Students in Pomona College professor Miguel R. Tinker Salas’s Mexico-U.S. Border class visited the border in San Diego-Tijuana during spring break, where one student filmed a video that gained attention from national media of uniformed officers posing in front of border wall prototypes for pictures that some deemed to be insensitive toward immigrants.
The video, captured and posted to Instagram by Jaicel Ortega SC ’18, shows one officer pretending to try to climb the prototype while a second gives him a leg up. A third officer photographs them with a phone.
The class members viewed the prototypes one by one from the top of a ladder on the Mexican side March 14. When Ortega climbed up and noticed the officers, she started recording.
“These are the officers that are on the streets terrorizing communities of color,” Ortega wrote in the caption to the video. “Seeing this was nothing new but it was a reminder to broaden how we talk about immigration policy, especially in California.”
5C students generally agreed that the officers’ actions were disrespectful, but they differed on the significance of the incident.
“It’s really disgusting that they were mocking what is going to, if [the wall is] built, become such a hardship for some people,” Molly Tucker PO ’21 said.
Daniel Holtzer PO ’20 thought it the incident more minor.
“It’s not professional, and maybe we should expect more from police, but it’s not the biggest deal in the world,” he said.
The Mexico-U.S. Border class’ visit occurred the day after Donald Trump’s first visit to California as president. Tinker Salas said this was coincidence, and that the purpose of the class trip was to interview immigrants and to gain a lived experience of seeing the border.
Tinker Salas said the officers’ actions and the reaction the video has received demonstrate the need to recognize the diverse backgrounds that inform people’s opinions.
“It highlights the importance of being sensitive to other people’s realities, that something that some group may think is a humorous gag … has other meanings for other people,” he said. “That’s significant. That’s important to understand.”
Ortega did not respond to TSL’s requests for comment. Other members of the class declined to comment.