Workshop speakers discuss border control

Rachel Thompson

Eighteen-year-old Esequiel Hernandez Jr. was shot and killed by a Marine while tending to his family’s livestock in Redford, Texas, near the U.S.-Mexico border. The corporal who fired the shot believed he was killing an enemy involved in drug trafficking, but instead, he slaughtered an innocent young man, said sociology professor and immigration expert Timothy Dunn.

Instances like this were covered in “Contested Terrain: Undocumented Migration and Enforcement at the U.S-Mexico Border,” a workshop presented by the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies and the Mexican Center. The workshop was introduced by two sociology professors and featured presentations by professors from various universities and experts on the topic.

Dunn, a sociology professor at Salisbury University in Maryland, told Hernandez‘s story to highlight issues that have risen out of the border conflicts.

“The enforceability of human rights has been very difficult,” Dunn said. “Border patrol has harassed many Latino citizens and legal residents.”

Dunn talked about Operation Blockade/Hold-the-Line, an operation to deter illegal aliens from crossing the border in El Paso and the lawsuits that followed to limit the abuses of legal citizens. His talk introduced a human rights perspective of patrolling the border that is sometimes overlooked in favor of reports on battling drug cartels and keeping the border secure.

“We’re primarily interested in this situation to make policy suggestions,” said sociology professor Bryan Roberts. “It’s unfortunately gotten very mixed up with the drug issue.”

The workshop also featured talks by Rene Zenteno, an author and editor of many books on Mexican migration, Jennifer Correa, an assistant sociology professor at the Unversity of Wisconsin-Parkside who researched construction of the U.S. border fence and David Spener, a sociology professor at Trinity University and author and editor of books about the border.

Monday’s workshop was preceded by several unfortunate and unexpected events along the border last week, including the deaths of two Mexican men in the San Diego area who tried to enter the country illegally via the ocean, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The article said 14 others on the same boat as the men killed were chased down by Border Patrol agents in an effort to keep them from entering the country.

Last July, 25 suspected members of the La Familia cartel were arrested and four of those arrests were in Austin and Pflugerville, according to another Statesman article.

Sociology professor Nestor Rodriguez said Austinites should be paying attention to border issues because of our close proximity to the border.

“We live near the border. Many things that happen actually affect Austin,” he said. “The border region is like our neighbor.”

Printed on October 11, 2011 as: Speakers discuss border control