Thursday, October 25, 2007

ARTICLE: UTB/TSC set to pass resolution opposing border wall

UTB/TSC set to pass resolution opposing border wall
Published in the Rio Grande Guardian
Oct 25 2007

By Joey Gomez

Tony Zavaleta

BROWNSVILLE, October 25 - A resolution opposing the proposed border wall is expected to be passed unanimously by the Texas Southmost College District board on Thursday evening.

The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College recently succeeded in stopping the federal government from fencing off the ITEC campus. The lobbying included an op-ed published in the New York Times by Tony Zavaleta, UTB/TSC’s vice president of external affairs.

“I believe this is a good government action, similar to that taken by the City of Brownsville and by Cameron County,” said Zavaleta, referring to the resolution.

“Texas Southmost College has indicated that, through its elected officials and trustees of the community college, it doesn’t want this wall. This means they're going on the record. And I applaud that action which I'm sure will pass unanimously.”

Despite his success in “saving” the ITEC campus, Zavaleta said the federal government still intends to build border fencing on another part of the campus. Maps unveiled in the Federal Register by U.S. Customs and Border Protection show that the government plans to construct its “tactical infrastructure” on Fort Brown Memorial Golf Course.

“We were successful when the ICE maps came out a month ago when the government decided not to fence off the ITEC campus. That was a partial victory,” Zavaleta said. “But the maps continuously indicate they still intend to wall off our golf course.”

UTB/TSC is the largest landowner in downtown Brownsville encompassing more than 400 acres of land on the east side and the west side of downtown.

Another part of the campus slated to be fenced off is a national historic marker located on the site of Fort Texas, where the first battle of the Mexican-American War was fought.

“Can you imagine, this is a national historic site and it would be walled off and be on the Mexican side of the fence,” Zavaleta said. “This is why we have been trying to provide as much information as possible so they can make an informed decision.”

The resolution under consideration by the Texas Southmost College District urges alternatives to a border fence.

"Any division of our campus will create thereby a significant adverse impact upon the institutions ability to engage in its core activities as a center of higher learning," the resolution states.

"The Texas Southmost College District Board of Trustees urges the government of the United States to pursue alternative solutions to a pedestrian border fence that will not divide our institution and our community."

Where the resolution will be sent has yet to be decided. Calls to Board Chair Chester Gonzalez were not returned at press time.

Zavaleta said he was not sure what impact the resolution would have because the federal government did not seem to be listening to any other border entity.

"It's more than a symbolic action. It's a real action because the Board is a legally elected political entity,” Zavaleta said. “They're going on the record opposing it and of course the question is to whom the resolution is sent to. I don't have the answer for that, DHS or ICE or whatever. But generally, when a resolution is passed, it's sent to someone.”

Zavaleta said he was proud of all the anti-border wall activity currently under way at UTB/TSC. On Wednesday evening, students held a town hall meeting on the issue, just yards from the Rio Grande.

“At times society has to come together to protest against things that are thrust upon you and I believe this is one of those times. All sectors of the community are coming together. I hope it's not too late,” Zavaleta said.

Write Joey Gomez