Grad student brings immigration activism into artwork through ‘Borderline’

Created by Yasmin Rodriguez, graduate in graphic design, depicting Trump and his pledge to build a wall at the US-Mexico border in order to end migration to the United States from immigrants from Mexico, Central America and South America countries.

Whitney Mason

Yasmin Rodriguez, a graduate student in graphic design, needed to figure out her thesis statement for her studies.

At that time, Rodriguez was enrolled in the College of Design course about designing for social change at the same time as the 2016 presidential election campaign.

“[Prof.] Bernard Canniffe taught the Design for Social Change class that I was enrolled in,” Rodriguez said.

Trump’s rhetoric used during the campaign fueled Rodriguez’s interest in her thesis involving immigration.

“I wanted to explore what identity is, what nicknames are that our families used to call us,” Rodriguez said. “Some of the nicknames [that are used] come from racial slurs.”

The United States had its share of social activism as the Civil Rights Movement saw its decline following the assassination of Martin Luther King and the rise of the Black Panther Movement.

In the Summer Olympics, two black American athletes were shown raising their fist in the air while awarded their medals, which was shown as a black power gesture.

Rodriguez said that she knew that the topic that interest her the most and would captivate her would be immigration.

“I was always told, ‘it’s in your blood,’” Rodriguez said.

For her designs, Rodriguez said that she realized she used a similar type face to what was used in the designs captured during the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.

Rodriguez said that she came across the social activism surrounding the Olympics that year and did see similarities between the two countries in 1968 as Mexico saw political activity and there was inequality between rich and poor Mexicans.

“People always got involved through design [work],” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said she also had help from her Alex Braidwood — associate professor in graphic design — who suggested she display her work on a website.

Rodriguez said when she was coming up with the name of her project, she brainstormed names pertaining to the border and immigration.

Finally she settled on Borderline.

For her color scheme of the artwork, Rodriguez selected black and yellow, making sure the colors did not align with a political party.

“I didn’t want this to take a political side through colors,” Rodriguez said. “I did not want it to be politically skewed or want it to be endorsing one party.”

For her artwork, Rodriguez called it a lash at President Trump and his immigration policies and rhetoric, however, Rodriguez said she has done it in a smart way.

“It finally was a way I could react, do something about [immigration],” Rodriguez said.

She also said that with the contention surrounding immigration in current times, it would be harder for children of immigrants now then when Rodriguez was younger.

“I took it very hard,” Rodriguez said of her mother’s deportation in 2007 when Rodriguez was 15 years old.

Overall, Rodriguez said she believed there had been good response to her artwork. However, Rodriguez could also recall a few negative.

Rodriguez said when she posted an Instagram Ad, which was artwork detailing the cost of the proposed wall that Trump has spoke of and promised to build during his campaign, to advertise her work, there were people who would comment saying they did not care about the cost, but just wanted the wall built.

Rodriguez said it was the demographic of those commenting negatively on the post that surprised her.

The young white men, in their teens, with the negative comments were what brought fear to Rodriguez.

While some supporters of Trump have brought Rodriguez’s fear, the rhetorics and immigration policies proposed from Trump has her concerned.

Recently Trump has proposed to end birthright citizenship through an executive order, which was formed through the 14th Amendment following the Dred Scott ruling in the Supreme Court in 1857 and Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

Rodriguez said that she knows that Trump cannot end the birthright citizenship through an executive order but that Trump and others are valid to make arguments for immigration reform.

“We need to keep families together,” Rodriguez said. “That should be our first priority.”

Over the summer, outrage roared when the Trump administration’s family separation policy was revealed as part of the administration’s zero tolerance policy toward immigration.

Children were separated from their parents or those who accompanied them in their attempt to cross the border into the United States. The children were then placed in detention centers after being separated. According to a New York Times article, government officials reported that nearly 3,000 children were separated from their families.

Rodriguez said it’s important to get children out of the detention centers and also have to acknowledge children that have parents that have been deported from the country.

For Rodriguez, to determine a topic to focus on, it’s all about researching a topic and knowing the ins and outs of it and being able to tie in its historical relevance.

“The work have to appeal to people, make it relevant,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez will be showcasing her artwork from the Borderline collection from Wednesday until Sunday in the College of Design Gallery.

On Wednesday, a reception was held and at the exhibit Rodriguez said she plans to give out postcards with the hopes that people will learn more about the topic.

The people who reached out to Rodriguez were the ones she least expected to reach out to her and resulted in Rodriguez sharing her experience with immigration concerns that helped them understand the complexity of the issue.