How a border wall has impacted a Rio Grande Valley university

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Brownsville Campus is located in a unique spot. Its backyard is the border wall and the Rio Grande River.

The campus has a shorter fence around some parts of it because of a legal battle between the U.S. government and the former university on the site.

The U.S. government and the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College were in a legal battle that took place in 2008 over the border wall placement around campus.

LINK: USA vs UTB-TSC lawsuit 

The federal government wanted permission to enter the property. The university president at the time, Dr. Juliet Garcia, opposed it. She said it was a risk to the property investment, the public didn’t have input and it would jeopardize the important historical heritage of the campus, according to Dr. Terence Garrett, professor and chairman of public affairs and security studies department at UTRGV.

Garrett said he was part of Garcia’s team at the time. He testified before a full Senate committee hearing on Homeland and Governmental Affairs in 2017.

“They asked me how (University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College) was able to defeat the wall put through our campus,” Garrett said.

He said Garcia had many reasons why she opposed the right to entry.

“President Garcia didn’t want to have anything that was aesthetically so offensive to our students (the 18-foot high bollard fence),” Garrett said. "Many of our students come from Matamoros. The university community didn’t want it to be a situation where they would be intimidated and stop coming to campus.”

He said the university won a partial victory.

“Where the (recreation) center is, there is a golf course behind it and it was cut off effectively,” Garrett said.

Garrett said the university did place a green fence behind the parking lot located along University Boulevard.

“The university built a fence. It’s 10-foot high. It's green mesh fence with white pillar and (is) 1.1 miles (long),” Garrett said.

In the final agreement, the university had to comply with certain measurements.

President Donald Trump said building a wall is necessary for border security.

“I believe drugs, large percentage of which come through the southern border, will be cut by a number that nobody will believe. So let me be very clear. We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier,” Trump said.

Garrett believes walls won’t work.

“We need to improve the number of courts to handle people with asylum claims, improve ports of entry,” Garrett said.

Today, UTRGV sits on the Brownsville campus. University officials said they have not been informed of any changes to the portion of border wall that surrounds the campus.

About the Author:

Tiffany Huertas is known for her in-depth storytelling and her involvement with the community.