Voces Unidas is excited to invite 12 Latino leaders from various parts of Colorado to Mexico City as part of a new program launched this year. Joining them on this remarkable journey are five Voces Unidas staff members, consultants and special guests, forming a dynamic delegation of 17 individuals.
The Civic Leader Education & Advocacy Program (CLEAP), taking place over the week of July 3-8, creates opportunities for participants to gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between the United States and Mexico, immerse participants in Mexico's current cultural, civic and political context and practice leadership and advocacy skills during the program.
The relationship between Mexico and the United States is complex, given a long history of economic, political, and cultural ties. The two countries share a border spanning nearly 2,000 miles, with millions of people crossing between them every year for work, education and tourism. Mexican-Americans are the largest group of Latinos in Colorado and the United States, further binding the two countries even in the face of cruel immigration policies, increased militarization of the border, and the realities of climate migration that are driving immigration numbers ever higher.
Notably, Mexico serves as both a country of emigration to the U.S. and a transit country for Central American migrants. Consequently, both countries deal with policy issues concerning border security, asylum processes, visa regulations, labor migration and many other topics that shape today's realities.
CLEAP offers a unique opportunity for community leaders, especially those who have ties to or lived experiences in Mexico, to be able to advocate and help inform policies. As individuals with ties to both countries, we possess a deep understanding of the challenges faced by our communities on both sides of the border. Our dual perspective allows us to continue to learn and advocate for solutions that prioritize human rights, promote legal pathways for migration, and address the root causes of forced displacement. Participants will delve into these pressing issues while learning about the intersectionality of U.S. and Mexican public policies impacting immigrants, migrants and the Mexican diaspora living in the U.S.
During the 6-day trip, participants will engage in conversations and hear directly from local Mexican nonprofit leaders, policymakers, and government officials. Rep. Elizabeth Velasco of Glenwood Springs is this year's keynote speaker. Velasco, the first immigrant leader to be elected to the Colorado legislature from the Western Slope, was born in Mexico and will speak to the group about leadership. Other confirmed special guests include: Federal Senator Alejandra Noemí Reynoso Sánchez of Guanajuato, Vice President of the Executive Committee of the Senate; Federal Diputado Mario Alberto Torres of Veracruz, Secretary of the Commission on Southern Border Issues and the Commission on Migration Issues; Federal Diputada Olga Leticia Chávez Rojas of Nuevo León, Secretary of the Commission on Migration Issues; and Ing. Luis Gutiérrez Reyes, Head of the Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior, Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores.
For some, this will be their first time to Mexico City, and the first time ever leaving the U.S. for others. Several of the CLEAP participants have DACA and Voces Unidas supported their request for Advance Parole, which allows these leaders to leave and return to the United States after their trip. Voces Unidas is committed to creating opportunities for local Latinas and Latinos to lead and this program is an example of how we are responding to our community’s needs.
While the 2023 program is hosted in Mexico, future trips could include other countries in Latin America. Participants of the 2023 program include leaders with ties to Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia and Argentina.
Through binational, community-led efforts, we can create more humane and just immigration policies in our independent democracies that uphold our shared values of compassion and dignity for all individuals seeking a better life.