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SGA launches Education Across Borders

Education Across Borders seeks to use the same energy that Education Not Deportation (E.N.D.) used, but Education Across Borders promises to be more policy-driven

Helping out those who are immigrants or international travelers is dear to Jonathan Cereceres, a junior political science major. He was elected the vice president of external affairs for the Student Government Association and he wanted to make sure to help those international individuals at UTEP in any way that he could.

This past year, Cereceres contributed to Education Not Deportation, or E.N.D., which was a local movement that protested for the civil rights of international students and their families.

Now, Cereceres plans to bring forth a new initiative to campus to assist the international students in their rights and connecting to the campus called Education Across Borders. He hopes this initiative will lay the foundation for years to come and act as a traditional focus.

“This is my baby,” said Cereceres, who has been working on this idea since January. “I have become really passionate about this because of my family, friends and the community. I believe these students need to know their rights as students and everyone should have access to a proper education.”

Aside from workshops to show international students their rights, Cereceres wants to implement international ethnic group mixers and other events to benefit these students.

“We’re focusing on students by doing this just so they have this help,” he said. “This is the new development that focuses on the newest establishments across El Paso.”

Gary Edens, vice president for the Division of  Student Affairs, has been working closely with Cereceres to ensure execution of the SGA’s new movement.

“I think the current SGA is excited for their role in advocating for students,” Edens said. “Some of these programs they’re designing are really for advocacy and messaging programs to get more students engaged in the political dialogue that is going on across America, and the world. I think they’ve been thoughtful about how they’ve approached these with much more of an educational twist to them so students can get involved in their own way.”

Recently, President Donald Trump announced that he would not get rid of help for the Dreamers, who are undocumented immigrants that came to the U.S. as children. The Department of Homeland Security announced that they would continue what the Obama administration implemented to help keep these immigrants from deportation and provide them with work permits so they can find jobs legally.

Despite this announcement by President Trump, Edens believes the general community should still be aware of their surroundings and what will come of Trump’s plans.

“I think the political dialogue most recently, especially the national political dialogue, have touched on critical issues that are important to who we are as border residents,” he said. “The talks about immigration, immigration status, access to health care, access to education—all those things touch the El Paso audience relation in ways that past political rhetoric maybe has not. There’s clearly a focus on immigration and the border that’s been going on in the past two years. This isn’t theoretical any more, which garners more activism and involvement.”

However, Edens does believe that the constant uncertainty between the political climate regarding immigration is causing the uneasiness among these students.

“Our students are continuing to do what they do best, which is to come to class, to learn, to study—that hasn’t changed,” Edens said. “We aren’t seeing a decrease in enrollment, we aren’t seeing students not come to class. In a general sense, they’re worried about the changing messages that are coming out from many of our elected officials. Donald Trump is now saying that DACA students are now allowed to stay. So it’s changing overnight. When there’s that change and uncertainty, that causes worry. We’re ready to handle anything that happens if it affects our students.”

As stated, Education Across Borders is branching out from their original plan. Cereceres stated that E.N.D.’s mission is to strive to protest more for the civil rights of the immigrants and also strive for changes in legislation.

One of the major things E.N.D. wants for UTEP is changing the school to be a sanctuary campus, where each student who crosses over is allowed to come without repercussions or fear of deportation.

While Cereceres believes the idea of a sanctuary campus is a positive one, he fears the cutting of government funding from the federal government and the Texas Legislature if UTEP were to ever turn that direction. That’s why Education Across Borders aims to help students acknowledge policy, understand their rights and connect with the campus better. 

“We depend on the (federal funding) so much as UTEP students, especially compared to the state,” he said. “UTEP stretches out a dollar so much. We base our budget off of two percent population increase. We stretch our dollar for miles. I myself rely on the funding and so many others do.”

However, Cereceres still has hopes that the idea of a sanctuary campus in itself would provide a safety cushion for these individuals.

“Education Across Borders is essentially the same thing, but while Education, Not Deportation is seeking for UTEP to be entirely a sanctuary campus, city and everything else. Essentially, Education Across Borders hopes for sanctuary campus, but we won’t do any protests because we will be policy focused. We want to have the know your rights workshops and even bump it up for the international student minority fair or anything else of that sort.”

International student Alexis Rico, a sophomore economics major, would like to see UTEP one day become a sanctuary campus. However, she would agree with Cereceres that federal funding is important.

“Who wouldn’t want UTEP to be a sanctuary campus?” Rico said. “If they can prevent the loss, they should strive to become one. It goes both ways, definitely because of the funding.”

Rico has been crossing the border every day since she was in kindergarten to go to school. The somewhat unfriendly political climate may worry some, but Rico is not worried about things like deportation or discrimination from being an international students. Rather, it is her peers who cross over and her family who worry about the different cause and effects.

“I know most of my friends—my international student friends—and even though I’m an international student, I have so much family across the border and I see all of their worries,” she said. “For friends that are international students, they don’t want to go back to Mexico and study there.  They want to study here in the U.S. I do see some fear and a little scared attitudes.”

Rico believes the city’s demographics have cushioned it from the present national political discrimination.

“For the most part, everything has stayed the same,” she said. “Since we’re in El Paso, it’s not affecting us that much because we know the border. It hasn’t affected us. Thankfully, we have a different perspective here.”

She believes that where the school can help is informational sessions and different events to make the students aware, as Cereceres plans to do with Education Across Borders.

“What would help the most is events to acknowledge international students and let them know they’re wanted, safe and feel a part of UTEP,” Rico said. “They need to let students be informed that they will not be taken away and ease all the fears they have-so international students will feel safe.”

Edens believes that the informative sessions will be beneficial, but one of the most important places to target the immigrants is starting at the top with the faculty. He is confident that moving forward, the faculty members will know how to handle any student approaching them with inquiries about their rights. 

“Students don’t come to us, they go to faculty for information, so we want to make sure they have the right information,” he said. “We’re continuing to do those programs and we feel confident that given the current environment, we’ve done everything we can to help students when they need it.”

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About the Contributor
Adrian Broaddus, Sports Editor
Adrian Broaddus is the sports editor for The Prospector. He is a junior multimedia journalism major with a minor in political science.   Adrian was born and raised in El Paso, TX, and is a graduate of Franklin high school. He entered college in the fall of 2015 in hopes to better his career in journalism.   Along with sports, Adrian enjoys writing music reviews, perspective columns and news stories on politics.   Although he is pursuing his degree in journalism, Adrian would like to go to law school and be an attorney while doing part-time work in journalism.  
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SGA launches Education Across Borders