Researching the immigration controversy

Jan Garrison

Following undocumented immigrants


December 23, 2020

When it came time for Culver Academies senior Jenna (Jinwon) Pae (Yorktown, Indiana) to select a topic for her Honors in Spanish project, she decided on the controversial issue of undocumented immigrants. And she chose it for that reason.

“I felt that at Culver, and in the United States as a whole, there is a lack of understanding about the complexities of the legal immigration process,” she said. This includes the conditions that undocumented immigrants are kept in once they reach the border.

Pae believes the lack of empathy for undocumented immigrants and the lack of understanding about the immigation process itself is “a very dangerous combination.” She is hoping that her work will help ease tensions around the issue.

Her project goal was to “both highlight the realities of the deportation process using videos, documents, and statistics; and humanize the experience by having participants walk through the deportation process from the perspective of an actual undocumented immigrant.”

Pae designed her deportation simulation based on the experience one gets at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Each person entering the simulation, which was set up in the Crisp Center for the Visual Arts, received an identification card of an actual immigrant whom Pae had researched. Those people were:

  • Marvin Antonio Gonzalez, 32, a farmer in Verapaz, El Salvador, who left is home in July 2019 because of he “couldn’t take the poverty anymore.” He brought his daughter Joselyn, 8, and hoped to reunite her with her mother in North Carolina.
  • Fernanda Jacqueline Davila, 2, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, was brought to the United States by her maternal grandmother. She was born to a teenage single mother after her father was killed in a car accident four months before her birth. She was staying with her paternal grandparents. She was separated from her grandmother three days after they turned themselves in to the border patrol.
  • Camilo Dunoyer was 11 months old when his family left Colombia. His family fled to the United States after his father, who was local government finance minister, refused to give city funds to area gangs and cartels. His family received threats and they used a visa to come to the United States. Once it expired, they applied for asylum but were denied. They are being protected by private legislation sponsored by former Rep. Duncan L. Hunter (D-California).
  • Jakelin Caal Maquin, 7, lived in an indigenous community in Raxruha, Gautemala. She came with her father to look for a better life and send money back to the family. Her father asked for a credible fear interview in order to apply for asylum.
  • Roylan Hernandez-Diaz, 43, from Cuba. He has rebelled against the communist regime and spent nine years in prison for attempting to escape from Cuba. He sought asylum in the United States after traveling through Central America to the Mexican border.
  • Roxana Hernandez, 33, a transgender woman from Honduras. She was seeking asylum due to the increased death threats and violence against transgender people in Honduras.

Pae used posters, informational signs, and videos to give each person the experience of what it is like to be deported. When each student finished the process, they discovered what happened to the immigrant on their ID card. Pae also made a video so viewers could follow Davila, the two-year-old from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. To see what happens to each immigrant, watch the video.

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