Arizona is ground zero of the immigration crisis, and Tucson has become a main staging ground for humanitarian action for migrants. This is why I organized a summer service project for students in Tucson and Nogales starting in 2007, calling it "DukeEngage on the Border."

2010 made the fourth year of the project, and Hope and I scheduled our Border Odyssey to intersect with the arrival of eight students at BorderLinks, a humanitarian organization dedicated to education and advocacy related to immigration, and where the students would live for eight weeks of the summer.

In recent years ICE and the Border Patrol have used walls and surveillance to funnel migrants toward the Sonoran Desert near Tucson, thereby making the trek as arduous as possible.

No one is sure whether this has worked as a deterrent, but it is certainly killing people. As part of our orientation, we participated in a walk to remember those who have died, walking from the border back toward Tucson.

Although Hope headed back to North Carolina for work, I stayed with Borderlinks to help with the students' orientation. We introduced students to the Tucson area, including a visit to the nearby tourist town of Tombstone, Arizona, where make-believe cowboys shoot it out daily.

Tombstone was also the birthplace of the Minutemen: ersatz cowboys of sorts who have appointed themselves as private border patrollers. We also met Mr. Keeylocko, a man who has played numerous African American cowboys in the movies and who now runs a ranch in a different part of the desert.

As the students began their internships with humanitarian groups, I continued my trek toward the western end of the border alone.