Exercising caution when crossing the border

Of the hundreds of emails students at the University of San Diego receive from administration each year, there are always a couple every year urging students to avoid hastily crossing the border. With spring break in a few days, hundreds of students across California will be traveling to Mexico, flocking to warmer water, white sand beaches, and a lower drinking age. While a harmless vacation is nothing to worry about, in past emails, the school has warned students about the dangers of gangs and traffickers in Mexico, harsher drug laws, and random acts of violence.

In his latest email to the campus community, Donald Godwin, PhD, Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students, pointed out these and other risks associated with traveling south of the border.

“Students should be aware that, even though Mexico is very close, it is another country,” Godwin said. “It is very important to behave in a responsible manner on either side of the border. […] Although the risks are low for any one individual, if you do not know the area, you might find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

In a later interview, Godwin clarified that it is our proximity to Mexico that makes it a safety concern for administration.

“The email is intended to warn students about the potential dangers of traveling in Mexico, in general,” Godwin said. “However, given our close proximity to the border, and [Tijuana,] I don’t want students crossing without full knowledge of some of the known dangers, especially in TJ.”

These grim warnings haven’t stopped students from visiting our southern neighbor in the past.

Senior Gelila Tefera, who is going to Mexico for spring break, noted that she sees no difference between traveling to Mexico and other international travel.

“I feel safe to travel because I am going with a group of people that I trust,” Tefera said. “I understand the reasoning behind the email, since there will a great number of students traveling to Mexico over spring break, but there is honestly the same amount of risk traveling to any other foreign country. I didn’t think the email was unnecessary because the school didn’t urge us not to travel to Mexico but to just be cautious and responsible, which is something all travelers should do no matter where they’re travelling.”

Although it is understandable that USD cares for the safety of its students, the frequency of these emails is what seems to confuse students, many of whom have traveled to Mexico safely.

Senior Val Estrada pointed out that these warnings discourage students from traveling to a community that greatly needs help.

“I think that the emails sent by the university send out a negative message about a city that has so much to offer, but also that needs our help,” Estrada said. “It makes me very sad to hear someone say they don’t want to go on the TJ service trips because of these emails. If people actually read local TJ news, they would realize that their only main problem is their poverty and all of the immigrants from Central and Southern America who need the help of as many people as possible.”

Senior Bridget Olsen noted that all travel has risks, but simply using common sense can make travel safer.

“I appreciate USD sending us safety emails but find them unnecessary,” Olsen said. “As someone who has crossed the border for school, for service, and for culture, I have always felt safe in Mexico. Of course, with any international travel, one has to be more on guard and aware of [his or her] surroundings, but I think fear of travel is not a good enough reason to avoid going to Mexico.”

While the school can’t stop students from choosing to travel to Mexico, it did suggest some ways to stay safe while traveling.

Godwin’s email offered some tips.

“Please be smart if you plan to cross the border,” Godwin said. “When you are traveling to another country, you need to bring necessary travel documents and need to behave in a responsible manner. As you would in any less-familiar location, do not travel alone, be aware of your surroundings, and look after your friends. Please continue to positively represent yourselves, your family, and your university no matter which side of the border you’re on.”

Although some question the need for these emails, this sentiment of safety and respect is important no matter where you travel. Whether you’re headed to Mexico, some other country, going home, or staying in San Diego, be safe and conscientious this spring break.

By Dani DeVries, Opinion Editor