Conference students discuss US-Mexico border issues, solutions

Sylvia Butanda

Border violence and security in relation to drug consumption in the United States drove one group of American and Mexican students to propose an awareness campaign that highlights the connection between drug use in the United States and cartel violence in Mexico.

The Innovation and Creativity Institute, a cross-discipline UT research unit, partnered with Espacio de Vinculación A.C., a nonprofit organization that holds events to connect different areas of society in several countries, and Univision to host the first annual Jornadas Fronterizas conference on campus Friday and Saturday. The conference brought 80 students from the United States and Mexico together in order to examine the several issues facing the border and come up with accessible solutions for those problems.

Six teams focused on specific border issues in two-day workshops in which they discussed and agreed on the problems and presented their final solutions.

All the teams came up with similar solutions that included community involvement, educational programs and awareness campaigns that will inform the public about the issue at hand.

The border violence and security group thought of the awareness campaign with the slogan, “Every time you’re chilling, you’re killing.”

“We wanted to highlight the disconnect between pop culture and drug culture in the U.S. and how it is related to the drug violence in Mexico,” said Georgia Kromrei, senior Spanish, Portuguese and Latin-American studies major.

Kromrei is one of 12 UT students who attended the conference. She said she wanted to learn more about the border and to network with Mexican students.

“The issues of the border are critical to people on both sides,” Kromrei said. “Even though we are geographically very close together, we are still far apart in many regards.”

The immigration and migration team planned informational campaigns to educate the American people about the discrimination illegal immigrants face and inform the Mexican people about the hardships that go along with crossing over.

Leslie Wise, global studies and international relations junior, proposed one of the team’s solutions in relation to the cheap labor economy that is provided by immigrants in the U.S.

“Our first proposal was to stop buying products from companies that support policies which cause unfair labor wages and abusive treatment towards immigrants in the workplace,” she said. “More importantly, we want to support companies that are conscious of the treatment of immigrants. It’s a start that we can do as individuals.”

Marco Munoz, IC2 Institute’s associate director, said this program aimed to encourage the students to utilize all their innovative ideas.

“Their solutions can create a new reality on the border,” Munoz said. “This could be an example for other regions — not just in the U.S. and Mexico but in other countries as well.”

Fifteen students were selected to travel to Washington D.C. in May 2012 to propose their solutions to the Inter-American Development Bank, the largest source of development financing for Latin America, and government officials.

“They will be proposing their solutions to several lawmakers and organizations,” Munoz said. “I am very optimistic when I see young people exploring ideas and trying to solve problems that no one else has solved.” 

Printed on Monday, November 14, 2011 as: Students collaborate, explore ways to solve drug cartel violence