The following is from the Hostile Terrain exhibit at Lafayette that begins Sept. 6.

People fill out toe tags in a Hostile Terrain workshop.What is HT94?
Hostile Terrain 94 is a participatory exhibition created by the Undocumented Migration Project, a nonprofit that focuses on the violent social process of immigration and raises awareness through research, education, and outreach.

In 1994, the United States Border Patrol launched the immigration enforcement strategy known as “prevention through deterrence” (PTD). With heightened security measures at urban points of entry, undocumented migrants were forced to traverse extremely treacherous environments, land dubbed as “hostile terrain” by U.S. Border Patrol. PTD failed to deter border crossers and, instead, more than six million people have attempted to migrate through the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona since the 1990s. By using this tactic, the U.S. government has attempted to shift the blame onto the harsh environment, weaponizing the desert as a natural killing field. As a result of this policy, more than 3,400 people have died, largely from dehydration and hyperthermia, while attempting the journey through Arizona. PTD is still the primary border enforcement strategy being used on the U.S.-Mexico border today.

Migrant death at the border is both systemic and systematic. Policies such as PTD, along with the use of detention centers and obstacles in attaining asylum, have created a system that has traumatized thousands of people in the name of immigration control.

About the exhibition
Hostile Terrain 94 is composed of approximately 3,400 handwritten toe tags that represent migrants who have died trying to cross the Sonoran Desert from the mid-1990s to 2020. These tags include names (when known), age, sex, cause of death, condition of body, and location for every person whose body has been recovered. The tags are then placed on a wall map in the exact location where those remains were found. The physical act of writing out the names and information for the dead invites participants to reflect, witness, and stand in solidarity with those who have lost their lives in search of a better one.

Tag-filling workshops
Workshops will ask volunteers to fill out the toe tags and bear witness to the humanitarian crisis that is happening at our southern border. We are hoping for individuals to emotionally connect with the information being conveyed on the tags, to memorialize and stand in solidarity with these lost lives, and to take part in the greater migration conversation. They will take place Sept. 6–Oct. 1, Monday-Friday, noon-1 p.m. and 4-5 p.m. in Skillman Library’s Simon Room.

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