Culture

A Transborder Grad Student Is Using Facebook To Help Others With Their Daily Border Crossings

School has always been a challenge for Vanessa Falcon. Getting to class means navigating her way through the San Ysidro Port of Entry, the largest land border crossing in the world. Many other students live this “transborder lifestyle,” having to cross the US-Mexico border daily to go to school and work. With recent hostility at the border, it has drastically impacted their daily lives. That’s why Falcon, who is currently pursuing her Ph.D. at San Diego State University, started the Facebook group Estudiantes Transfronterizos (Transborder Students). The group helps students navigate border-related challenges including long waits and border closures. Yet for Falcon, this lifestyle began way before college.

Falcon has been living a transborder lifestyle since she was 12 years old.

CREDIT: Credit: Vanessa Falcon

Born in Los Angeles, Falcon was always transitioning from one side of the border to the other. Her mother and father, who are Mexican and Peruvian respectively, frequently moved from San Diego to Tijuana due to economic hardships. They would eventually buy a trailer home, which transported them between their lives in San Diego and Tijuana. Falcon began crossing the border daily in the 6th grade, which she says was a personal decision due to many factors including quality in education and cultural identity.

Falcon recalls dealing with homelessness and early 4 a.m. starts to her day just to make it to school. She recollects long days waiting in her family’s car during school for time to pass and nights when food wasn’t always on the table. Falcon credits those hardships for making her who she is today more than ever and says they represented not only her lifestyle but her cultural identity.

“During 6th grade, I started crossing the border for school on a regular basis and it made living arrangements hard,” Falcon said. “It was challenging but now I draw a lot from that. It was definitely more of a choice than necessity but it became part of who I am today.”

Fast forward to today, Falcon is using those experiences to help others navigate through cross-border challenges.

CREDIT: Credit: Vanessa Falcon

As Falcon pursues her doctoral degrees in the joint Ph.D. in Education Program at SDSU and Claremont Graduate University, she is helping the transborder community in the San Diego-Tijuana border region. Upon starting her studies at SDSU, Falcon felt compelled to help others that were going through similar daily journeys across the border.

In 2015, she began the Facebook group Estudiantes Transfronterizos, which grew into a student group at SDSU called the Transfronterizx Alliance Student Organization (TASO). Officially recognized by SDSU in 2017, the organization focuses on creating an inclusive campus environment for transborder students on campus by connecting them with others who live a similar lifestyle.

“You can meet virtually, and now in person, which has created a small community here at SDSU,” Falcon says. “I wanted to accomplish three things here: Having a place where we can engage, having a safe space where we can discuss our lives and creating a culture where we can discuss these relevant daily challenges.”

Students say their experiences crossing the border every day means enduring intense scrutiny and discriminatory practices from Border Patrol agents. A 2015-2016 study found that young people who’ve lived and studied in two countries from San Diego and Tijuana were at a higher risk for depression than other students.

TASO gives SDSU students who live a transborder life an opportunity to share their experiences, identity, and culture.

CREDIT: CREDIT: Vanessa Falcon

TASO has helped create an inclusive community on the SDSU campus that has gone beyond just a Facebook group but an organization putting together services for transborder students. During the 2017-2018 academic year, the organization hosted a transborder studies lecture series where speakers describe their own experiences as transborder students. The group has also utilized Facebook Live to stream content for transborder students who couldn’t attend in person.

“We’ve had live streams of lectures if a student can’t arrive at campus due to border-related challenges,” Falcon says. “We’re creating a community that was once invisible to many and are getting to share our stories along the way.”

The Facebook group has also given students the opportunity to network among each other when it comes to logistics. Some offer to carpool with other transborder students and post regular updates if there are major stalls crossing the border.

Due to recent closures at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, wait times can extend to several hours long.

CREDIT: CREDIT: Vanessa Falcon

Falcon says recent border closings caused by the Trump administration and the migrant caravan residing in nearby Tijuana have added to already long wait times crossing the San Ysidro Port of Entry. She describes the scene at the border as more militarized with a larger presence of police than in the past.

“There is militarization going on everywhere at the border. Just 3 weeks ago it seemed like we were at a war zone,” Falcon says. “The border has become intense and we see the suffering of refugees at the border and that has resulted in four-hour waits just to enter.”

A letter recently sent out by SDSU’s Dean of Students Randy Timm acknowledged some of the problems students are facing due to the border closures. The letter showed support for transborder students and offered assistance on the campus. Falcon notes this is a step in the right direction in terms of institutions recognizing transborder students.

Falcon is hoping to create a larger community of transborder students that she hopes will help others navigate their daily lives easier.

CREDIT: CREDIT: Vanessa Falcon

Just last year, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) opened up its own TASO chapter on its campus where the group has begun mentorship and educational programs for transborder students. Both chapters hope to work with each other and expand to other universities in border states. Falcon says she could have never imagined the Facebook group growing the way it did. She says there are plans to pilot a transborder students ally training program at SDSU, where she will use research to train students and staff about this lifestyle.

“I want people to understand our experiences and be educated on the daily journeys that we go through,” Falcon said. “I want to teach online through Facebook and make the program accessible to all.”

Falcon says living a transborder lifestyle has given her not just an education but an appreciation of her Latina background and identity. She hopes TASO can encourage legislative changes that improve the lives for transborder students like creating a specific student lane at the U.S border.

“We still live in the margins and our experiences are often not acknowledged,” Falcon says. “We are trying to make a difference on both sides of the border and we are just seeing the potential we have as transborder students to help both sides of our communities.”


READ: Congress Members Camp Out With Asylum Seekers Including Honduran Mother And Children In Viral Tear Gas Photo

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Many Of The Migrants Seeking Asylum In The US Are Not Latinx And Here’s Why That Matters

Things That Matter

Many Of The Migrants Seeking Asylum In The US Are Not Latinx And Here’s Why That Matters

Ariana Drehsler/UPI

While much of the attention has been given to the Latinxs crossing the southern border, largely because they have been the targets of President Trump’s ire and the perception that only Latinxs would be entering via Latin countries, migrants from 50 countries have been detained. 

According to Roll Call, Customs and Border Protection say they have seen a rise in migrants from India, China, Egypt, Bangladesh, Romania, and Turkey. Much like the countries Central Americans are fleeing, these nations are also grappling with catastrophic instabilities whether it be climate change in Bangladesh, civil unrest in China, or fascism creeping further into India. 

Like all migrants, they want the same thing: a safe refuge from imminent threats to their humanity. However, their journeys to cross the southern border between Mexico and the United States is no easier. 

Rise in Indian migrants.

Migration from India has dramatically increased along the southern border with attorneys claiming they see an increase in clients persecuted for political affiliation, religious beliefs, caste or social status. Although Indian migrants are a mere 1 percent of the total migrants in 2018, the numbers have vastly increased by 4,811 percent since 2007. 

Roll Call’s analysis of CBP data saw an increase of Indian migrant apprehensions from 76 to 8,997 at the southern border. While Central American migrants face a unique set of obstacles, so do these groups. Immigration services are not equipped with language services, translated materials, or religious accommodations. While they can anticipate Spanish-speakers at the border, as migrants become more multicultural preparing for their arrivals can be all the more difficult. 

In the case of these particular migrants, “targeted prejudice has eroded any semblance of due process, advocates say, and makes these migrants even more vulnerable to reprisals while in detention.”

These obstacles don’t just affect European and Asian migrants, but indigenous ones as well. Attorneys, judges, and advocates say the immigration court system has become overwhelmed with a backlog of over 1 million cases because there is a lack of non-Spanish and indigenous language interpreters. 

Indian migrant goes on hunger strike due to mistreatment. 

The inhumane conditions migrants are subjected to have led to a plethora of related issues. Ajay Kumar and other Indian migrants were detained in New Mexico and felt he was treated so poorly he went on a hunger strike. Kumar told authorities there were no translated reading materials and that vegetarian food was mixed with meat which many could not eat. 

He was sent to an El Paso detention center where he and largely other migrants from India were force-fed following a court order. His lawyers say he was placed in medical isolation, called a troublemaker, and had his mala (or Hindu rosary) taken away from him. Kumar was held down and forced to eat and drink while his immigration case was threatened by officials. After 72 days of his hunger strike, he was moved to a long-term care facility. Still, Kumar believes his best chance at life is in the United States. 

“USA is a very good country and there is no other country as helpful and strong as this,” Kumar wrote while in the hospital. “I only hope for my freedom and I hope for help from the people of El Paso.” 

A 6-year-old migrant girl from India died at the southern border. 

Just before her 7th birthday, Gurupreet Kaur crossed the southern border over the summer. Arizona temperatures reached 108 degrees. Gurupreet’s mother left her with another mother and daughter while she went to search for water. The two groups, who wandered a very remote area, were never able to find each other again. A day later, Border Patrol agents discovered Gurupreet’s remains. 

“We wanted a safer and better life for our daughter and we made the extremely difficult decision to seek asylum here in the United States,” her parents’ said in a statement released by the nonprofit Sikh Coalition. “We trust that every parent, regardless of origin, color or creed, will understand that no mother or father ever puts their child in harm’s way unless they are desperate.”

The mother and daughter were trying to meet the girl’s father who had been in the U.S. since 2013 with a pending asylum application in New York immigration court. The pair were with three other migrants from India. 

Advocacy groups say government policies are to blame for these tragedies which are affecting more and more communities of color. 

Advocacy groups fight back. 

Immigration advocacy groups continue to challenge these harmful policies in the courts. The Sikh community in the United States and other South Asian advocates have expressed much outrage. South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) noted that while DHS and CBO budgets have increased significantly, the treatment of migrants has only degraded. 

“As US Customs and Border Protection has escalated border enforcement and aggressively turned away migrants attempting to cross at ports of entry, deaths have continued to mount,” SAALT said in a statement. “Migrants are forced right back into the dangerous conditions that CBP and other federal agencies often blame on migrant traffickers and smugglers.”

This Viral Photo Is Forcing A Conversation About The Right Time To Share Relationship Info On Social Media

Culture

This Viral Photo Is Forcing A Conversation About The Right Time To Share Relationship Info On Social Media

Facebook

“It’s not official until it’s on Instagram!” That’s the gag-ensuing line you hear when a couple goes from casually dating to 100 percent exclusive. The same goes for Facebook. If you’ve recently gotten married, the first thing you do is change your status from single to married. It’s a big deal especially to those that live on the internet. Changing your status on Facebook is every person’s dream — if, again, you want the whole world to know about your life. If you are indeed one of those people — and we’re not shaming anyone for it — the real question is: when do you make that online change? When do you choose to inform your Facebook friends that you’re finally officially married? Do you wait until you’ve gotten back from your honeymoon? Or do you do it sooner, perhaps on your wedding night? 

A couple named Danielle and James decided the perfect time to change their Facebook status from single to married was in the middle of their ceremony.

Credit: Facebook

The image was posted on a Facebook group titled “That’s It, I’m Wedding Shaming” and was reported by the Daily Mail. The shamer covered the couple’s face and captioned the picture by writing, “Instead of doing a unity candle or sand ceremony, Danielle & James changed their Facebook statuses to ‘married.'” 

Now we can’t say for certain this couple chose to change their status to married at that exact time, but they are clearly on their phones while standing at the altar. As the publication notes, perhaps the couple used their cell phones to read their wedding vows. 

What’s interesting about this picture is that we can’t see the reaction of their wedding guests. We’d really love to know if they’re supportive during this moment or if they’re cringing at their disrespectful timing. 

The picture was posted on a wedding shaming Facebook group and sure enough, people mocked the couple’s “tacky” behavior.

Credit: Facebook

It’s ironic, however, that people on Facebook chose to make fun of them for being on Facebook. Sure, it’s terrible timing, but it just seems like everyone is on social media at all hours of the day. This couple simply chose to do it at the most special time in their life! 

So back to our original question: When should a couple update their Facebook status from single to married?

Credit: @courtneygmiller / Twitter

Some people are simply too eager to let the world know they are officially married. It’s a big deal in life, and we suppose it is normal to want to show off and tell their Facebook friends how much they’ve grown up. 

So, it’s bad to change your status from single to married on the day after your wedding?

Credit: @QuestionaBulls / Twitter

People probably already know that you were going to get married anyway, right? So why not update your Facebook status and get it over with? What’s the harm in that? You know people who shame you for announcing to the world about big milestones are on their phones too, they’re just not telling you about their every move. 

To be honest, social media — especially on Facebook — is so intrusive about our life that it gives us all this pressure to update, and post, and overshare. 

Credit: @feliciathena / Twitter

This woman is correct, Facebook has no chill. They already know our every move thanks to algorithms so we just play along because they give us no choice. 

For those that are just too busy to update their status. 

Credit: @JANUARYDENIS1 / Twitter

The dumb thing about changing it later is that people are probably thinking, “yeah, we know you’re married.” 

When everyone and your kid knows you’re married, so you want to make it official like several years later. 

Credit: @hanelaineking / Twitter

This is kind of cute, especially if you have kids. 

Now, remember, if you are updating your Facebook friends about your personal business don’t forget you may have to also update them about the bad stuff too. 

Credit: @B_Worrell3 / Twitter

There’s nothing worse than changing your status from married to single for everyone to see. We can’t just share the good, we have to share the real stuff too, even if it hurts. Also, your friends are supposed to be there for you through the good and the bad, right? On Facebook though, it’s all pretty superficial so in the end, who cares what you post. It will just live on the internet forever. 

READ: This Latina Got A Text From Her Ex Right Before His Wedding Day And Twitter Is Wrecked