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TBI Leads Another Successful Certificate Program on the U.S./Mexico Border

Tuesday, September 3, 2019TOPICS: AlumniConferences and WorkshopsFieldworkUS-Mexico BorderHuman Rights and SecurityStudy Abroad

The Border, View from MexicoTBO Women at CECUT in Tijuana
begin quoteWhat better way to underscore the dynamism of the cross-border space than to bring some of the people who are helping to shape one of its most dynamic and successful projects to the table?

If you want to understand the border, you need to get into the spaces that define it and meet the people who shape it — this twofold proposition drives the Kroc School’s Trans-Border Opportunities Certificate Program (TBO). We’re not afraid to take on the most divisive aspects of the border, but we do so from the perspective of carefully researched facts, experience-based learning, and empathetic storytelling, rather than soundbites or partisan talking points. Twenty-one people joined us on this adventure this summer. 

This year’s cohort included a broad mix of activists, ministers, lawyers, entrepreneurs, government officials, teachers, health-care professionals, and graduate students. The Cross-Border Xpress-San Diego’s U.S.-based terminal and bridge to the Tijuana Airport — sent five members of its management team to take the course. What better way to underscore the dynamism of the cross-border space than to bring some of the people who are helping to shape one of its most dynamic and successful projects to the table?

Over the course of seven dinner seminars and five field seminars, we explored the border experience from a variety of perspectives. Here are a handful of highlights:

Greg Prieto, USD Sociology Professor and author of Immigrants Under Threat, gave a terrific overview of what it means to be undocumented, and why it is that so many people who live here for so long lack legal status. He invited us to get past technical quibbling about illegality and illegality and to ask broader questions about how and why legal status has been manipulated to prevent a sizable minority of the workforce in a position of permanent vulnerability.

Robert Vivar, co-director of Unified U.S. Deported Veterans and Alejandro Fonseca Velez from the Salvation Army shared the challenges facing deportees in Tijuana. Both local leaders, who have experienced deportation first hand, spoke of a dual reality. On the one hand, deportees are targeted for discrimination, exploitation, and alienation at every turn, and many fall into addiction, homelessness, and premature death. On the other hand, a robust community of service providers, new employment opportunities and solidarity groups have dramatically improved the outlook of deportees over the past decade.

At Call Center Services International, one of the better job opportunities for deportees with fluent English, the management team rolled out the red carpet for this TBO cohort. While we were visiting Nintendo’s North American customer service hub there, we ran into Erika Ríos, a deported mother who has worked her way into management there, and whose story of deportation and resilience we have been working to document at the Trans-Border Institute (TBI).  

Don José Galicot, founder and director of Tijuana Innovadora, demonstrated the energy and enthusiasm he has brought to the cause of educating the wider world on what Tijuana creates over the last decade, including almost all of the replacement heart valves used in the U.S., 80% of our thermometers, and cutting edge research on stem cells.

Retired State Center Denise Ducheny and founding member of the Smart Border-Coalition José Larroque explained the ethics and practice of cross-border policymaking that has helped to make the San Diego-Tijuana region uniquely successful, using examples from the water issue, the renovation border infrastructure, and collaborative programs like SENTRI, for trusted travelers.

New for this year's TBO, we invited U.S. Navy Captain and USD ROTC director Edwin Kaiser to share some of his experiences doing drug enforcement on the high seas. Using maps, photographs, videos, and lots of personal stories, he showcased the incredible challenge of stopping the flow of drugs into Mexico and the United States, and the multi-national inter-agency and inter-personal trust that is necessary for all drug enforcement operations.

U.S. Navy Captain and USD ROTC director Edwin Kaiser joins TBO

We also visited an amazing factory run by Hunter Industries in Tijuana, the Embajada Migrate Shelter on the beach and in view of the border fence in Playas de Tijuana, the Cross-Border Xpress in Otay Mesa, the Pasaje Rodríguez arts and small-business corridor in downtown Tijuana, the Tijuana Cultural Center (CECUT), Estación Federal, and Telefónica Gastropark.

If you are interested in taking this course in the future, stay tuned! Plans are underway for TBO 2020.


Ev Meade
619 260-4161

Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies


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