May 2008 issue: Crossing Borders

Crossing Borders

Crossing Borders

Let’s face it. The negative buzz about immigration in the last few years continues to affect all Latinos, regardless of legal status. Increased border security since 9/11, the passing of the Secure Fence Act of 2006 and the simmering demand for immigration reform have shifted the nation’s focus to its southern border. But these debates often dehumanize the “in-between” place so many call home.

In this special edition, Adelante makes an attempt to tackle immigration and border issues (both online and in print). While some of the articles were covered from Austin, a four-member team of student journalists from UT Austin traveled to Brownsville to collect personal stories and experiences. Below is the end result: a collection of text, photography, and video that illustrates the various aspects of border life.

Cruzando Fronteras

Afrontémoslo. La mala vibra alrededor del tema de la immigración en los últimos años continúa afectando a todos los latinos, sin importar el estatus legal. El incremento de la seguridad en las fronteras desde 9/11, el apruebo del Secure Fence Act del 2006 y la demanda por una reforma de immigración han hecho de la frontera sureña de la nación el punto de enfoque. Pero estos debates deshumanizan con frecuencia el lugar que tantos llaman casa.

En esta edición especial, Adelante hace un esfuerzo por atacar el tema de la immigración y los asuntos de la frontera. Mientras que algunos de los artículos fueron cubiertos desde Austin, un equipo de cuatro estudiantes de UT Austin viajó a Brownsville en búsqueda de historias personales y experiencias.



Passport cards – A small, more affordable substitute for families who frequently cross over
Que dicen? – UT Brownsville student activists sound off about the border wall [w/ video]
From El Salvador to Austin – UT Austin employees share their journeys
Left behind – What happens to the families of men who leave Mexico to work in the U.S.?
Presidential candidates and immigration – A look at Sens. Clinton, McCain, and Obama
Personal Essay:
You are an immigrant – A UT student from Mexico recalls her first year in Texas
Eres un immigrante – Una estudiante de México recuerda su primer año en Tejas
Border Patrol agent Doty – Patrolling the Hidalgo port of entry
No longer afraid – A landowner’s struggle [w/ video]
UTB administrator fights wall – “I think someone… drew lines on a map in a vacuum” [w/ video]
Matamoros photo essay – A day at the market in Matamoros
Feminism from the margins – A look at Latina activism
Food: Gyros restaurant – Profile of an eclectic Laredo restaurant and its unlikely owner
Short Documentary:
The Wall – How is the proposed border wall affecting residents of the Rio Grande Valley?
El Cenizo – A former colonia still scarred by a past that lacked regulation and rule of law



May 7, 2008 at 1:46 am 1 comment

VIDEO: The Wall, an Adelante documentary

Love it or hate it, the idea of building a wall along the Texas-Mexico border to cut down on illegal immigration has gained some steam. So much so that Congress and the president made the Secure Fence Act official in 2006. The law authorizes the federal government to construct hundreds of miles of fences, walls, and other barriers along the border, from San Diego, Calif. to Brownsville, Texas. Many Americans believe this is a necessary step in protecting our nation. But how do people in Brownsville–where the proposed wall was planned to cut across public parks, private property, and even the campus of the University of Texas at Brownsville–feel about it? Adelante’s “The Wall” is a look at the effects of a border wall on the lives of Brownsville residents, including students, land owners, and border enforcement authorities.

May 6, 2008 at 2:02 pm 2 comments

You’re going to need your passport

Or a passport card that’s half the size and half the cost.

Caprice Padilla/Adelante staff
Volume II, Issue 3 (Crossing Borders)

Crossing the border is about to become more affordable and convenient. At a time when new federal regulations have placed a financial burden on U.S. citizens who depend on international fluidity for business and personal affairs, the government’s issuance of a new passport card comes as a welcomed relief to many.

The wallet size card carries the same rights and privileges as the traditional U.S. passport book, but may only be used when traveling by land or by sea, not by air. It is limited to those returning from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda.

“The passport card is designed for the specific needs of the northern and southern border resident communities,” according to the U.S. Department of State’s Web Site,

A vicinity-read radio frequency identification (RFID) chip will be in all cards, allowing officials to access secure government databases containing photographs and biographical information prior to the traveler arriving at an inspection site. The chip itself will not contain any personal information; instead, a unique number will link to the databases. A protective sleeve will also be issued with the card to prevent unauthorized access while not in use.

Prior to Jan. 31, oral declarations of citizenship were permitted at border entry points, and more than 8,000 types of documents denoting citizenship were accepted.

According to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection report, 31,060 false oral claims of U.S. and Canadian citizenship were made during the 2005-2007 fiscal years. In October through December 2007 alone, 1,517 false claims were made in an attempt to enter the U.S. illegally.

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), implemented by the Department of Homeland Security, establishes new regulations for all travel into the U.S. The air phase, already under complete enforcement, requires a passport or other valid travel document to reenter the country. The land and sea phase requires U.S. citizens to present a passport or WHTI approved document, or government issued photo identification with proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate for entry.

On June 1, 2009, the land and sea phase will be fully implemented. Travelers must have a passport book, card or WHTI compliant document to enter the U.S. Applications for the card are now being accepted; full production is expected by July.

These regulations do not apply to U.S. citizens traveling to and from U.S. territories, including American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, Swains Island and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The passport cards will offer the most relief to those living on the border who travel regularly to Canada or Mexico. In particular for those who do not travel elsewhere, this less expensive option is a financial blessing.

The passport book costs $100 for adults and $85 for minors who are first time applicants, with renewal costs at $75 for adults. The passport card costs $45 for adults and $35 for minors. Adults may pay $20 for a card if a valid passport is already owned. First time applicants may also choose to pay $120 for both the passport book and card. Both are valid for 10 years for adults and five years for minors.

Border residents have been accustomed to the luxury of taking a quick drive out of the U.S. to visit family, purchasing cheaper products such as medicine and food, visiting less expensive physicians and enjoying international culture.

News of pending regulations has sent waves of anxiety among families who cannot afford to pay $85- $100 per family member for passport books to cross what used to be a free border. With passport cards costing less than half of what passport books cost, reentering the U.S. from neighboring countries will be more accessible for border residents.

First time applicants and minors must apply for passports in person at a passport agency. Many state, county, township and municipal government offices, clerks of court, post offices and public libraries accept applications on behalf of the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs. To search for the nearest facility, one may access

A passport application, proof of U.S. citizenship such as a birth certificate, proof of identity such as a photo ID, two 2X2 inch identical photographs and payment of the application fee are required.
Applications for passport renewal may be submitted by mail to the nearest U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate, along with the most recent passport issued, two 2X2 inch identical photographs and the application fee.

Applications are typically processed within four weeks; expedited service is available.

May 6, 2008 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment

Personal Narrative: You are an immigrant

Gabriela Chabolla/Adelante staff
Volume II, Issue 3 (Crossing Borders)

So you’ve reached the United States. You, a university student, middle-class Mexican with four suitcases of clothes and even the box of books you brought on a whim. You settled yourself a couple of days ago in the room you shall share with a native Texan, and now you walk with a group of recent acquaintances. You all stop in the hallway of your dorm (a building with potable water and air conditioning, of course; it’s your first encounter with the need to carry a sweater around everywhere when the temperature outside is 32 degrees Celsius –wrong, 90 degrees Fahrenheit- or face the possibility of getting sick. Goodbye, open-window nights and the bites of a million mosquitoes…).

You’ll meet new people. A stranger will come forth and the necessary introductions will be made. You will smile, take the extended hand and kiss the person’s cheek. A couple similar episodes will be necessary before you notice the second of disconcert that passes through the person’s face when your own gets closer to his than culturally appropriate. Then you will smack yourself on the forehead and, from then onwards, keep yourself at a handshake’s length.

You will go back to your room, with your roomie; meeting her boyfriend is only a matter of time. You will take advantage of the silent pact between people sharing a small space (“I don’t see anything beyond this half of the room and you don’t see anything past that half”) to discreetly observe the two people laughing and whatnot on the other side, waiting for the moment in which the individual will take his keys, say “Well…!” and leave. But as the hours go by and the moment of his going refuses to come, you get used to the idea of him staying. When it’s time to turn the lights off, the three respirations in the dark will make you go over mental images of mothers and society’s señoritas—respectable ladies—back home, conjuring saints, good customs and decency.

You will acquire the useful but incredibly dirty talent of making it seem like you understood what was said when what you actually heard was more of an auditory doodle rather than an intelligible phrase. A couple of months will be necessary before your tongue stops getting stuck in your mouth and your ears open to the syllables of the American South.

You’ll discover that familiar dishes like queso, burritos and the pico de gallo retain their original words in menus but with a “u” that sneaks in at the end when pronounced. You’ll wonder where the Es in Guadalupe and Rio Grande went.

Lemonade changes tone this side of the border; the one you order is yellow and not green. Curiously, lemon and lime translate into English in unexpected ways.
In conversations, you’ll stand there, fish-faced, as soon as cultural references are dragged in. When had you ever heard about SNL, Dave Chapelle, Bob Dylan? Where did Looney Toones, el Chavo del Ocho, tazos, hielocos (old novelties of Mexican youth) go?

You’ll get used to seeing people buy half a liter –er, a pint- of ice cream and eat it in a single go, but you’ll somehow be unable to tolerate medicine commercials. Maybe it’s the fact that the same voice that advocates for a happy and healthy life warns the viewer about unsavory reactions like vomiting and palpitations in the same velvety tones.

But these are concrete things, things you can see and that will occasionally make you laugh. As your stay here stretches on, a dimension of memories extends until covering and mingling with your presence here. You almost forget the dust, the rags that covered brown arms, the smell of buses, the crowds of people walking with corn on the cob, chamoys, shaved ice, chips, buñuelos and churros on Sundays in the plaza, the city’s doors open to midday’s warmth after wintertime and the bugambilias that decorated your city. In gas stations, you don’t see any more the shadow of two men in dirty brown jumpsuits, filling up tanks with 200, 300 pesos of gas under the green, white and red sign of monopolistic Pemex.

On the streets (infinitely different because of details; the disorder of electric cables, the amount of dusty signs in the sky, the million pieces of paper and empty soda bottles give the last brushstrokes to the Mexican street), you don’t see girls in jeans and high heels, made-up faces and hair rigorously in place, but a frequency of long hair (hair salons this side of the border also charge about five times what is usual on the other side).

You’ve integrated. You don’t have to work. You don’t even have to worry about immigration details (did I mention you were privileged?); you almost don’t even have to multiply everything by 10.50 when you’re in stores.

But you can’t deny the motive that brought you here. The knitting of the country is certainly tighter, and everything is a couple of centimeters (oops, inches) more above the ground, so to speak. You’ve been enveloped by a sense of security you didn’t have before. Abstractions don’t exist here; rules are rules, and there are no holes through which one can slide.

The buttons in the buses, the absence of sweat (not counting the intended type, in air-conditioned gyms), the padded and immediate position of things around here make you remember it less often. It’s only when you see a little sea of laptops in cafes that you think about the modest Sanborns, with its dressed-up waitresses and the little old ladies that still retain the practice of going out for coffee with their friends; or when you realize that there are no stones to stumble upon downtown, that you miss the idea of Mexico a little, some spice they put in the food, or the impression of a sort of closeness between the people.

May 6, 2008 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment

Narrativa Personal: Eres una Immigrante

Gabriela Chabolla/Adelante staff
Volume II, Issue 3 (Crossing Borders)

Así que has llegado a los Estados Unidos, tú, estudiante de universidad, mexicana clase mediera con cuatro maletas de ropa y hasta la chiflazón de tus libros. Te instalaste hace un par de días en el cuarto que compartirás con una Texana nativa, y ahora caminas con un grupo de conocidos recientes. Se detienen todos en el corredor de tu dormitorio (un edificio con agua potable y aire acondicionado, por supuesto; es tu primer encuentro con la necesidad de cargar con suéter a todas partes cuando la temperatura exterior está a 32 grados Celsius -error, 90 grados Fahrenheit- o enfrentar la posibilidad de enfermarte. Adiós, noches de ventanas abiertas y picaduras de mosquitos…).

Conocerás gente nueva. Un desconocido se aproximará y las introducciones necesarias serán hechas. Sonreirás, tomarás la mano extendida y besarás la mejilla de la persona. Serán necesarias un par de ocasiones similares hasta que te des cuenta del segundo de desconcierto que pasa por la cara del nuevo conocido cuando tu cara se acerca más de lo culturalmente apropiado a la suya. Entonces te pegarás en la frente y, a partir de entonces, te mantendrás a la distancia de un apretón de manos.

Volverás a tu cuarto, con tu roomie; conocer a su novio no será más que cuestión de tiempo. Aprovecharás el pacto silencioso entre las personas compartiendo un espacio pequeño (“Yo no veo de la mitad para allá, y tú no ves de la mitad para acá”) para observar disimuladamente a las dos personas riendo y demás del otro lado, esperando a que llegue el momento en que el sujeto tome sus llaves, diga, “¡Bueno…!” y se marche. Pero conforme las horas pasan y el momento no llega, te vas amoldando a la idea, y a la hora de apagar las luces, las tres respiraciones del cuarto harán que repases en la mente la reacción de madres y de señoritas de sociedad en casa, conjurando santos, las buenas costumbres y la decencia.

Adquirirás el útil pero increíblemente sucio talento de hacerte la que entiende lo que se dice cuando lo que escuchas es más parecido a un garabato auditivo que otra cosa. Serán necesarios un par de meses antes de que tu lengua deje de atorarse en el paladar y tus oídos se abran a las sílabas del sur americano.

Descubrirás que platillos familiares como el queso, el burrito y el pico de gallo retienen su significante original en los menús, con una “u” que se cuela al final cuando se lee en voz alta. Te preguntarás a dónde se fueron las “e” en “Guadalupe” y “Río Grande”.

La limonada cambia de tonalidad de este lado de la frontera; la que ordenas es amarilla y no verde. Curiosamente, lima y limón se traducen al inglés en formas inesperadas.

En conversaciones, te quedarás viendo en cuanto las referencias culturales salgan a flote. ¿Cuándo habías escuchado tú acerca de SNL, Dave Chapelle, Bob Dylan? Dónde quedaron los Looney Toones, el Chavo del Ocho, los tazos, los hielocos?

Te acostumbrarás a ver a las personas comprar medio litro de nieve y comérsela de una sola sentada, pero de alguna forma no podrás llegar a tolerar los comerciales de medicina. Tal vez es el hecho de que la misma voz que clama por una vida feliz y saludable previene al público acerca de reacciones desagradables como vómitos y palpitaciones en los mismos tonos aterciopelados.
Pero esas son las cosas concretas, cosas que puedes ver y que ocasionalmente te hacen reír.

Conforme tu estancia aquí se alarga, una dimensión de memorias se extiende hasta cubrir y enmarañarse con tu presencia aquí. Casi olvidas el polvo, los harapos que cubrían brazos cafés, el olor de los autobuses, la multitud de gente con elotes, chamoys, raspados, fritos, buñuelos y churros, los domingos en la plaza, las puertas abiertas al calor del mediodía tras el invierno y las bugambilias que decoraban tu ciudad. En las gasolinerías, no ves más que la sombra de dos hombres en trajes sucios color café, llenando tanques de 200, 300 pesos bajo el letrero verde, blanco y rojo del monopólico Pemex.

En las calles (infinitamente diferentes por los detalles; el desorden de los cables eléctricos, la cantidad de letreros polvorientos en el cielo, los millones de papelitos y envases de refrescos en la calle dan las últimas pinceladas a la calle mexicana) no se ven más chicas en jeans y tacones, cara maquillada y cabello rigurosamente en su lugar, sino que hay una frecuencia de cabello largo (las estéticas al otro lado de la frontera cobrando alrededor de un quinto de lo se acostumbra por aquí).
Diez por ciento, quince por ciento.

Te has integrado. No tienes que trabajar. No tienes siquiera que preocuparte por los detalles de immigración (¿mencioné que eras privilegiada?); ya casi ni tienes que multiplicar todo por 10.50 en las tiendas.

Pero no puedes negar el motivo que te trajo aquí. El tejido es ciertamente más firme, y todo está a unos centímetros (oops, pulgadas) sobre del piso, por decirlo. Te ha envuelto un sentido de seguridad que no tenías antes. No existen abstracciones aquí; las reglas son las reglas, y no hay agujeros por los que uno se pueda escurrir.

Los botones en los autobuses, la ausencia del sudor (a excepción del intencional, en gimnasios acondicionados), la posición acolchonada e inmediata de las cosas por aquí hacen que lo recuerdes menos seguido de lo que podrías. Es sólo cuando ves un marecito de lap tops en los cafés y piensas en el modesto Sanborns, con sus meseras disfrazadas y las viejitas que aún retienen la costumbre de ir a tomar el café con sus amigas, o cuando te das cuenta de que no hay piedras con las cuales tropezarte en el centro, que extrañas un poco la idea de México, algún polvo que le ponen a la comida, o la impresión de una inmediacidad entre las personas.

May 6, 2008 at 1:53 pm Leave a comment

Patrolling the border with agent Doty

Agent Doty

An evening with Border agent Daniel Doty

Story: Kaitlyn Wells
Photos: Andrew Rogers
Volume II, Issue 3 (Crossing Borders)

HIDALGO, TX — Depicted as overzealous security guards by some, the United States Customs and Border Protection’s Border Patrol team provides a greater service than meets the eye.

Border Patrol agents live a rugged lifestyle while on the job, spending most of their time outdoors. For Daniel Doty, who has served for 11 years as a Border Patrol spokesperson in the Rio Grande Valley, that’s the best part.

“You see everything in this job,” said Doty, who had begun his work that morning at 4 a.m. Now nearly 15 hours later, Doty was still energized as he discussed the most recent threats he and other agents had faced.

Last month, Doty and other border patrol agents confiscated 100 pounds of cocaine. Two weeks later, they apprehended 60 individuals crossing illegally, Doty said.

“When the sun goes down, it gets very dangerous in this area,” he said. Illegal immigrants often throw pipes, rocks the size of dinner plates and any other debris they can find when attempting to ward off the agents, Doty said.

Doty has worn a uniform for 23 years, serving in several branches of law enforcement. He first donned a uniform when joining the Marine Corps in 1982 after graduating from high school. He worked as a Texas prison guard in 1984 before joining the Michigan police force in 1986.

After returning to Texas in the mid 1990s, Doty developed two working plans: to attend law school at the University of Houston or to join in on the border effort. “The Border Patrol called first,” he joked.

Border security has been at the top of the agenda for many Washington officials in the last few years, as the debate over the construction of a fence along the U.S.-Mexico Border continues.

While Doty said only the Department of Homeland Security knows what materials the actual structure will be built from, Doty describes the new security system as “border barriers,” not meant to stop, but to slow illegal immigrants down.

“Where there aren’t levees, we’ve asked for fencing; not concrete walls or anything,” he said. “It’s not to say ‘You know what, we don’t want you here,’ but it’s to identify the people coming over.”

The Border Patrol’s efforts work to protect all human life, Doty said. “I don’t want to see anyone lose their life just because they want to come here,” he said.

For Doty, who worked for a long time in Michigan, the border is a special place for him, and he truly does love his job, he said.

“I know it’s a corny saying, but we are protecting America,” he said. “We’re here to defend America, and that’s the truth.”

May 6, 2008 at 1:45 pm Leave a comment

MULTIMEDIA FEATURE: Wall threatens Zavaleta’s campus


Administrator’s questions pop open ‘proverbial lid’

Story: Jazmine Ulloa
Photos: Andrew Rogers
Video: A.J. Miranda
Volume II, Issue 3 (Crossing Borders)

BROWNSVILLE, TX — Tony Zavaleta found himself a little bit more than confused last year when he attended a stakeholders’ meeting at the Border Patrol Station in Harlingen as the representative for the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College.

But he also found himself at the right place at the right time.

“We had heard about a border wall, or a border fence and that it may be coming,” said Zavaleta, the vice president for external affairs for the university. “But very little, little information.”

At the meeting, which he attended as a substitute for another university official, Zavaleta said a border patrol agent announced plans for fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border for the Rio Grande Valley, as required by the Secure Fence Act of 2006.

In the Brownsville area, the agent said the fence would be built on the north side of the International Boundary and Water Commission levee, Zavaleta said.

But the International Technology, Education and Commerce campus, a branch of the university, lies south of the levee and north of the Rio Grande River. Zavaleta, who is the administrator directly responsible for that branch of campus, had plenty of questions for the agent, he said.

“Does that mean that you are going to wall off, or fence off our university?” Zavaleta he asked. “Does that mean you are going to put a Texas university on the Mexican side of the fence? Does that mean we will have to have passports to go to work? Does that mean that students will have to go through border checkpoints to get to class? What does it mean?”

Up until that point, the plans for the fence had not been challenged, Zavaleta said.

“Boy, that was the proverbial fly in the ointment,” he said. “It took the proverbial lid off the thing. The worms started crawling out of the can.”

Zavaleta’s questioning brought national media attention to the impact the fence in Brownsville. It slowed the “juggernaut” down, bringing the federal government to the table on some of the issues, he said. But a lot is left to be resolved.

Plans still have the fence running along the southern edge of the main campus, across a historic site and the university’s golf course.

“I think somebody whose job it is to draw lines on the map, drew lines on a map in a vacuum,” he said. “It’s not they’re fault, but they [government officials] admitted they had never been here.”

Judge Andrew Hanen ordered the federal government and the university last month to further discuss access to the land adjacent to Zavaleta’s international branch of the campus. Meanwhile, the fence has boosted activism throughout the community and among the student body, Zavaleta said.

Zavaleta, himself, has been questioning authority as an activist since the 1970s while studying at the University of Texas at Austin. He said he encourages students to do the same.

“That’s an important part of the university experience,” he said. “If you students who are the future of our country and our state and region cannot openly question why things are being done than who can?”

May 6, 2008 at 1:29 pm Leave a comment

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