On November 2nd - November 6th, 2019, SACIV welcomed six international visitors from Saudi Arabia for an IVLP project entitled “US Foreign Policy Decision Making." Their program in San Antonio provided insight into one of the country’s most pressing foreign policy issues, which has profound implications for domestic and foreign policy. The debate over immigration, and the related human rights concerns surrounding refugee and asylum rights, has been a part of the national conversation for some time and is especially contentious in the present administration. The schedule offered examples of how immigration debate is experienced in our part of the country and in the state (once a part of Mexico) increasingly flavored by Hispanic culture.
Our guests arrived on Saturday and on Sunday, had a great time exploring places of historical significance in San Antonio, including the Missions. On Monday morning, our visitors met with the Executive Director of Mexican and American Thinking Together. This non-profit organization was created with specific goals which were accomplished this past September. Therefore, the participants learned about the initiatives this organization developed for cultural interaction, education, and social outreach by working with government sectors, private organizations, academic institutions, and other civil organization. Our visitors heard real stories about how Mexicans are integrating into the community and discussed general statistics and misperceptions that we sometimes see in media.
Later that day, our guests met with the representative of the City of San Antonio’s International Relations Office. During this meeting, the delegation learned about work this Office does to attract global trade and foreign investments as well as to provide protocol services for the San Antonio community. The delegation was specifically interested in the development process of Sister City relations and how foreign policy with Mexico has impacted the business environment in the region.
In the afternoon, the Saudi Arabian delegation headed to UTSA's Institute for Economic Development to learn about a variety of centers and programs that facilitate economic, community, and business development at the local, regional, and national level. Our guests talked about those approaches, which serve as a catalyst for the regional entrepreneurship ecosystem, with a focus on their work strengthening trade relationships between San Antonio’s businesses and the rest of the world.
On Tuesday morning, the group met with the representatives of the Refugee and Immigration Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES). This meeting demonstrated the best practices in promoting justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees from Central and South Texas. Our guests learned about the recent history of immigration to South Texas and the roles of the various agencies involved in the complex debate, including their advocacy work.
In the afternoon the group had an interactive tour with staff and students of the International School of the Americas (ISA). This tour and informative presentation helped the participants examine programs that focus on engaging students through a multicultural curriculum. It was exciting to hear about how the school emphasizes learning from a global perspective rather than a US-centric view.
Next, our guests met with representatives of District Office of Representative Joaquin Castro During this meeting, they learnt about this district's work on issues of immigration, national security, and international relations. The delegation was specifically interested in discussing policy-making at the national level and this district office interaction with constituents on these topics.
Overall, this group enjoyed the rich history and diversity of San Antonio which provided them with a holistic view of the United States through the lenses of a unique southern city. We are very grateful for all our partnering organizations who welcomed these guests and helped in highlighting the increasingly intertwined bi-national economy in the region and illustrating the role of trade as a factor in foreign policy decision making. #ExchangeMatters