In April, a delegation of visitors comprised in equal parts of representatives from law enforcement, legal & judicial, and border security sectors, visited San Antonio with the objective of learning about the legal system and international security issues from their counterparts and relevant organizations in our city. They hailed from sixteen different countries, including Brazil, Estonia, Greece, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Kosovo, Lebanon, Lithuania, Macedonia, Nigeria, Palestine, Poland, Romania, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, and United Arab Emirates.
The group consisted of a larger delegation, hosted by the US Department of State, including more than 100 law enforcement, security, judicial, and NGO officials from 62 countries participating in the International Visitor Leadership Program’s third annual “Towards a More Safe & Secure World” imitative, designed to promote global security cooperation. The three-week long program opened in Washington, DC with a day-long plenary session exploring mutual threats to international peace and security, including terrorism, border threats, narcotics trafficking, money laundering, cyber security, and trafficking in persons. Senior US government officials addressed a broad audience of influential international law enforcement, security partitions, and policy experts on US priorities in combating transnational crime & terrorism and closer international cooperation on key security issues.
Following the program in Washington, DC, the security law and law enforcement experts fanned out across the United States to twenty small and mid-sized cities, including San Antonio, for programming with federal, regional, and local law enforcement officers and public officials. Discussions provided an understanding of public safety and security concerns at the local and regional levels & security challenges & cooperation among law enforcement entities.
In San Antonio, the delegation examined specific issues related to crime and security as San Antonio’s location near the US border with Mexico makes it a germane location to consider efforts to combat human trafficking and support for victims. Additionally, as San Antonio has emerged as a national leader in cyber security, visitors learned about cybercrime issues and approaches. The group had an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the legal system and international security issues, including academic perspectives on criminal justice & security concerns and civil rights considerations in security policy.
Dr. Megan Augustyn of the University of Texas at San Antonio’s College of Public Policy provided an opening informational session to visitors, allowing them insight into the US criminal justice system and how various actors work together. Visitors had the chance to learn more about and discuss areas such as policing, corrections, courts, immigration law, forensic science, drug control policy, and victim services.
The Bexar County Jail provided visitors with a tour of its facility and hosted a meeting to discuss American detention facility operations and approaches to incarceration, with an emphasis on educational, treatment, and rehabilitative programs available to inmates both during and following incarceration. Visitors also shared their own experiences in these areas and brainstormed ways to improve operations at home or to implement new ideas.
While focusing on international crime, St. Mary’s School of Law Center for Terrorism Law provided visitors with insight into the study of legal issues associated with both antiterrorism and counterterrorism through meeting with faculty and students. During this meeting, visitors focused on cyberspace and information assurance technologies. As the Center is a fully operational legal research center dedicated to the study of legal issues associated with such crimes, visitors learned how the Center places emphasis on professional exchanges, written materials, and extensive information resources regarding terrorism, students and experts examine current and potential legal issues related to terrorism and the balance between global security and civil justice.
Human trafficking, a major element of international crime, was also on the agenda as a topic of importance. Visitors met with the Alamo Area Coalition Against Trafficking, which is a multi-agency, multi-disciplinary coalition dedicated to eliminating human trafficking from the region and comprised of federal, state, city, and county agencies and nongovernmental agencies working on awareness, outreach, and victim services. The discussed the Alamo Area Coalition Against Trafficking’s work toward prosecuting offenders, preventing future exploitation, and serving current victims. Coalition members discussed human trafficking issues in San Antonio and welcomed visitors to participate in a round-table discussion on the topic. Coalition members and visitors shared ideas and experiences on preventing human trafficking and learned how various stakeholders work cooperatively and the ways that their roles intersect.
Additionally, U.S. Homeland Security hosted a meeting with representatives from the San Antonio Field Office of Investigations, Homeland Security Investigations (HIS), and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Representatives discussed ground operations in investigating cross-border criminal activities including terrorism, money laundering, smuggling, human trafficking, financial fraud, and immigration fraud, specifically along the South Texas Border.
As San Antonio is recognized by the National Security Agency as one of the nation’s leading cities for cybersecurity activity, a meeting with the Cyber Innovation Technology & Research Consortium revealed how they have cultivated public-private partnerships which supplies an experienced cyber technology workforce to the region. Representatives from member organizations discussed trends in cybersecurity, the role of academia and the private sector in supporting cybersecurity, and opportunities in cyber technology. One member institution included the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Institute for Cyber Security (ICS), who shared its mission of pursuing world-leading research with real-world impact, including development of commercial technologies and services. Representatives revealed how their researchers at ICS bring exceptional expertise in cyber security models, architectures, protocols and technologies. Visitors also learned about world-class laboratories at ICS used for basic and applied research.
The San Antonio Chamber of Commerce (SACC), CyberSecurity Industry Council is a driving force behind cyber security in the city and is composed of private sector, public sector, federal government, academic and entrepreneurial members working in, and dedicated to, growing San Antonio’s cyber security industry. As such, visitors were interested in learning more on how the council provides the strategic direction and guidance for the program’s initiatives. They also focused on how they are an industry-driven program that will accelerate the growth and national reputation of San Antonio’s cyber security sector by fostering a collaborative environment for innovation, job-producing investments, and public-private partnerships. This meeting opened the door for visitors to discuss partnerships, trends, and research topics on cybersecurity.
Visitors arrived just in time to attend the opening ceremonies of Fiesta, and witness this unique tradition and join in the celebration. Throughout their stay, they attended other Fiesta events, such as NIOSA and the Charreada, and enjoyed taking part in the festivities. Visitors were also invited to a community lunch at Los Barrios Mexican Restaurant where they had an opportunity to mingle with SACIV members and other members of the community for a meet-and-greet giving them the opportunity for cross-cultural dialogue while sharing a meal.