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UTB/TSC Hosts Border Wall Subcommittee Hearings

The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College was at the center of the nationwide border wall debate Monday, April 28, as two U.S. House of Representatives subcommittees held a field hearing to hear testimony on the wall’s impact on the environment and border communities.

The House Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans Subcommittee and National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee listened to 13 panelists representing law enforcement, municipal government and special interest groups. More than 300 people attended the public hearing that included  news media from the Rio Grande Valley and northern Mexico ,border wall supporters and opponents.

UTB/TSC President Dr. Juliet V. Garcia testified during the first of the day’s three panels. She gave a summary from summer 2007 to the present regarding the university’s dealings with the federal government and the wall’s proposed construction.

The university and the U.S. Department of Justice came to an agreement approved by Federal Judge Andrew S. Hanen on Wednesday, March 19, which avoided a federal hearing on the construction issue. Under the terms, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has a six-month limit in studying security measures on campus and must work with the university on physical barrier alternatives, among other stipulations.

“While we have often felt during this process that the Department of Homeland Security was unwilling to openly and legitimately consult with local communities regarding the effects an 18-foot high wall would have on our region, we are pleased that the court system fulfilled the purpose our forefathers had planned, Garcia said. “It brought together two parties to be fairly represented and heard.

Under the federal government’s current plan the wall is projected to place the Fort Brown Memorial Golf Course on the south side of the fence and contain an opening to channel illegal activity close to Scorpion Field, home to the university baseball team, and the Recreation, Education and Kinesiology Center under construction on University Boulevard. The wall opening would also be designated as the entrance and exit for people to access the golf course.

“To support a plan that would build an 18-foot high steel barrier between two friendly countries would be to directly contravene our mission and destroy the campus climate that has been so painstakingly and carefully created, Garcia said.

Panelist U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi, said curing illegal immigration would not be solved by building a wall through historic properties. “Would we put up a wall to divide the battlefield of Gettysburg? Ortiz asked the panel.

Garcia said the campus is also a player in the Rio Grande Valley’s ecotourism industry. As $140 million in construction takes place at eight sites on campus, the environment is taken into account with  walking and bicycle pathways and native trees and vegetation.

“Many have worked for decades to design a campus that is respectful of the natural and rich environment of this special ecological zone, Garcia said.
Panelist U.S. Rep. Thomas G. Tancredo, R-Colorado, said illegal immigration has damaged sensitive vegetation, produced trash and human waste and destroyed federally-held land.

“The risk of fires has increased from migrant traffic as well, Tancredo said. “Illegal aliens start warming or cooking fires and leave them unattended.


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