On February 28, 2018-March 6, 2018, we welcomed fourteen international visitors from around the world for an IVLP program on “Global and Regional Responses to Refugee & Migration Issues." With each visitor coming from a different country, they all brought a unique perspective to the program and contributed in fruitful conversations with each other and the resources with whom they engaged.
To learn more about international and interagency cooperation on refugee and migration issues, our visitors first began with a sharing session that covered their experiences in previous cities. Unlike many IVLP programs, these visitors were divided into three groups for their second city and were reunited in San Antonio to discuss their experiences from Boise, Idaho; Iowa City, Iowa; and Lincoln, Nebraska.
After learning from each other, they began meeting with community members. Beginning at St. Mary's University and its Center for Legal and Social Justice, our visitors learned about their work in representing underserved communities and fighting discrimination. They also met with Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together (MATT) which works to promote transnational cultural and economic links between Mexico and the United States. Jason Buch, a reporter for the San Antonio Express-News, contributed his perspective on current issues in border affairs while also answering queries in a lively Q&A session with the visitors.
On Friday, our visitors made a trip to Laredo to see one of the busiest border crossings in the United States and visit the US-Mexico Border Philanthropy Partnership, a bi-national organization working on solving many issues related to the border.
When programming resumed the next week, visitors were able to meet with the San Antonio police department to discuss working with immigrant communities to reduce crime. After that meeting, the Refugee And Immigrant Center for Education and legal Services (RAICES). RAICES provides free or low-cost legal services for immigrant communities who may not understand their rights. Meeting with members of SACIV for lunch, the visitors concluded their appointments by meeting with Homeland Security Investigations to discuss Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and their efforts to fight cross-border criminal activities.
The program was intensive and was able to cover a wide array of diverse appointments across San Antonio and South Texas. DHS, ICE, and the SAPD discussed the role of different levels of government in maintaining secure and orderly borders. St. Mary's University and RAICES delved into private sector efforts to combat discrimination and integrate immigrant and minority communities. Visiting groups like MATT and the US-Mexico Border Philanthropy Partnership gave visitors the opportunity to learn more about fostering transnational connections and broadening immigrants' and minorities' employment opportunities and civic participation.