Frequently Asked Questions:
How long do our groups spend in Mexico?
That depends greatly upon the length of each delegation - it could be as long as 5-6 days and nights or as short as a couple of hours.
What supervision do participants have in Mexico?
One BorderLinks staff member and a co-leader from Mexico will accompany the group during their time in Mexico. One of those staff members lives in Tucson and the other in Nogales, Sonora, (or Agua Prieta; depending on where they visit) so that participants are accompanied by someone who knows the area. Participants' activities in Mexico will be with the entire group or occasionally in smaller groups – never alone.
What is the risk level and safety concerns of the trip?
The risk level for being in Nogales is actually quite similar to the level of risk associated with travel to any unfamiliar city (including in the U.S.). In terms of random violence, statistically Nogales has a lower risk than several major U.S. cities. That is to say, there are dangers associated with travel anywhere, and we do our best to mitigate the risks. The violence in the Nogales area that is specifically related to the drug trade has seen peaks and valleys in intensity, and right now is in a valley. So far all of this type of violence has occurred between people associated in some way with a drug cartel, and U.S. or other foreign visitors have not been targeted due to nationality. However, we do keep a close eye on the situation so that we can maintain the safety of our groups and respond to situations if they arise. If at any time we feel that being in Nogales or anywhere else in Mexico puts our participants and staff at risk, we will make the decision to stop traveling to those locations.
Have previous participants experienced safety issues?
In the 25+ years of BorderLinks' existence, we have not experienced or witnessed a violent incident in Mexico or the U.S. In order to be prepared for the possibility of a violent incident occurring during a program, we ask participants to follow our safety protocol and we train our staff to be prepared for a variety of situations.
Can individual group members stay on the U.S. side of the border overnight?
It is BorderLinks’ policy to keep groups together, in keeping with our commitment to provide the best possible group learning experience, as well as for the sake of logistics and safety. Therefore, it would be very challenging for one participant to stay on the U.S. side of the border if the group stays in Mexico. In the case of one group participant who does not want to stay overnight in Mexico, we would prefer to have the entire group visit Mexico only during the day and stay overnight in Arizona. This option may make sense for some groups, depending on the length and goals of the delegation; however, it does require certain logistical adjustments to the overall itinerary so it is important to let us know early on in the planning process if your group needs to stay overnight in Arizona.
How does BorderLinks stay informed about the situation along the border?
BorderLinks partners with a community organization in Nogales, Sonora, which is run by local Nogales residents. On each BorderLinks trip there is at least one staff member from Tucson and one staff member from our partner in Nogales, Sonora. This partner organization keeps us well informed of what happens in Tucson and helps us decide about any changes to our safety protocol. We also track the local news reports of violent incidents--drug-related and otherwise--that happen in the area. With this information we are able to decide if there are neighborhoods that we should avoid or activities that we shouldn't do.
What safety protocol does BorderLinks follow while traveling in Mexico?
We require participants to stay together with the whole group, or (in certain locations) with no fewer than two other people, at all times in Mexico. We do our activities during the daytime, and during the evening and nighttime we will be on the property of the overnight lodging facility. Our daytime activities occur in places that are well-known to us. At the beginning of the trip we inform participants about the safety procedures they should follow in various situations, including what to do in case of a violent incident.