The UT Working on Human Rights and the Border Wall formed in January 2008 and began conducting research and analysis on the Texas/Mexico border wall. As part of this effort, a delegation of the Working Group traveled to the Rio Grande Valley in May 2008 to conduct fact finding regarding the impact of the border wall on human rights. The group viewed some of the affected areas and properties along the border and met with property owners, officials at the Mexican Consulate in Brownsville, Texas, the President of the University of Texas at Brownsville and other faculty, student and community advocates involved in documenting the effects of the border wall, attorneys with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid and faculty at the Colegio de la Frontera Norte in Matamoros, Mexico.
In June 2008, the UT Working Group published a series of papers documenting and analyzing the human rights impacts of the construction by the United States of a wall on the Texas/Mexico border. The Working Group submitted these papers to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is the body of the inter-governmental Organization of American States (OAS) responsible for monitoring and ensuring respect for human rights in the Americas, including in the United States.
In October 2008, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights called a hearing on the Texas/Mexico border wall. Members of the UT Working Group provided testimony regarding their detailed findings. Margo Tamez also provided testimony relating to her experience as an affected property owner of indigenous Lipan Apache heritage whose land along the Texas/Mexico border has been held in the family for several hundred years as a result of a land grant by the Spanish crown. The Commission asked United States government representatives from the Department of State, Department of Homeland Security and Department of the Interior to explain aspects of the wall construction project that the Commission found troubling.
In addition, in April 2008, the UT Working Group filed requests for documents and information with the Department of Homeland Security and with the US Army Corps of Engineers under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”). No documents were provided in response to the FOIA requests until December 2008, and then the agencies provided only a limited number of documents. The UT Working Group continues to pursue a full response to its FOIA requests.