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UTEP hosts in-person commencement, Mexican parents allowed to cross the border

EL PASO, Texas -- The University of Texas at El Paso celebrated the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021 during it's in-person commencement ceremony on Friday.

It's the first commencement ceremony UTEP is holding after it had to cancel ceremonies because of the pandemic.

"Last year, we had a virtual ceremony and it was just disappointing," said UTEP President Dr. Heather Wilson. "I mean, it just felt as though it was just a reminder of what we couldn't do." 

More than 2,000 students RSVPed for both Friday and Saturday's commencement to walk across the stage at the Sun Bowl Stadium.

Students were allowed to bring up to eight guests and masks were enforced.

Parents who live across the border were also able to watch their graduate receive their diploma.

Last week, UTEP announced U.S. Customs and Border Protection would allow parents of UTEP graduates to be exempt from border travel restrictions.

Eva Castaneda, a Dec. 2020 graduate, said she was thrilled to learn her father, a Mexican citizen, would be able to attend.

"We were just making plans on how (my dad could) possibly make it. Asking, every time I crossed over, or my mom crossed, asking (CBP), if they will allow him to cross." 

Dr. Wilson said a student with a similar problem emailed her directly. "So I wrote a letter to Customs and Border Patrol saying, 'Look, I know what the rules are, but can we make an exception for the parents of students who are graduating?"

The decision was made to allow parents to cross with special travel requirements after several discussions between the Mexican consulate, El Paso Mayor Oscar Lesser and County Judge Ricardo Samaniego.

“1000 (Mexican national) students come across that bridge every day to get an education here at UTEP and this graduation ceremony is a really big deal for them," Wilson said. "And being able to, to celebrate with their parents here in a, in a community that is, that is a multinational, binational, bicultural, community is just really special.”

For more details about UTEP commencement, click here.

Article Topic Follows: El Paso

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Brianna Chavez


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