Staff Editorial: A divided campus benefits none

Students on the University of Texas at Brownsville golf team may need a little more practicethis season. They could soon be teeing off over a towering steel fence.

The university has been in a legal battle with the Department of Homeland Security to come up with alternatives to a border fence between Mexico and Texas that would section off 2.1 acres of the campus, including the golf course and International Technology Center.

The U.S. is erecting the fence to combat illegal immigration and increase security, but UT-Brownsville President Juliet V. Garcia said in an open letter that while the school believes in immigration policy and border security, "a fence, no matter how high or how wide, is no substitute for either." Garcia said the fence is contradictory to the university’s mission of "bi-national" education.

According to Brownsville Herald, the fence would also cut through areas of the campus with historical significance, such as remnants of Fort Texas, which was built in 1846 during the Mexican-American War.

The legal debate has been a drawn-out process, with DHS suing the university. Texas Southmost College shares part of the campus with UT-Brownsville and the two schools filed a motion in federal court Thursday. A representative for DHS said it has held a number of meetings to discuss alternatives, while the schools’ motion asserts that Border Patrol Chief Ron Vitiello said discussing alternatives would be a "waste of time." Garcia initially refused to allow fence surveyors to look at the school’s campus, prompting the Department’s suit.

While the university will probably have little luck battling DHS, both institutions must be willing to work together. Security along the border is vital, but so is preserving the historical integrity of an area. Wiping the land free of historical landmarks robs future generations of an important and irreplaceable part of our country’s past.

It is also important for students legally attending school from Mexico to be able to get to class. If a student is not breaking any laws to get into the country or into their school, they must be allowed to do so.

According to The Daily Texan, Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Laura Keehner said students would be able to cross the fence. While this may be true, a campus – especially one that promotes unity – should not be divided by a fence.

The issue is complicated, but what is clear is that cooperation is needed. The answer seems to lie in an alternative to a soaring steel structure – one that would both preserve the campus and provide necessary security.

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