Graphic by Anahy Diaz/The Prospector via Canva
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is set to allow eligible parents of UTEP graduates to cross the border on May 14-15, to attend commencement amid COVID-19 travel restrictions.
University officials announced Wednesday, UTEP and CBP have reached an agreement permitting 2020, spring and summer graduates living in Mexico, and their parents to attend in-person graduation.
“As America’s leading Hispanic-serving university, UTEP serves students in a binational and bicultural region, and we have approximately 1,000 international students from Mexico,” UTEP President Heather Wilson said in a statement provided by UTEP.
The border has been restricted to non-essential travel since March 2020, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. According to the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Mexico, these restrictions are set to last until May 21.
The news comes days after a group of 18 UTEP students sent an email to Wilson, to express their concerns of not having their parents, who live in Mexico, attend graduation. Wilson replied to this email by saying she would continue working with authorities to address the students’ concerns.
“Commencement is a very important milestone for all of us, most importantly for our students and their families, since it represents a celebration of their collective efforts and sacrifices,” Wilson said. “We are grateful to our partners at the CBP, especially Director of Field Operations Hector Mancha, for working with us to make this happen for our students and their families.”
Students like Aimée Carrillo, graduating with a master’s degree in social work, agree May’s celebration is an accomplishment for the parents as much as it is for the graduates.
“I was excited before, but I felt like something was missing. Now I’m excited to share my graduation and hooding ceremony with my parents,” Carrillo said. “This is important to me because my parents had to work hard and I feel they deserve to be there with me to celebrate this accomplishment. I wouldn’t be where I am without them.”
Both of Carrillo’s parents live in Mexico, along with her brother. According to UTEP, the travel restrictions waiver will not be offered to those with expired travel documents, siblings, or extended family members.
“My brother is not going to be able to be present due to the restrictions,” Carrillo said. “I wanted to share this moment with my brother too, he has been supportive and loving in this process.”
UTEP will continue to work with CBP to arrange how the agreement will be implemented at the region’s local border crossings, and will provide information to graduates as it becomes available. Commencement ceremonies are set to take place at 7 p.m., May 14-15 at the Sun Bowl Stadium.
Anahy Diaz may be reached at [email protected]; @by_anahydiaz on Twitter.