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LTS 360/ART 350 Special Topics: Interdisciplinary Design Course: Immigration Design

This course seeks to bring design thinking to bear on the question of migration in the Western hemisphere. Students will be asked to think outside the existing and unimaginative frames of migration policy and invent a better system: what would migration look like if we redesigned it with humane, creative and imaginative design solutions? How could the aims of environmental sustainability and responsiveness to climate change, economic prosperity, human development and other kinds of flourishing be promoted rather than truncated by migration policies? What would a nonviolent migration policy look like? What if migration policy were premised on the notion that mobility is constant, expected and ethically correct rather than a threat, an invasion or a violation?

The course will be structured around a student-driven culminating design project. Coursework will include training in design principles and academic research on migration. Guest speakers will include artists, activists and advocates who work on migration, policies and design systems from different angles.


Week 7

  • Thursday, our guest speaker is Marco Saavedra. He was one of the infiltrators in Alex Rivera’s film of that name, and he is co-owner with his family of La Morada restaurant in the Bronx. He just received asylum after a long wait. He has come in and out of the immigration system in so many different ways: eligible for DACA although he refused to apply for it, undocumented, self-deportee, refugee, stateless (as he calls it), and now asylee.

    I conducted an interview with him a little more than a year ago (pre quarantine) for a book on the carceral state. We have not finished editing the interview for publication (academic publications are slooooowww), but I thought it was important to share it with you anyway.

    Interview with Marco Saavedra

    Press release

    If you did not watch the Infiltrators, I strongly encourage you to watch it now. It’s available on Kanopy at the Lehman Library.

    As you can see in these materials, Marco has been busy re-designing the migration system through his activism.

    Please write your thoughts on these materials AND  prepare at least two questions for Marco after reading the materials. In preparation for the stakeholder map activity, review your interview.

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  • My opinion about these materials, the Interview with Marco Saavedra and Press Release, was interesting for me to read. I also found it unfair the long wait that Saavedra had to go through to have his political asylum. Something that seemed exciting and surprising to me was when he said in a part of the interview that it was easier for him when he infiltrated because he only had to talk to people, while the most challenging part was what they worked for the cases. What I liked the most was reading that finally, after such a long wait, Saavedra obtained his political asylum after such a long struggle. For me, the most unfair and sad was knowing that activists like Saavedra in Mexico kill them for their fight for human rights. It seems very unjust that the activities have to be afraid of being his native country because of what may happen to him and fear for his life. 

    Questions for Marco Saavedra: 

    1. How did you feel when you received the news that you already have political asylum?

    2. What motivated you to be a human rights activist?

    3. If you had an opportunity to change the migration system, what would this change be, what would you do, and why?


    LTS 360

    Professor Galvez/ Professor Silva

    Kevin Feliciano


    Week #7


    The circumstances in which others live while at the same time, people so close are treated the opposite way. All these stories had expanded my perspective on a lot of issues that I thought I could comment on them without really knowing. And it makes it way more difficult to change policies and other issues.

    It should be so frustrating to go through the system and do all the steps that the law requires and still see no pay off at an adequate time. People are trying to make a living with their families and the system seems like has no consideration or moral. It was interesting to see how Marco’s perspective of our law and government were, to as how they really are, just to know that our perspective of things we don’t know or haven’t make any contact with, sometimes is so far off our vision or imagination of how it really is.

    When you are a small kid, most of the time you want to be like a hero when you grow up, you look up to superheroes like Batman for example, who lose his family to burglars in the city. Now, when I read these stories, I think of real life ‘heroes’, I try to put myself in that position, being an activist 3 or more years, taking big risk with a system that can/might/would make him disappear within the same system or who knows if he would have leave from all those crazy situations.

    At least, after all that sacrifice and suffering, they provided him with asylum. All I could think of is, how many people are going through this, their stories are non-told, some never see their families again and it is mind-blowing.




    1- What was your biggest fear, when you were going through all those protocols and risks, like in your mind, were you prepared mentally, what was the worst outcome that could have went?


    1. – What can we do to help in any way to this cause, to help structure the system to either speed up the process of acceptance?



    In my objective viewing of Interview with Marco Saavedra and Press Release is muddied with a semblance of frustration more than anything else. It makes no sense that a system that is meant to help assist in the process, going through each and every loop, double checking only for it to fly back in your face completely. When all these families are merely trying to make ends meet, to make a name for themselves, to get a slice of said American Dream now having to answer to a system that would leave them in the dust that has no consideration for said lives, morals or the struggles that which they have already taken to get where they are now.

    The word “hero” to me came to mind more and more as I read these stories, what really qualifies you as a hero, someone who puts on a mask, who gives their lives to their nation, someone that does a random act of kindness qualify you. Being an activist for several years =, taking the amount of risks of his safety, his family and even his own friends and life, these are situations that one would never think imaginable but as they say “truth is stranger than any fiction”

    Question 1 : What were some of the risks you originally thought before taking your first steps in this process, did any of them change or add on? How did you prepare yourself mentally or keep yourself mentally going through these hardships?

    Question 2 : Is there any way we can spread awareness of this to help or are there any links to people in power that we can reach out to that are helping to make said difference that we can call or send emails to?

    I have to say I agree with the sentiment given regarding proof when applying for asylum, where the onus should be on the government to provide proof that a person is lying/dangerous or otherwise unfit to receive asylum, not the other way around. A lot of politicians have made the argument that this sort of investigation would be both an exhaustive task for the government and a possible way for terrorists to enter the US, but I would tend to think that these aren’t really good arguments given the existence of homeland security. We already are spending the money to keep tabs on extremists inside and outside of the country, and practically every terrorist attack on US soil has been committed by someone who was on the government’s radar, not to mention that most of them are domestic extremists.

    My questions are as follows:

    1. Do you think these sort of government roadblocks in asylum are malicious in nature, or just badly designed buerocracy?
    2. When did you decide that you were a human rights activist? Was it a decision you made or did you just realize that it was something you had become before you gave it a name?

      PS: I’d like to go over my interview materials but unfortunately I have had serious trouble contacting my interviewee and setting up a good time to conduct the interview due to issues that came up on their end. I am still planning on completing the assignment once I can actually get the interview going, and reading the interview you’ve provided has given me new ideas.

    Immigrants had to abide by a narrow system and yet it is so broad and unjust when forcing them to adhere to its unfair specifications. The government expects people not to be able to stand up for themselves and are taken aback when they preform unprecedented things such as speaking English. They assume things about illegals which formulates an opinion determined by irrational stereotypes not by showmanship of perseverance and that is unfair. The opposition to the premise of innocent till proven guilty. People in other places cant trust the police so they feel like they’re migrating to something better only to realize that America is also corrupt.
    People have a hypocritically infantile way of dealing with other people coming to their land. They target new immigrants even though they were once immigrants themselves. Marco was forced to abide by the rigorous systems rules and he had so much more to say, but after going through all the trouble to get to where he got to he didn’t want to ruin his chance by speaking up for himself and was forced to play the part. Don’t forget just keep remembering in order to not repeat the past. But since the past stories are so heard of and overused people are desensitized to them and expect something more when they really don’t need to. I agree with all of these arguments and think that because the people have a mass consumption of the media and their stories that they have stopped caring for anything unless its shown to affect them directly.


    1. Migrating from a place that is dangerous and unlivable only to realize that the place you’re migrating to could be just as dangerous should make people want to go elsewhere. My Question is, why not try and fix the problem in the homeland of these people rather than trying to establish a policy in one area for everyone and risking that supposed ‘haven’ becoming an overcrowded country.
    2. Why doesn’t the US attempt to fix the living situations in the country where a majority of illegal immigrants come from?

    After reading the interview, first of all I feel really happy for Marcos that he finally got the asylum after waiting for so long, I know how hectic and long this process can be, I can understand how nervous he was since I went throughout an Immigration process and sure is similar. I really admire him for having the courage of going inside of the prison risking his life to help others and that now in the present is having his reward is pretty amazing to me, when I saw the movie I have to say that I feel proud of him and is team that helped him, and all the people that he helped are now so grateful for the things he did, he is brave and he did an amazing job. I am also proud of what him and his family are doing for the Bronx, when Professor Galvez mentioned in class about the restaurant I quickly went on Instagram to follow them and since then I’ve been observing the tremendous job they are doing for the community is just hands downs. They right time is here, and he finally got his political asylum which he is so deserved of after almost 10 years of his journey.

    How were you treated inside of the detention?

    After your long experience and process, what are your thoughts on Immigration?

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