The University of Texas at Austin
  • Border Views: University experts help shape border debate

    Published: July 19, 2010

    As Americans continue to debate immigration reform, border enforcement and Arizona’s recent legislation, experts from The University of Texas at Austin are offering their views on these issues through a series of online videos.

    Each week, “Border Views” has showcased a different faculty member discussing such topics as the history of illegal immigration, the unusual political alliances that have developed around this debate and the media’s role in covering it.

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    Video produced by Christopher Palmer

    The University of Texas at Austin has some of the leading Latin American studies scholars in the world, including law professors, political scientists and historians.

    “We all know there’s a ‘crisis’ in northern Mexico, in danger of spilling over into the U.S. But beneath the often sensationalist surface, questions abound,” says Charles R. Hale, director of the university’s Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies. “What is the human rights record of the Mexican military, and how should this factor into our appraisal of that government’s war on narco-traffickers? Do the charges of racism against initiatives like that of the Arizona law and the Utah list hold up to scrutiny? What effects does the border wall have on us all?

    “This series allows University of Texas at Austin scholars to share well-grounded research on such questions in hopes of generating informed debate on one of most intractable social policy issues of our times.”

    The videos are available for use by educational and news Web sites. The faculty members are also available for follow-up interviews with the media.

    Martha Menchaca

    Part 10: Martha Menchaca

    Martha Menchaca, professor in the Department of Anthropology, Center for Women’s and Gender Studies and Center for Mexican American Studies, explores race and ethnicity and has written a book on naturalizing Mexican immigrants which focuses on Texas as a case study.

    In three videos, Menchaca discusses her research into the trends and historical context behind naturalization and the birthright movement and her thoughts on curbing undocumented migration from Mexico to the United States.

    Terri Givens

    Part 9: Terri Givens

    Terri Givens, associate professor in the Department of Government, studies radical right parties as well as immigration politics, security and immigrant integration in Europe.

    In three videos, Givens discusses the connections between Europe’s immigration policies and those of the U.S., as well as cultural forces that drive attitudes toward immigration.

    Gary Freeman

    Part 8: Gary Freeman

    Gary Freeman, chair of the Department of Government, studies immigration politics and policy in western democracies. He examines how immigration has profoundly shaped the national development of countries.

    In three videos, Freeman discusses the problems of an immigration policy focused more on family reunification than on bringing highly skilled workers to the nation.

    John Sibley Butler

    Part 7: John Sibley Butler

    John Sibley Butler, a management professor in the McCombs School of Business and a sociology professor in the College of Liberal Arts, is an expert in organizational behavior, entrepreneurship and new ventures. He is director of the the IC2 Institute, which is dedicated to the creation of new ventures throughout the world. Butler edited the 2009 book “An American Story: Mexican American Entrepreneurship and Wealth Creation.”

    In three videos, Butler discusses immigrants’ history of self-employment in the U.S., Americans’ views on immigrant entrepreneurship and his views on citizenship and naturalization.

    Veronica Vargas Stidvent

    Part 6: Veronica Vargas Stidvent

    Veronica Vargas Stidvent, program director and faculty member in the Department of Business, Government and Society in the McCombs School of Business, served as assistant labor secretary in the George W. Bush administration. She worked on an array of labor issues including immigration reform, worker health and safety, and job training.

    In three videos, Stidvent discusses why the traditional left-right political breakdown doesn’t apply on immigration issues, the impact of undocumented workers on unemployment, and the influence and reform of birthright citizenship in U.S.

    Ricardo Ainslie

    Part 5: Ricardo Ainslie

    Ricardo Ainslie
    , a professor of educational psychology, studies the effects of ethnic conflicts on communities and the psychological experiences of immigrants. He produced the documentary “Ya Basta! Kidnapped in Mexico,” which investigates a wave of kidnappings and violent crime that has plagued Mexico during the past decade.

    In three videos, Ainslie discusses the psychological factors that have contributed to support for the Arizona immigration law, Mexican immigrants and the impact their departure has on Mexico, and how an ethnic shift in a West Texas town has created conflict and offered lessons.

    Barbara Hines

    Part 4: Barbara Hines

    Barbara Hines is the director of the Immigration Clinic and a clinical professor at the School of Law. She has litigated and written about issues relating to the constitutional and statutory rights of immigrants in federal and immigration courts.

    In three videos, Hines discusses the legal, economic and social problems with Arizona’s new law, the post-9/11 immigration enforcement model and her belief that we should move toward legalization and a temporary worker program.

    Madeline Hsu

    Part 3: Madeline Hsu

    Madeline Hsu, associate professor of history and director of the Center for Asian American Studies, researches Chinese migration to North America and the intersection of immigration law and U.S. foreign policy.

    In three videos, Hsu discusses Chinese immigrants and the first U.S. immigration laws, how early Chinese immigrants posed as Mexicans to enter the U.S. and how race is used to identify illegal immigrants.

    Mercedes De Uriarte

    Part 2: Mercedes De Uriarte

    Mercedes De Uriarte, an associate professor of journalism, is a former opinion editor and staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, where she covered Latin American issues extensively. As a professor, she has developed programs to teach students to cover underrepresented communities and taught such courses as Social Justice and the Press and U.S. International Crisis Coverage.

    In three videos, De Uriarte discusses Arizona’s immigration law, NAFTA’S impact on life in Mexico and the media’s shortcomings in covering the immigration debate.

    Cecilia Balli

    Part 1: Cecilia Balli

    Cecilia Balli, an anthropology professor, studies the sexual murder of women in Ciudad Juárez, the construction of a border fence and the Mexican anti-drug campaign. She is an award-winning journalist with Texas Monthly magazine and is working on a book about the border fence in the Rio Grande Valley.

    In three videos, Balli discusses the complicated relationship between the U.S. and Mexican governments and recent economic, social and political forces that have contributed to the current climate along the border.


    Texas Monthly

    Voices of Immigration

    Go to to see a special multimedia feature that asks Texans from all walks of life how immigration affects them, listen to audio excerpts from a roundtable discussion on the hottest debate going, browse related articles from our vast archive spanning three decades, and join the discussion in our dedicated forum.

    By the numbers

    • Mexican nationals legally in the U.S.: 1,850,000
    • Undocumented Mexican workers in the U.S.: 7,602,000 (estimated)
    • Undocumented immigrants deported each year: 350,000 (in 2009)
    • Length of U.S.-Mexico border: 1,969 miles
    • Number of legal crossing points along the border: 42
    • Yearly federal budget for border enforcement: $55,115,227
    • Yearly economic contributions by immigrants to U.S. economy: $37 billion (estimated)
    • Yearly remittances sent by workers back to Mexico each year: $23 billion (estimated)

    Sources: ICE, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Department of Homeland Security, President’s Council of Economic Advisors, Pew Hispanic Center



    “Border Views” identity graphics:

    • Suloni Robertson, Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services, College of Liberal Arts

    Photos for “Border Views” promo graphics:

    Faculty photos:

    • Quote 2
      Lynn said on March 25, 2011 at 11:51 a.m.
      Very interesting and insightful series! To Shewnka, what is your definition of refugee? From what I know, refugees migrate not by choice, but only after being forced from their homes for various reasons. I would argue that many Latin Americans are refugees whether or not they officially hold the title or not. Just look at the numbers of Mexicans who have been forced from their homes on the U.S. border by drug cartels who wanted their land. You are right that most immigrants in the U.S. come from Latin America, but it is not by U.S. bias, it is simply due to proximity. European countries are facing a huge influx of Northern African and Middle Eastern immigrants, again due to proximity, not bias. As for your comment on adjusting immigration quotas, we have seen in the past the U.S.'s immigration quotas do little to affect immigration from Mexico. I do agree with you that there should be a video on current immigration to the U.S. from other non L.A. countries, but did you watch the video on Chinese immigration? Very interesting.
    • Quote 2
      Shared Border, Shared Responsibilities said on Oct. 13, 2010 at 5:18 p.m.
      [...] Visit UT’s Border Views for additional experts [...]
    • Quote 2
      Video: A long-forgotten chapter of illegal immigration | MULTI-AMERICAN said on Sept. 14, 2010 at 4:20 p.m.
      [...] University of Texas at Austin has been producing an excellent series of online videos called Border Views, which I discovered today thanks to the equally excellent Tejas-based website Latina Lista. The [...]
    • Quote 2
      Brian said on Sept. 1, 2010 at 10:48 a.m.
      I agree that if there were no illegal workers, costs for food and construction would rise dramatically. And they should go up - no one should work for substandard wages. If food and construction costs rise, that money goes into legal worker pockets and gets spent in the economy. Everyone wants to get paid a fair wage, but we justify illegal immigration because we don't want to pay fair wages. I suggest closing the border to illegal immigration and give legal americans from all backgrounds a living wage.
    • Quote 2
      Steve Sanchez said on Aug. 17, 2010 at 9:54 a.m.
      Being of Asisan descent, I see first hand how immigration law in the US affects a lot of people. A lot of people wants to come to the US hoping for a better life, but life without any legal status doesn't make life that easy for them. We need to find a good balance to grant status to some of these qualified illegal immigrants, that's just my thinking.
    • Quote 2
      Greg said on July 29, 2010 at 9:25 a.m.
      Mercedes de Uriarte is right but there is a political agenda going on here, let's just see how the immigration discourse changes after the November elections. Tightening the border is ineffective because as soon as labor is needed again the border patrol will pull the agents off to allow more labor in, and the media will stop covering this issue. One must also consider the effects of a completely closed border. American business will suffer, Americans will pay 10 times more for food, labor costs will increase rapdily and will be passed along to the consumer while Mexico will have a country full of desperate, angry, and hungry men who have families to feed.
    • Quote 2
      Shewnka Wanjay said on July 29, 2010 at 12:16 a.m.
      Refugees, Immigrants & Illegal Immigrants Mexicans are but only one major subset of immigrants who want to be here. We accepted very few, a few hundred Iraqi refugees, despite millions created through our actions. Although most illegal immigrants are from Mexico, why does the debate ALWAYS fail to mention the refugees from around the world who actually need to be here? I believe this is the true BIAS of the debate, and immigration needs to begin to answer questions about our carrying capacity to sustainably accept immigrants from other nations. Further, the rubric of immigration "quotas" needs to be reexamined to prioritize refugees and professionals who need to be here and who would contribute most to our society. Mexico is a large country with plenty of natural resources and major player in the world. I believe they are taking advantage of refugees across the world who need to be here, but because we have too many undocumented and illegal workers, we cannot accept those who truly need to be here. Show a documentary about the Iraqis, the Sudanese, Tibetans, Native Americans even- get rid of your Latin American bias please. I wonder how Native Americans feel about immigration???
    • Quote 2
      Patricia said on July 28, 2010 at 12:05 p.m.
      I'm sorry for posting again. I just have to mention this article from the BBC that came out today. "U.S. Border Violence: Myth or Reality?" BBC News, 7/28/2010 According to this article El Paso, TX is the 2nd safest city in the United States. There were two murders there so far this year and 11 in 2009. Two other border cities, San Diego and Phoenix, have also experience a decline in their crime rate. The U.S. cities with the highest crime rates in 2009 were: Detroit, Memphis, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Columbus (OH), Milwaukee and Dallas.
    • Quote 2
      Lone Ranger said on July 28, 2010 at 11:18 a.m.
      I agree with Maria De Uriarte that there are many Americans abusing drugs. I wonder who she thinks is making all of that meth in Mexico and who delivers across our border. American smugglers? The contractors didn't need illegal aliens to build houses, they needed illegal aliens, because the contractors could violate our labor laws. Do you think for one second that an American carpenter, plumber, dry wall installer etc... would work over 40 hours for straight pay, or seven day work weeks. How about national holiday double pay, do you think the contractors were paying the standard wages for tradesmen. This is all "make me feel good talk," not the truth. Mexico has it's own drug abuse problems. Although I do thank President Cardenas for taking on the cartels, the Mexican government waited too long to get it going. The single biggest reason people break our immigration laws, is to try and earn a decent living, and live a better life. I know that from practical experience, having been a patrol agent in the U.S. Border Patrol. I never hated or despised illegal aliens. I had a great deal of respect for many of them I have arrested. I believe that the vast majority were good people, I just wanted them to be good people in their home country. Use that energy to turn around their corruption filled governments. I have also worked the inner cities of America, and arrested many, many illegal alien drug dealers from many different countries. Our prisons are loaded with deportable aliens. Our immigration system isn't broken, we just have unscrupulous people breaking our immigration laws. Amnesty is the worst possible thing for this country. We tried it in the 1980s and it cured nothing, but did cost us a fortune. By the way the last amnesty was actually 6 amnesties. The lawyers kept filing law suits to re-open the original amnesty. What makes you think they won't do it again? We need to tighten our borders and spend money on investigating applicants for visas. Legal immigration is the only just answer for our nations problems.
    • Quote 2
      Around the Web | Savage Minds said on July 27, 2010 at 10:55 p.m.
      [...] The University of Texas at Austin has developed a web video project, “Border Views,” with weekly updates. The series opens with three brief videos from anthropology professor Cecilia Balli on border politics, violence, and transformations in modern Mexican masculinity. I will be very interested to see how this develops as more faculty get involved in sharing their own disciplinary focus with the public. [...]
    • Quote 2
      Bettina Vaello said on July 26, 2010 at 9:13 p.m.
      I heard about your Border Views project on NPR this morning and couldn't wait to come home and watch them. I was not disappointed. These videos are a welcome breath of fresh air to the rancorous immigration discussions available elsewhere. My only complaint is that each video needs to be about two hours long (I truly hope that you could get funding for this!). As I read through the comments posted, I was saddened to see that some visitors still fail to understand the complexity of the issue of immigration as well as deny the humanity of Mexican families whether here legally or illegally. A huge thank you to UT and especially to the participating professors willing to put their time, energy, and money into this project!
    • Quote 2
      Saulo Padilla said on July 26, 2010 at 12:02 p.m.
      Short-educated-informative discussion starters on border issues and what has made the border what it is now. Thank you UT, thank you Cecilia.
    • Quote 2
      Patricia said on July 25, 2010 at 8:01 p.m.
      Violence along the border is a complicated issue. I grew up in South Texas and it was and still is one of the safest places. The Mexican side is going through a very tragic and violent period because of the policies enacted by Pres. Felipe Calderon's administration (with the support of the U.S. government). He decided to fight the U.S. drug war in Mexico and thousands of Mexicans have died during his administration because of his policies. If the U.S. and Mexican governments seriously wanted to stop the drug violence they'd start by going after the banks that continue to launder drug money (see: "Banks Financing Mexico Gangs Admitted in Wells Fargo Deal" Bloomberg News, 6/29/10, In addition, I don't see how the U.S. and Mexico are working together to somehow stop the violence along the border. If you visit the border you'll see an increasing number of advertisements for automatic weapons. U.S. gun sellers are making hundreds of thousands of dollars selling guns along the border; guns they know will end up in Mexico illegally. Where's the U.S. effort to stop the illegal shipment of automatic weapons to Mexico? State and federal governments would rather harass a Mexican in the U.S. who doesn't have appropriate work documents or continue their militarization of the border rather that having a real conversation about drug violence and immigration reform. The bottom line is that someone is making a lot of money from the drug trade and neither the U.S. or Mexico are willing to stop that money from flowing. They'd rather just let Mexicans kill one another.
    • Quote 2
      Melissa Martinez said on July 25, 2010 at 8:37 a.m.
      Great job Cecilia!
    • Quote 2
      Jack said on July 23, 2010 at 1:24 a.m.
      The is a multidimensional issue with so many questions that are both economic and moral in nature. I think from an economic point the American dollar crossing the border into Mexico and not returning to our economy is as severe as an issue as any. When you consider the billions upon billions of dollars in revenue lost every year, it quite honestly sickens me. Not only do you have to look at the cost of illegal immigrants bleeding the dollar but also drug money being washed away, and the cost of the resulting "drug war." The drug war is a joke, and an expensive one at that. We spend billions of dollars fighting this war on users of "illegal" drugs in the states and filling our jails and yet spend next to nothing stopping the drugs from coming in. It is a business for profit not only by the cartels but also by our own federal government. The jobs created by the system's circular reasoning has never been more fundamentally flawed as it is today. When you look at the massive cost paid by us, the tax paying law abiding citizens, it makes you wonder why it was ever allowed to develop into what it has. The loss of "productive" revenue is hard to imagine when you consider all the factors. Our country could be in a much different place if the federal government would do what it was tasked to do and only what it was tasked to do. We are the United States, meaning that the states should have the final word, as the constitution said and says. We, the people, are to blame for not being the nation that our founding fathers believed in as a whole. Let us now correct our course and take back our country from the out of control and uneffective federal machine. As a people we have become far to lax with our role and our duty to future generations. Ok, I'm off my soapbox (for the moment).
    • Quote 2
      Betty said on July 22, 2010 at 4:23 p.m.
      These were excellent presentations on Dr. Balli's part; it made me long to be back at U.T. with professors of her caliber.
    • Quote 2
      steve said on July 22, 2010 at 1:04 p.m. re: Yearly economic contributions by immigrants to U.S. economy: $37 billion (estimated) What is the estimate of how many U.S. tax dollars and tax dollar revenue 501c __ exemptions that go "free" to the immigrants, but not to the taxpayer/s? Within the immigrant population in the U.S. [what percent?] : _____ % took the time, the effort, the expense, and the respect for U.S. law to immigrate legally _____ % is CRIMINAL ELEMENT immigrants _____ % is NON-criminal element immigrants _____ % is of Hispanic heritage and are now United States citizens who took the time, effort, expense and the respect for U.S. law to make their kids learn English and respect U.S. laws like everyone else Are the criminal element immigrants more or less likely to prey on those who speak their own language or the general population indiscriminately? If someone is more than a first generation immigrant and has not learned the language the U.S. Constitution was written in, does this show a positive or negative attitude and disposition towards the government body or church body that provided the infrastructure and dynamic for them to immigrate in the first place, and for local, county, state and federal law? When traveling into Mexico, and elsewhere within the western hemisphere, are American citizens required to carry their passports or register their visit, or extended stay/s? Is the disrespect many Americans have for following the law, a primary or secondary reason immigrants come here to escape? Is the same Underground Railroad the border ministries currently enable provide the infrastructure for the criminal underground that provides the legal addictive drugs, white slavery of color, heroin, crack, that debilitates our society indiscriminately at all socio-economic levels? What distinguishes a poor Asian or Eastern European who succeeds in the United States from a poor Hispanic that has had bilingual education in the public schools for close to thirty years?
    • Quote 2
      brian said on July 22, 2010 at 10:49 a.m.
      only $55M as the border enforcement budget? seems way too low.
    • Quote 2
      Obie Hasty said on July 22, 2010 at 9:53 a.m.
      In Cecilia Balli's "By the Numbers" information, please include YEARLY ECONOMIC COSTS ASSOCIATED WITH ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS IN THE U.S. Also, is the yearly economic contributions number of $37B, legal or illegal? If total, what is the illegal portion? Thanks
    • Quote 2
      Juan Irarragorri said on July 22, 2010 at 9:48 a.m.
      Congratulations to UT and the Professors joining this initiative. Does anyone have any data in respect to the effect on illegal drug prices in the US since the “War on Drug Cartels” begun in Mexico in 2006? There have been over 25,000 violent deaths in Mexico related to this “war”, and I have not heard about any change in prices or effect in the market (supply and demand).
    • Quote 2
      Cris Escobar said on July 21, 2010 at 11:15 a.m.
      I met your sister Cristina in San Benito two years ago at Narciso Martinez Cultural Center. I exhibited my art work there thanks to her this June. I live in Del Rio, Texas, a border city. I applaud you on your "Border Views" documentary/commentary. I look forward to reading and seeing more documentary video on Mexico and U.S. border issues. Good luck with your new book on The Border Fence. In addition, I commend you for your bravery on "The Sexual Murder of Women in Juarez".
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