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FoCUS draws dignitaries to summit on U.S.-Mexico policy relations

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Courtesy of Jorge Olarte
Courtesy of Jorge Olarte

“To me, immigration is a sign of change, and what we are experiencing in this country right now—if you are observing what is going in the civic life of the United States—is what I believe, dramatic change,” said Congressman Xavier Becerra ‘80 J.D. ’84 to 30 student delegates in the closing summit of the U.S.- Mexico Forum for Cooperation, Understanding and Solidarity (FoCUS) conference.

The U.S.-Mexico FoCUS conference concluded Saturday afternoon as part of a four-day event featuring speakers such as George Shultz, the 60th U.S. Secretary of State, and Eduardo Medina Mora, Mexico Ambassador to the United States.

Delegates engaged in group project workshops, speaker panels and dialogue sessions surrounding the theme of improving bilateral relations between the United States and Mexico.

FoCUS was founded last year by Jorge Olarte ‘13 and Alejandro Navarro, a student from the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM) university. The cross-national group held a primary conference in April in Mexico City and the closing summit this past weekend at Stanford. Student delegates from various U.S. and Mexican universities were able to attend the closing summit.

“We began with the idea summer of last year when we wanted to make a little conference for people to talk about issues of Mexico and the drug trade and issues like that because there was almost no conversation at all about U.S. and Mexico at Stanford,” Olarte said.

“We thought at the beginning that it was a really small idea, but then we began talking to faculty at Stanford, and they really pushed us to think big and go beyond a one-day conference,” he added.

The FoCUS conference was loosely modeled on the Forum for American/Chinese Exchange at Stanford (FACES) and the American Middle Eastern Network for Dialogue at Stanford (AMENDS)—both multi-cultural conference models dedicated to promoting awareness of international, political and cultural issues and global relations.

Yet what’s unique about FoCUS is its partnership with one of the top universities in Mexico, ITAM, where the Mexico delegation is based.

Delegates were split into collaborative teams in January and worked on themed policy-constructing projects between the April conference and the Stanford summit. On Nov. 9, they presented their work to a panel of experts and audience.

Mexican delegate Andrea Conde hopes that her team uses the work they produced to affect real-life international policy.

“My team was a security team, and we want to get our working paper published,” Conde said. “We are probably going to talk to academics and send our working draft. We also have emails of politicans to get feedback on practical things.”

Anna Hillary, a U.S. delegate studying as a grad student at New York University, also had similar ambitions for what she wanted to take away from the conference.

“We’re really just hoping to influence policy,” Hillary said. “It’s a really nice forum for us to be heard and to put forth our ideas on how the security strategy should look between the U.S. and Mexico and how different aspects of the relationship should look.”

Hillary, Conde and Olarte all emphasized the importance of the close relationships that they formed throughout the program.

“It’s like seeing old friends, but we also have a really nice professional relationship,” Hillary said.

With regards to the future, Olarte expressed his enthusiasm regarding the fast growth of the FoCUS program in such a short amount of time and hopes the network will continue.

“It’s really creating this bridge between students from both countries and this group of students with the people who are changing our countries right now,” Olarte said.

“We want to be part of the dialogue, and we’re starting to,” he added.

This year, the main themes of the conference included security issues, immigration and other broader aspects of the relationship between the United States and Mexico.

For next year’s conference, Olarte and Navarro hope to hold the same events, including the conference in Mexico City in April, but with a focus on business, trade and economics.

 

Contact Alexa Liautaud at alexal ‘at’ stanford.edu.