United or Divided States? U.S.-Mexico Border Simulation

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This two-day simulation focuses on the negotiation of controversial and complex issues related to the 2,000-mile border that separates and joins the United States and Mexico as neighbors.

Players adopt specific roles that represent groups from both sides of the border, including officials from the Mexican and U.S. governments, as well as local interest groups with competing agendas (e.g. human rights and environmental activists, militia minutemen, women workers affected by violence, international manufacturing companies, and drug cartels). These parties are summoned to bilateral talks mediated by representatives from the United Nations' International Institute for Peace to negotiate a written proposal that will address three hot-button issues: immigration, drug trafficking, and border violence.

The simulation game materials include individual player descriptions and instructions, step-by-step tasks for the instructor, a materials/data packet, and suggestions for pre/post-game assignments. The game is structured to fit into two consecutive 75-minute class periods, with an optional but highly recommended 15-30 minute debriefing session. The simulation requires a minimum of 15 people; and a larger group of approximately 20-25 players allows for concurrent working groups and a livelier negotiation dynamic during the latter part of the game.

Originally designed for an Introduction to Latin American & Latino Studies course, the simulation can also be used in other academic settings to highlight the complexity of international negotiations, to help students identify with a non-U.S. perspective, and/or to showcase the practical and emotional implications of theoretical foreign policy.