Alfredo Corchado on “Borderlands: The U.S., Mexico, and the Ties that Bind”

Corchado's seminars will be held every Wednesday in May at 3pm. All seminars will be held in the IOP Living Room unless otherwise noted. All seminars are students only and closed to press/off the record.


During the last two decades, an estimated two hundred thousand people have been killed or disappeared in the Mexican drug war. Drug trafficking in Mexico is a multimillion-dollar business, with corruption permeating every sector of society and government. At times, it seems as if Mexico is fighting a war within the government that threatens efforts to strengthen the country’s democratic institutions, its fledgling civil society and efforts to reform the county’s antiquated judicial system to bolster rule of law.

This stark reality is underscored by attacks against journalists, making Mexico one of the world’s most dangerous places in the world for reporters who face persistent harassment, intimidation, and death threats, and forcing many news organizations to self-censor. More than 100 journalists have been murdered or are missing and presumed dead. Some have been targeted by organized crime, others by government authorities.

To understand the drug violence, one has to also understand the demographic shift in the United States, driven by decades of immigration, the insatiable appetite for drugs and the unintended consequences of U.S. border enforcement and immigration policies.

Award-winning journalist Alfredo Corchado will explore these binational fault lines, looking at the ties that bind cities like Ciudad Juárez and Nuevo Laredo to Dallas, or Chicago and consider the path forward for Mexico. He is author of Midnight in Mexico, a reporter’s journey into a country descent into darkness. As a correspondent and Bureau Chief in Mexico for The Dallas Morning News for 20 years, Corchado is an internationally-recognized expert on U.S.-Mexico issues, including immigration. He has covered Mexico’s drug war on the frontlines as well as efforts to strengthen civil society on both sides of the border.  His reporting on corruption at the highest levels of the Mexican government has led to numerous death threats. These seminars will lay a foundation for an honest debate about the state of journalism in Mexico and the U.S. role in Mexico as the two nations face new challenges, including immigration, under a Donald J. Trump administration.

Session 1 (May 3): The Drug Wars and Their Toll on Journalists and Communities | RSVP

Throughout Mexico, entire communities have been taken hostage as criminals run amok.  Criminals either co-opt, corrupt, or kill key members in their communities, creating instability and fear.  Beheadings are a favorite tool to spread terror.  In some areas, the press too has gone silent. Mexico today is among the most dangerous places to practice journalism.  News organizations exist under the thumb of kingpins and the cost is usually self-censorship or death.  Still, in the darkest moments of the drugs wars comes the greatest hope: Mexicans who are re-building tattered communities and civil society with the blood of their children and demanding justice for their loved ones and colleagues.

Guest Speakers: Carlos Bravo (editor and director of journalism department at CIDE in Mexico City) and Angela Kocherga (U.S.-Mexico border journalist who reported firsthand on silence in regions and massacres)

Session 2 (May 10): Drug Violence - Supply, Demand, and the U.S. Impact | RSVP

Drug trafficking in Mexico is a multimillion-dollar business, with corruption permeating every sector of society and government and U.S. demand, particularly in the Midwest, where it tears communities apart. More than a decade after then-President Felipe Calderon launched a crusade against drug cartels — dispatching tens of thousands of soldiers onto local streets to battle gangs — the drug war rages on, and the murder rate is once again rising rapidly. This year has seen an unprecedented uptick in violence in Mexico, with repercussions for the United States.  Mexican federal statistics showing nearly 2,000 people killed in the first month of 2017 — more than in any January since federal officials began releasing crime data in the 1990s.  What’s behind the latest trend and how does U.S. demand and border policy impact that violence?  What happens to US-Mexico cooperation under the Trump administration and what is the impact on Mexicans and Americans, and cities like Chicago?

Guest Speakers: Karen Kerbis (a trial lawyer in Chicago, expert on cartels in Midwest) and David Shirk of University of San Diego - via Skype) 

Session 3 (May 17): A Fickle Country - Border Pressures, Immigrant Anxieties in the Age of Trump | RSVP

President Trump is fulfilling his campaign promise to go after millions of undocumented immigrants.  But we’ve seen this movie before, with massive deportations of Mexicans in the 1930s and 50s.  The consequences have a boomerang effect on both sides of the border, with the arrival of U.S.-born children in Mexican communities they’ve never lived in before and border cities having to set up shelters to take in many of the deported.  Mexican and Central American consulates are turning their offices into human rights centers for millions of its countrymen. The political discourse is at a boiling point, and nowhere is the reaction more heightened than in immigrant communities like Chicago. The latest chapter underscores the short memory of Americans and their own immigrant past and the challenges ahead for immigrant communities. Not long ago, the U.S. government was urging Mexicans to head north to help out in the railroads, meatpacking and agriculture industry. 

Guest Speakers: Jesús "Chuy" García, Cook County Commissioner and Consul Marcelino Miranda, in charge of protection and legal services at the Consulate General of Mexico in Chicago

Session 4 (May 24): Shadows at Dawn | RSVP

We met in Philadelphia. In 1987.  Over the years we’ve formed a friendship around a central question: Where do we fit in America? Can we coexist? One of us entered politics and ran for mayor in Philadelphia. A serial entrepreneur, he's also one of the top lawyers in the country. Another, before returning to Mexico, was a community and political organizer in Chicago and Philadelphia, forming binational organizations to protect the civil rights of Mexicans on both sides of the border. The third, a charming restaurateur, seduces Americans via cuisine and spirits. His work generates jobs on both sides of the border, serving as an ambassador of Mexico’s quiet power. Leaving me - I tell stories as a journalist on both sides of the border.

Guest Speakers: David Suro (entrepreneur), Primitivo Rodriguez (human rights activist), and Kenneth I. Trujillo (lawyer and politician)