Meet Estefania Castañeda Pérez, 2017 Fund for Latino Scholarship Recipient

Estefania Castañeda Pérez (MFP 2016-17) is a second year PhD student at UCLA studying international relations and race, ethnicity, and politics. Her research and educational experiences have been transformed by her trans-border lifestyle between Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, CA. Her current project, which is inspired by her own experiences at the border, explores the impact of border controls at the US-Mexico ports of entry on cross-border commuters’ political integration in the US. This project is an extension of a senior honors thesis she completed as an undergraduate student at San Diego State University. In her thesis, she explored the different experiences and perceptions of border policing from cross-border commuters in the pedestrian lanes at the Tijuana-San Ysidro border. Her project will make contributions to Latino politics scholarship by providing original data on cross-border commuters, a population that has remained understudied in the border and migration studies literature. The interactions between commuters and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers provide insight into how the state defines who can “legitimately” cross, even when the majority are authorized border crossers, and whether negative border experiences result in feeling more exclusion in the US, particularly during a political climate that pushes for increased securitization at the border. Her research contributes to the Fund’s goals by examining whether notions of trust, exclusion, and citizenship at the border transform Latino political behavior. Furthermore, this project will serve as a stepping-stone for future work on similar populations in transit, which includes refugees and other types of migrants. Prior to UCLA, Estefania was a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Madrid and worked to prepare high school students to compete in Model United Nations competitions. Currently, she is a Eugene V. Cota-Robles fellow at UCLA, and received the APSA Minority Fellowship Program award in 2016.

Learn more about the Fund for Latino Scholarship here.