. Once they plead guilty they are taken to jail for their sentence then deported once their time is up. The courts do this 5 days a week. That is over 300 people getting tried a week and that is just in Tuscon.
At night I grilled more hamburgers for everyone. These ones turned out very good and they were so juicy. We all ate outside and then played a game afterwords. Once the game was done I started a fire in the charcoal grill and we roasted marshmallows. It was a very relaxing night.
Keep the prayers coming for my fellow classmates, teachers and myself. Especially for the migrants who are risking their lives as you read this in order to come to the U.S. We only have 2 more days down here until we travel back to Homaha. I’m trying to make the most of what little time is left. I can’t wait to share my experiences with all of you back home.