International students adapt to non-essential travel at the border

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Claudia Hernandez

El Paso/Ciudad Juárez border fence.

Paulina Astrid Spencer, Staff Reporter

With the everchanging restrictions taking place in the world, the U.S., and the border amid the COVID-1outbreak, international UTEP students who cross — or used to cross — the border regularly are facing the hardships of the non-essential border entrance.  

On March 21, the U.S. and Mexico reached an agreement to restrict all non-essential travel at the border to slow down the spread of the virus, including the bordering cities of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez. 

Non-essential travel that has been restricted includes travel that is considered tourism or recreational in nature, while attending educational institutions or medical reasons are considered essential, according to a newsletter sent out by the university. 

Students are expected to continue their studies remotely online. Those without access to internet are encouraged to speak to their professors in order to arrange their study plan. 

Daniel Palma, a marketing international student, says crossing the border has been a different experience now than before the COVID-19 outbreak. 

“These past days, border officers have been paying more attention to my visa status and always ask me where I am going,” Palma said. 

However, Palma is not the only one affected. 

The U.S. Embassy and consulates in Mexicohave also suspended routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa services as of March 18, affecting many. 

Along with the stress of living across the border in Ciudad Juárez and the uncertainty of the border crossing’s future, Palma also has to worry about his position as an essential employee at UTEP. 

While most jobs at the university have been moved to remote, some, including Palma’s, remain essential, therefore making Palma’s travelling to and from his home a necessity. 

Palma was given a letter by his supervisor at the university stating that he is an essential employee. 

“I have been asked to show the letter a few times, but sometimes they just trust me when I tell them I am going to work,” Palma said. 

The Office of International Study Abroad reminds students through their website that all restrictions are in place are due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19 and for the safety of the community. 

“We are all working to ensure we can still provide necessary services and support to all of our students during this unprecedented period. If you need us, we are here, even if it is virtually,” they wrote in a post.  

Paulina Astrid Spencer may be reached at [email protected]