Homeland Security and UT Brownsville Reach Accord on Campus Border Fence

BROWNSVILLE, Tex

The University of Texas at Brownsville and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reached an agreement this week barring the government from condemning any university land and committing the school to beefing up security along its existing fence, according to wire reports…

The university agreed to enhance an existing fence, invest in additional cameras and allow the Border Patrol to install its cameras and sensors on the fence.

School officials had argued that a 15- to 18-foot steel fence originally proposed could have disrupted access to the university’s golf course, threatened plans for expansion and harmed the school’s binational reputation and mission.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen accepted the deal in principle and ordered both sides to submit it in writing by Tuesday. Hanen also set March trial dates for 16 other border fence cases.

The university had dragged the government back into court June 30, accusing it of violating an earlier court-approved agreement to study alternatives to a physical barrier.

Hanen agreed and ordered both sides to get the expertise and authority in the same room to find a solution that would meet the Border Patrol’s security needs without disrupting the university.

The university and its two-year sister school Texas Southmost College have been the most formidable opponents of a border fence that is widely unpopular in the Rio Grande Valley. The university has a 17,000-student enrollment and is part of the nation’s second-largest university system.

Hanen earlier suggested both sides study the possibility of building the fence along a levee closer to the river that is no longer certified but perhaps could be repaired. The university had already started talks with the International Boundary and Water Commission about moving its levee.

University President Juliet Garcia visited Washington, D.C., recently for meetings with Customs and Border Protection Commissioner W. Ralph Basham and Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar.

“We have been able to open up some very novel and creative thinking in this process that may very well present a solution particularly suitable to our two different missions,” Michael Putegnat, a consultant hired by the university to steer the talks, wrote in an e-mail.

The Department of Homeland Security is racing to finish 670 miles of barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border by the end of the year to comply with a congressional mandate.



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