On April 20 - 24th, 2019, we welcomed ten international visitors from Latin America for an IVLP regional program called “Towards a More Safe & Secure World." 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 issues from a face-to-face conversations in smaller groups, our visitors first began with a hand-on experience of being welcomed through home hospitality with a number of SACIV members who opened up a warm discussion around their tables.
On Monday, our visitors made a trip to Laredo to see one of the busiest border crossings in the United States to observe how DHS counters human trafficking and illegal immigration at a land border. Us Department of Homeland Security, Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) shared with the group about the current situation and issues related to border security. The next meeting was with the representatives at US Department of Homeland Security, ICE, Rio Grande Detention Center, officials provided a tour of the detention center where illegal immigrants are held and discussed how immigrants are detained and processed.
Later Monday afternoon, they continued their discussion at the meeting with Dr. Claudia San Miguel, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice and Director of the Criminal Justice Program at Texas A&M International University. She shared her research project in collaboration with students in 2014 looking at how law enforcement can better identify and rescue victims of human traffic at early stages. The discussion continued in outlining the importance of multi-agency cooperation to help identify and rescue victims and the types of additional resources needed to combat the crime.
On Tuesday, the group met with the Alamo Area Coalition Against Trafficking (AACAT) a multi-agency, multidisciplinary coalition whose goal is to eradicate human trafficking from Bexar County and the surrounding area by prosecuting offenders, preventing future exploitation, and serving current victims. Specifically, the representatives of the Freedom Youth Project Foundation shared their research on effective treatment for child victims of sex trafficking and their programs aimed at combating human trafficking through prevention designed specifically for high targeted victims. There was an open discussion about mutual efforts to raise awareness and and support youth population.
After lunch, they headed to BCFS System Headquarters, a global system of non-profit health and human services organizations based in San Antonio and operating programs worldwide to address the unmet needs of at-risk populations. The President shared practical examples of dealing with challenges faced by struggling children, families, and communities in times of emergency and disaster. Specifically, he shared with the group about the shelters they set up recently for unaccompanied migrants minors entering Texas from Mexico and Central America.
And finally, the visitors met with an ever-ready partner and resource of SACIV, the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD), who once again opened their doors and provided examples and practices about how to sustain relationship between fighting crime and protecting the rights of the public and of alleged criminals, they discussed transparency and accountability ad the strategies to ensure equal treatment for all. The representatives of SAPD also provided the overview of the Department’s role in combating border-related crimes, including illegal immigration. The delegation openly asked questions and exchanged ideas for positive results.
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. Texas A&M International University delved into facts of their researches to identify and rescue victims of human trafficking at early stages.
Overall, they were able to experience a wide swath of programs available in San Antonio from myriad organizations.