College students warned about travel to Mexico

By Shawn Adderly

In response to a new travel advisory about Mexico issued by the U.S. State Department, the University’s office of Student Legal Services recently placed an ad bringing this fact to the attention of students.

The advisory urges that U.S. citizens remain vigilant while visiting Mexico, because of a recent increase in violence near the border between the U.S. and Mexico and warns that dozens of U.S. citizens have been kidnapped across Mexico in recent years. Thomas Betz, directing attorney for Student Legal Services, said he believes that the ad does not dissuade students from having fun during spring break; rather it cautions that students should be aware of the risk they take when they travel to Mexico.

“All the areas along the borders have seen massive drug wars, the past year has been very violent,” Betz said.

He is warning students not to go to any known drug areas because buying drugs increases the risk of getting caught up in the narcotics-related violence.

Alexander Uribe, junior in Engineering and Mexican-American student, said that wherever tourists go there is always a risk. He believes that singling out Mexico in particular may not be fair.

    Sign up for our newsletter!

    “Anywhere you go is dangerous,” Uribe said. “No place is perfect, I concede there is a lot of corruption in Mexico and the economy is not doing well, so I understand the warning.”

    Betz said that the majority of University students will be safe during their travel to Mexico, since most will be going to resort areas, and flying to their destinations rather than driving.

    The office urges students to employ common sense while traveling, as it believes most students will not be the ones committing offenses, most likely they will be the victims.

    Patrick Evans, national spokesman for STA Travel, which has a location at 611 E. Green St., said that the agency’s concern is the safety of students traveling. He said his company would never send any student to a destination that was unsafe.

    “The travel alerts that were issued by the U.S. government are for the border area between the U.S. and Mexico,” Evans said. “However, the destinations that students are purchasing from STA Travel are in the resort areas of places like Cancun and Los Cabos, which are a significant distance from the issues that caused the U.S. government to issue the travel alert.”

    Betz said in the past 24 years he has heard of a lot of students encountering bad situations while on spring break, even including getting arrested in a foreign country.

    Getting a lawyer or one free phone call could be problematic for someone in jail in Mexico, since the rights of the detained are substantially different.

    “I cannot get students out of jail in Mexico,” Betz said. “I am not admitted to the Mexican bar. We have had students arrested.”

    He also offered some general advice, such as traveling in groups and not wandering away from the resort areas.

    “I see when people isolate themselves that’s when the problems happen,” Betz added.

    When returning from a vacation, students should be sober enough to get back on the airplane or they could be denied boarding, Betz said.

    This is not the first time the office of Student Legal Services placed an ad warning students about spring break travel. In the past, ads have run warning students about unscrupulous practices employed by scammers.

    “If all you have is the P.O. Box, or an e-mail address to the travel agency that’s offering an unbelievable deal, I wouldn’t advise you to take it. Legitimate businesses have street addresses, you cannot sue a P.O. Box or e-mail address,” Betz said.

    Students can bring any deals that sound shady to Student Legal Services before they sign on the dotted line, Betz said.

    The travel advisory has not deterred Ezell Washington, junior in Engineering, who said he still plans to go to Mexico during spring break.

    Washington plans to fly to Cancun, so he will not have to worry about traveling through any of the violence-filled border regions.

    “Although I’ve heard about tourists being targeted while traveling to Mexico,” Washington said. “It has been on my list of places that I’ve always wanted to visit.”