The United States has undertaken a massive project to build physical barriers along segments of the border between the United States and Mexico invoking national security and immigration concerns. The United States Congress mandated construction of 670 miles of wall along the border between the United States and Mexico in the Secure Fence Act of 2006 and the Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY2008 and further mandated that 370 miles of that wall be constructed by December 31, 2008. Several hundred miles of wall are planned for the Texas/Mexico border. While construction will not be completed by the end of 2008 as originally mandated and planned, the Department of Homeland Security has pushed forward with its efforts to obtain property and construct the wall along the Texas/Mexico border.
The United States’ plans for the wall have generated significant opposition and clamor for further consultation and deliberation, coming from within the United States and internationally. Serious concerns have been expressed that the construction of the wall along the Texas/Mexico border will negatively impact important environmental resources, involve the taking of private property without a clear and fair process and with a disparate effect on poorer Latino families and dramatically affect the way of life of persons living in border communities, including the members of several indigenous groups. Many small landowners living along the river, who would see their properties divided in two by the wall, have put up defenses against the United States government’s condemnation proceedings. A number of municipalities along the Texas/Mexico border joined a class action suit against the United States government asserting that the United States failed to properly consult with individuals and communities affected by the wall or to negotiate fairly regarding the taking of land. Mexico adopted a formal position against the wall as an affront to the climate of cooperation and joint responsibility that it believes should exist with the United States and has received support for this position from other Latin American countries.
In response to the lively debate around the construction of the wall and seeing a need for more in-depth investigation and analysis, a multi-disciplinary collective of faculty and students at the University of Texas at Austin formed to analyze the human rights impact of the construction of a border wall on the Texas/Mexico border. This project has been facilitated through the Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice at the University of Texas Law School and has been supported by the University of Texas office of Thematic Initiatives and Community Engagement. The Working Group includes faculty and students from the Geography Department, the Anthropology Department, the LBJ School of Public Affairs, the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies and the Immigration Clinic, Environmental Clinic and Rapoport Center at the Law School. The Working Group is collaborating with affected individual property owners, indigenous communities, environmental groups, Environmental Sciences faculty at the University of Texas at Brownsville and other academics and advocates on this project.
As it initiated efforts to document and analyze human rights violations implicated in the construction of a Texas/Mexico border wall, the Working Group encountered difficulties in obtaining complete, up-to-date and reliable information about the wall project and its impacts. Through this website, the Working Group makes available a broad range of sources and materials that the Working Group was able to gather as well as the analyses and other documents prepared by the Working Group itself. The Working Group hopes that the website is effective in making these materials more accessible for researchers, advocates and policymakers considering the border wall issue.
This website and the documents contained herein are made available by the Working Group. Neither the website nor the documents reflect an official position of the University of Texas. The documents prepared by the Working Group reflect the opinions of the individual members of the Working Group.