A distinguished group of European leaders, including members of parliament, mayors, European Commission representatives, and non-profit thought leaders, traveled to San Antonio last week to take part in a program exploring current social, political, and economic issues afflicting the United States and the best approaches organizations in San Antonio and South Texas have found to tackle them.
The visitors began by meeting with the San Antonio Police Department where Sergeant Christopher Lutton and Mr. Robert Looney met with the visitors to discuss a broad swathe of issues that the police department encounters and faces. The group was excited to discuss issues related to body cameras, firearm safety, immigration offenses, and drug trafficking. The police department was very helpful in addressing the diverse array of questions that our visitors had and explaining to them where they had found successes.
The visitors then moved on to an appointment with MOVE Texas. Given how interested the group was in American politics, their discussion with Mr. Drew Galloway of MOVE really excited them. They were able to discuss MOVE’s innovative ways of engaging young people in politics and getting them to vote. Energy which MOVE brings to their voter registration and voter information efforts was contagious, and the 18 visitors couldn’t stop singing their praises.
After a break for lunch, the group took time to meet with the American Indians of Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions. This appointment provided a new perspective for the European visitors who came with varying degrees of understanding of the history and variety of Native American experiences in the United States. Having Mr. Ramon Vasquez elaborate on these topics was very beneficial for them to understand the roots of current issues in the United States’ minority communities.
That Monday evening, half of the visitors joined the police department once more for ride-alongs with patrol officers. They were able to travel with them and ask questions as they patrolled the streets of San Antonio. This unique and more on-the-ground experience enhanced their understanding of issues they had discussed with the SAPD earlier.
The next day entailed a lengthy trip south of San Antonio to Laredo, Texas. In Laredo, the visitors met with Texas Riogrande Legal Aid (TRLA) to discuss immigration and the evolving debate on a host of immigration-related topics. The visit was very useful in exploring this hot-button issue, and members of the staff from TRLA even traveled with the visitors as they stopped at the U.S.-Mexico border and the Rio Grande to see the physical location that has been the focal point of so much contentious debate.
Unfortunately, the group had to hurry back to San Antonio so that the other half of the delegation could experience the ride-alongs that others had had on Monday. However, throughout all of these appointments across their two days of programming, the visitors from Europe learned more about key issues that are facing the United States and the solutions local groups are finding to deal with them.