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Jerry Woodfill

July 23rd, 2014

woodfill 300x200 Jerry Woodfill

Jerry Woodfill delivers a presentation to TexPrep students at UTPA’s College of Engineering July 22. Woodfill worked as a spacecraft warning system engineer for NASA during both the Apollo 11 and 13 missions. To inspire students, Woodfill shared many instances of triumphs and failures in his life that led him to become the person he is today.

Categories: News

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A new era with an old tradition

July 17th, 2014

In 1927 when UTPA was known as Edinburg College, the school had a college football program. The first game of the season ended in a 6-6 tie against the Texas State team that was formerly known as San Marcos Teachers College.

During that season the team went 4-2-3 and would only win five more games over the next two years. After the season closed, mainly due to the draft in WWII, the sport didn’t make a return until 1947 managing to stick around up to 1951 when the program was discontinued.

For years students clamored for a football team to no avail, but the future could change that. With a new era on the horizon, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley President Guy Bailey has some experience with the upbringing of a football program. He was once the executive vice president and provost at the University of Texas at San Antonio when that school decided to add the sport.

Some of the best Valley high school football players go to places like Kingsville or a Division II school to continue their football career. If UTPA had a team we might have more than a few players stick around and continue playing here.

This means good relations with one another and chemistry between players that would be grand. Some of these guys have played against or with each other since sixth grade. A team like that can be very dangerous.

According to UTPA Athletic Director Chris King, the time is not right for a football program and he is more concerned about funding the 14 sports programs UTPA already has. Understandably, funding the programs is necessary for UTPA athletics to be successful when it comes to the post-season.

But the revenue for college football screams “just build a team.” In the 2012-2014 season, each of the eight Western Athletic Conference schools received $104,873 in television revenue alone. In a state that produces more college football prospects than any other, why not have a football at UTPA?

In 2014 UTSA was able to get $2.2 million in sponsor deals, which is not bad for a new program. Not saying UTPA or UTRGV will get that type of major sponsorship money, but cash for a football team won’t be hard to find. The revenue that a team would produce will have the school seeing more green than red in the long run.

So the question is, should UTPA invest in making a college football team at what will soon be UTRGV? I say yes. Football is America’s most popular sport. The amount of young high school talent that would stay in the rea and play for a university like UTRGV would be huge, the revenue that a college football team can bring to the University in the long run and just resurrect a fall sport from the grave be history for a new era.

Categories: Editorial

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Movie minority

July 17th, 2014

Hannah Jones, an accounting major at UTPA, loves attending the movie theater. The Harlingen native religiously watches a new movie at least twice a week, a habit she picked up from her family which is Hispanic on her mother’s side.

“My family always sees going to the movies as a family affair. My aunt takes my cousins there every weekend,” the 23-year-old explained. “It’s a great way for all of us to get together and have fun for a few hours and relax.”

According to a July 7 report from pop culture magazine Entertainment Weekly, 2014 box office earnings are down 4 percent from this point last year. However, attendance from Hispanic moviegoers is on the rise.

The Motion Picture Association of America, or the MPAA, released its annual Theatrical Market Statistics March 27. Among the numbers that were reported, it was revealed that Hispanic audiences are becoming big consumers.

Despite the fact that Caucasians account for 54 percent of total ticket sales in 2013, they only watch an average of three movies per year, the lowest attendance of any ethnicity. Hispanic audiences made up the highest attendance by watching an average of six while African Americans and other ethnicities marked as “other” watch four films a year.

Jones’ views on moviegoing and family entertainment for Hispanic audiences is reflected in a January 2013 report from Nielsen Holdings. Nielsen, a New York based group that monitors what consumers buy and watch on a daily basis, found that Hispanic audiences were 86 percent more likely to attend movies with friends and family compared to any other demographic. 

Even though UTPA senior Arnold Fonseca hasn’t had a chance to go to the movies since the start of the spring semester due to schoolwork, he believes these numbers are important and reflect the rise of the Hispanic population, which is expected to nearly triple by 2060 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Hispanics are already the largest minority group in the country with 52 million people, or 17 percent of the American population.

“This culture isn’t going anywhere and we’re seeing how it’s affecting everything, even the movies,” the 25-year-old physics major said. “Attending the theaters is a form of escapism that’s perfect for hanging out with friends and family members and now we know that other cultures enjoy it, especially since there’s a lot of deals going on to make going to the movies relatively cheaper than usual.”

The average price of a movie ticket is currently $7.96, down from $8.35 in the previous quarter, according to The Hollywood Reporter. In addition, several Rio Grande Valley theaters are currently participating in “Discount Tuesday,” where tickets are on sale at $5.25 all day every Tuesday at selected Carmike and Cinemark theaters nationwide.

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS

Despite representing 17 percent of the total American population, Hispanics made a huge contribution in total ticket sales last year, according to the MPAA. Of the 1.34 billion tickets sold in 2013, a full quarter were bought by Hispanic moviegoers alone.

A recent film that succeeded due to its Hispanic audience was the Spanish-language comedy Instructions Not Included, starring Mexican comedian Eugenio Derbez. The film was a “sleeper hit” when it opened last summer, as box office analysts failed to predict the film’s final gross of nearly $45 million domestically – even though it opened in less than 350 theaters nationwide, according to Box Office Mojo. The movie ended up becoming both the highest-grossing Spanish film and the fourth highest-grossing foreign film in the U.S.

In an attempt to recapture the success of Instructions Not Included Pantelion, the studio that distributed the film, is releasing the Spanish-language drama Cantinflas during next month’s Labor Day weekend. This is the same weekend Instructions was released in theaters last year. Cantinflas centers around Mario “Cantinflas” Moreno, the popular comedian who is often referred to as the “Mexican Charlie Chaplin.” The film depicts Cantinflas’ personal life as he films his American debut, the 1956 Academy Award winning film Around the World in 80 Days.  

Seemingly, studios tried another method of luring Hispanic audiences to the theaters this past spring by releasing Spanish-dubbed versions of several movies. These included the religious dramas Son of God and Noah as well as the biopic Cesar Chavez.

According to an October 2012 article from The Hollywood Reporter, Hispanic audiences flock to movies with religious themes as well as animated and horror movies. 

Jones, a Harlingen native, isn’t surprised when she heard such types of movies are most popular with this demographic, citing those are the genres she and her family watch.

The same article mentions that studios promote their movies to Hispanic audiences on Mexican radio channels and television stations such as Univision and Telemundo as well as in heavily populated Hispanic areas such as California, South Texas and Miami.

EXPECTATIONS

After hearing about these findings, UTPA student John Garza said the results were “eye-opening” and that he hoped it would lead to an increase in Hispanic actors. Nonetheless, he worried about what kind of message this could send studios, especially if they would decide to make more Hispanic-themed films.  

“Even though I’m Hispanic, even I wouldn’t want to see a movie that is minority-oriented because it would feel like pandering,” the 21-year-old senior said. “In most of the movies I’ve seen, Hispanics get the stereotyped roles like a cleaning person or the one who knows all about demons in horror movies. When are we going to get a movie franchise of our own?” 

This past March, Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron became the first Latino to win an Academy Award for best director for blockbuster film Gravity which may have given the Latino population in entertainment more credit.

Despite the large attendance from Hispanics, Hispanic-themed films aren’t immediate successes. Cesar Chavez ultimately ended up grossing $5.5 million despite the legacy of the civil rights activist. The crime-horror film Deliver Us from Evil, which features a Spanish priest in a secondary role, was released July 3 and has so far accumulated $25 million. Last August saw the release of the Matt Damon sci-fi film Elysium, which was set in Los Angeles and featured a supporting cast of Hispanic actors. With a budget of $115 million, Elysium underwhelmed at the box office by grossing $93 million domestically.

Brian Warren, a UTPA professor in TV/film/theater, speculated that those films disappointed at the box office not because of the emphasis on Hispanic themes, but because of their quality.

“As a biopic, a horror film and a sci-fi film, all three of them don’t look anything different than what we usually get,” the University of Houston alumnus said. “Those films may have failed because of how oversaturated the marketplace is with films of the genres, and they didn’t look like they provided audiences with anything new. Despite the audiences it tries to reach, films need to be good, or at least look like they’re offering something different.”

While the Iowa native thinks the findings of the survey are vital and reflect what audiences want in their movies, he believes people respond to good stories, regardless of the race depicted onscreen. 

 “I still remember seeing the film Gandhi and being mesmerized by it, despite the fact that the movie featured a lead character who was Indian. Story supersedes race,” he explained, “Movies tend to cross other barriers and can speak to anyone. They are a universal form of entertainment that people can enjoy despite who they see onscreen.”

Categories: Arts & Life

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Heading home

July 17th, 2014

Following in the footsteps of his older brother, Alex Howe turned to baseball at the age of 6. Coming from Unanderra, Australia, Howe played the game throughout his childhood and high school years. He eventually got good enough to make it to Clarendon College in Texas and caught the eye of UTPA Head Baseball Coach Manny Mantrana. The rest is history.

Howe has played for the Broncs since 2013 and finished his college career in May. Coming to a Division l school brought a lot of changes for him. Half way around the world and his  first season he hit .378 with nine triples, 14 doubles and 16 strikeouts in 180 at bats.

With the help of Mantrana and the rest of the coaching staff, he continued to grow as a baseball player and became one of the best players in recent Bronc history.

“It has been a pleasure and privilege to coach (Howe),” Mantrana said. “He has brought a lot of energy and passion to our baseball program along with great leadership and character.”

For most of his time with the Broncs, Howe played right field position. However, he’d grown up as a catcher and was eventually allowed to play that position in his final 22 games. Previously, he played outfield for a total of 35 games.

Now the 5-foot-7 catcher is through with his time at UTPA, leaving behind a legacy as one of the offensive leaders in the 2014 season as he led the Broncs in every major offensive category.

Howe ranked second in the Western Athletic Conference with 18 doubles, was third in on-base percentage at .451, a slugging percentage of .544 and total bases at 112. He was also fourth in hitting at .345 and ninth in home runs at five.

Although Howe has done much for the Broncs, he is looking forward to a break.

“Life is good,” he said. “I am looking forward to graduating in August and heading home after a little holiday. It’s been an amazing experience over the last four years. But I’m so anxious and it’s hard to stay focused on school. Probably the most I’m looking forward to is just being closer to my family.”

As Howe thinks of home and HIS priorities for the future, he is also looking forward to playing for the American Baseball League, which ironically is in Australia. There, he will be with the Sydney Blue Sox on their 35-man roster.He has also applied for the New South Wales Police Force back home.

As he looks toward tomorrow, the Bronc veteran reminisces on his time at UTPA and all he has accomplished with his team.

“It’s bittersweet,” Howe said. “I’m looking forward to going home more than anything, but that also means saying goodbye to my brothers here. I have made some lifelong friendships. I have been under the best guidance here at Pan Am with Mantrana and (Assistant Coach Norberto) Lopez.”

The coaching staff at UTPA, according to Howe, has made him a better player and Mantrana has faith in his former star.

“Alex has his priorities in order and played baseball for all the right reasons,” Mantrana said. “I’m very proud of him and very thankful for everything he has done for our baseball program. We will miss him.”

Through the years, Howe has moved positions, won awards and has even been passed by on the Major League Draft, but the UTPA catcher is still moving forward. Because of all Howe has faced at the University, Mantrana has the utmost confidence that Howe will do well. For Mantrana, saying goodbye only means his former player is moving on.

“It is always bittersweet when your seniors conclude their playing careers, knowing they will never wear the Bronc uniform again,” Mantrana said. “On the other hand you have seen their development from boys to men and know that they will soon become husbands and fathers. So it is definitely bittersweet.”

 

Categories: Sports

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A gripping alternative

July 17th, 2014

Historically, all cultures have developed their own ways of self-defense. In the early 1900s a Japanese martial art known as judo hit the Brazilian shores, eventually becoming what is known today as Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Decades later the self-defense system has found itself at the doors of UTPA in the form of a free-to-join, student-run club whose members are dedicated to teaching and perfecting what they call BJJ.

Student President Eric Martinez and the seven active members of the club are looking to grow in size and spread the word about this hands-on sport. The basic teachings center around ground fighting and taking down opponents through various tackling and submission techniques.

 

NEW BEGINNING

The club was formed in 2010 but without steady leadership,.It has had a hard time solidifying its place at UTPA. Despite this, the club’s adviser Robert Schweller has always kept a watchful eye on its progress. Schweller is an associate professor in computer science and has always had a strong belief that BJJ should be taught to the public. The University currently has courses in the striking martial arts such as karate, but none that offer techniques like those used in BJJ.

“To be frank, this is so much cooler than karate,” Schweller said. “So I thought there should be jiu-jitsu on campus. It is awesome to have a place for people to come in and get better in a very short amount of time.”

With Schweller’s help, Martinez took over as president last year and the club began classes in the Health and Physical Science Building. Martinez teaches the Monday to Thursday classes as he currently holds a purple belt from the school of Paragon RGV Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and has been training for more than seven years.

Martinez’s purple belt is the intermediate adult ranking in BJJ, third in a list that holds five rankings separated by color. However, the club does not focus on belt colors. Martinez concentrates more on the basics of the sport, rather than student rankings.

 

STARTING OUT

Martinez understands BJJ can be intimidating at first, as it was when he originally joined the Edinburg Boxing Gym seven years ago. At the time he was just looking to lose weight and follow in the footsteps of his favorite Ultimate Fighting Championship fighters.

“I went to the Boxing Gym (just) like a lot of people gravitate towards the striking and the kickboxing,” Martinez said. “When they told me they had Brazilian jiu-jitsu upstairs, I went. I threw up in the first five minutes of the class and I was hooked ever since.”

BJJ, according to the club members, tends to grab a hold of you. Student Selena Ramirez, a five-year veteran of the sport, is a testament to that.

Ramirez is the only currently active female member of the club and hopes to encourage other women to join. She explains that some women might feel intimidated by the physical nature of the sport and having to “roll” around with large men, but hopes that more females will give the sport a try.

“It really just bites you and everyone falls in love with it,” the biology major said. “All of a sudden you are just addicted and it is all you want to do. You just find yourself saying, ‘Aww man, all this schoolwork is getting in the way of my training.’”

The club is structured like   its own school. It is open to the public, not just UTPA students. Because of this participants are taught three basic skills each class day. One skill is grappling, or controlling an opponent using body leverage.

Then there is submission protection, instructing the students how to avoid being taken into a position that would allow for their opponent to force a “tap out,” or using their hand to tap on the winning party, signifying the end of the match. Basic submissions are also taught, such as the arm bar, which will force a student to surrender after an opponent takes hold of the other opponent’s arm by the joint and hyperextending it, causing pain.

All definitions aside, what Schweller wants people to focus on is that this club is an opportunity to learn a new skill.

“He is teaching class like exactly what you would get at a jiu-jitsu school where you pay over $100 a month,” Schweller said of Martinez. “And you know, I’ve been to many gyms and his instruction is just as good as any of them, so his work is really what is making the club strong.”

 

WHO JOINS AND WHY

According to Martinez, variety keeps the club active, as each student attends for their own reasons. The reasons range from learning self-defense to looking for a creative way to lose weight.

“Sometimes people go the gym and think, ‘What am I doing this for…what is the end game?’” Martinez said. “Brazilian jiu-jitsu allows you to have a reason to do all that. Just so you can be better at something. It is just a fun way to get in shape.”

The club also allows a fair share of competitiveness among members. Fridays are reserved for “spar days,” as more active and experienced members get together to practice what they learned that week. They take turns challenging each other in what they refer to as “rolls” or small matches.

One of the unique attributes of this club, according to Ramirez, is that it is open to both males and females. The president, as well as other members, doesn’t differentiate by gender or weight classes. During spar days each member is fair game and each could challenge any other.

For Ramirez, this is key in attracting people and she has high hopes for the future of her club.

“I want it to grow and I always want to see more people here and more girls here too,” she said. “Anyone that is even thinking about coming out for whatever reason…should just come out…because everyone here is a good person and we are all here to have fun.”

 

Categories: Sports

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Prisoners of healthcare

July 17th, 2014

Veterans Affairs Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson testified in front of the VA Senate Committee Wednesday to discuss the progress and future of the ailing VA system. Reports of falsified documents and malpractice have brought negative attention to a department that Gibson called “poorly positioned.”

After former secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki resigned May 30 amidst rumors of malpractice within the healthcare department, the VA has begun its reform process to help bring the department back to working standards.

This was the first time since scandal arose within the department that Gibson met with the VA Senate Committee. During this meeting the committee discussed practices commonly found in the private sector of the medical field that could be helpful to follow when overhauling the VA department.

Another topic discussed at the meeting was the potential power given to the secretary of the department to fire officials that are performing poorly. In addition to these powers, allowing veterans to receive medical care outside of the VA was another topic that was touched on. This rule could mean medical care for veterans if no service can be given by the VA within 30 days.

These new rules for the VA are part of a bipartisan plan announced by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in early June, less than one week after the malpractice rumors surfaced.

The Congressional Budget Office released a new analysis July 10 of the reform bill that will regulate the VA department in the 2015 fiscal year. The reformed budget, according to The Hill, reduced the cost of implementing the bill from $50 billion over three years to $30 billion, which the CBO saw as more reasonable, according to the Army Times.

The VA department’s healthcare division has been under fire throughout the year after a number of malpractice suits had been filed against it for charging long patient wait times and rumors of sexual harassment, racism and illegal drug use in facilities, according to Politico. The malpractice suits were costing the U.S. $845 million due to a “delay in treatment.”

A member of the ROTC program, who wished to remain anonymous, said his experience with the VA health department has not been a good one.

“It takes forever to get an appointment. It takes forever to get a letter back that says that they’re working on your claim,” the senior criminal justice major said. “Then you get people that do get a rating but it’s very low and doesn’t make sense with (the illness) they have. (The system) doesn’t make any sense.”

The long wait times for veterans to receive care are seen all over the country. A report by Patch, a community-specific news source, states that Maryland has the fourth longest wait time for veterans with an average of 81 days. The article also sheds light on an isolated incident at a Phoenix VA hospital where 40 veterans died while awaiting treatment. The Memphis VA Medical Center was also investigated and was found to have 50-day wait times for new patients.

The ROTC member said problems can even be seen in the Rio Grande Valley at the Harlingen VA Medical Center.

“You have nurses (in Harlingen) that aren’t even qualified to use the equipment they’re using,” the UTPA senior said.

According to the Washington Post, an internal audit performed by the VA department revealed that 57,000 veterans had waited more than 90 days to receive medical attention earlier this year. In addition, the audit found that VA employees at 24 sites felt “threatened or coerced” to record false information that would make patient wait times seem lower than they really were.

A report was also created by Senator Tom Coburn, R-Okla., last month that highlighted the shortcomings of the VA Department. In his report he included the instances of abuse and racism as well as noting that 1,000 veteran deaths have occurred in the last 10 years under the VA’s watch. He said that the deaths were not only “largely preventable” but cost the department more than $200 million in settlements.

Furthermore, Coburn noted that the problem of long patient wait times could be attributed to the amount of patients seen by doctors. According to Politico, Coburn’s report said private sector doctors see upward of 2,300 patients annually while VA doctors see 1,200. The report states that this is due in part to the lack of staffing requirements and regulation on doctor/patient numbers.

According to Sanders, one of the committee members in charge of drawing up a reform plan for the VA, said staffing is suffering because VA doctors get paid less than private practice doctors. One of Sanders’ ideas to help resolve this issue is to offer student loan forgiveness to young doctors who agree to work for the VA department.

The ROTC member said he feels there is another reason why the VA health system is not running properly.

“The problem is that you’ve got the VA who is supposed to take care of veterans but they hire a bunch of civilians that have no knowledge of the military,” the Army veteran said. “So of course they’re not going to know what they’re doing.”

In addition to the issues highlighted in Coburn’s report, the VA had first gone under the microscope earlier in the year when rumors of falsified wait times surfaced. According to Army Times, these tampered documents would in turn aid in larger performance bonuses for VA employees.

Gibson has been the acting VA secretary since Shinseki’s resignation. As of June, former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald was nominated by U.S. President Barack Obama to be elected as the new VA secretary. The VA Senate Committee will come to a decision on the position July 22.

There are a dozen individuals working within the House and Senate in a conference that not only created the reform bill but will review it before it passes. Among the people in this conference committee are Sen. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Sanders. Both men said they have faith that recent budget adjustments will help move the reform bill forward before the Congressional break in August.

“Our job as a Congress and as a nation is to make the necessary changes so that every veteran in the VA system gets the quality and timely health care they are entitled to,” Sanders said.

According to the VA website, the three main goals of the department over the next year are to improve veteran access to benefits, reduce the number of backlog patients and alleviate veteran homelessness.

The White House has noted improvements within the VA in recent months. This year 182,000 appointments have been made and $400 million has been allotted for accelerated care. Also, the previously noted 57,000 veterans awaiting care has been reduced to 46,000 as of June 15.

The ROTC member said he feels these advances in the system are merely patch work. He said the problems will continue until something more serious is done.

“(The problem) is not going to get worked out. It would get fixed if people were actually held accountable with criminal charges,” the ROTC member said. “As far as fixing the system, I don’t see it.”

Categories: News

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Border crisis

July 17th, 2014

A family of four rests in the corner, draped in donated blankets, on one of the approximately 20 plastic cots lining the sides of an off-white tent behind Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, where undocumented UTPA student Abraham Diaz has been volunteering for the past three weeks. The church is one of several places in the Rio Grande Valley that has been providing food, shelter and clothing for undocumented immigrants coming into the U.S. from Central and South America. According to The Los Angeles Times, approximately 57,000 unaccompanied youths have illegally crossed the border since October 2013.

Diaz, a junior bilingual education major, has been volunteering between work and other activities to do what he can. He was 9 when he came to the U.S. as an unaccompanied minor from Monterrey, Mexico, and knows all too well what current undocumented immigrants may be experiencing.

“I know what they are going through, these children,” said Diaz, the vice president of the Minority Affairs Council at UTPA. “At first you don’t fit in, you are the outsider. People knowing you are not from this country, they push you aside. It feels bad because you are unwanted. They bully you, you are mistreated because of your legal status…because of your language.”

But the state of immigration has changed since Diaz came to this country. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of undocumented immigrants was about 8.7 million in 2000. Today, that number is approximately 20 million, as stated by Zach Taylor, chairman of the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers. With the increase comes safety, economic and humanitarian concerns from politicians, local residents and UTPA students.

PAST AND PRESENT

In an article published earlier this month by The New York Times, the surge of immigrants can be attributed to the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, passed by then President George W. Bush.

“Originally pushed by a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers as well as by evangelical groups to combat sex trafficking, the bill gave substantial new protections to children entering the country alone who were not from Mexico or Canada by prohibiting them from being quickly sent back to their country of origin,” the article states.

The piece of legislation stipulates that these unaccompanied minors be turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services and be given a date for a future court hearing regarding their legal status. They are also given short-term shelter while the department works to reunite these children with family. If the child has no family in the U.S. they are turned over to a sponsor.

According to a July article by digital news source Mashable, the unaccompanied children from Central and South American countries began coming to the U.S. as early as 2011, but as poverty and violence increase in these countries, the numbers continue to rise. The number of minors crossing the border from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador is expected to reach as many as 90,000 by the end of 2014, the article said.

To address the growing crisis and provide additional resources to the border, U.S. President Barack Obama requested $3.7 billion from Congress in a spending bill July 7. However, as of July 16, the bill has not been passed.

Republicans are opposing the bill for being too costly and not enacting tough enough immigration laws, as stated in a July article by USA Today. As part of the bill, Republicans want to enact legislation that would expedite the return of unaccompanied minors.

BORDER SECURITY

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website, there was a large increase in illegal migration in the 1980s and 1990s. Numerous actions were taken to address the situation, including the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Put into law by President Ronald Reagan, IRCA is still often cited as one of the most effective immigration laws, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The primary goal of the act was to increase border security and establish penalties for employers who hired undocumented immigrants.

But despite past efforts, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said the U.S.-Mexico border still isn’t secure.

“The rapid influx of illegal immigration has strained the Border Patrol, the resources that they have and the resources we have put on ourselves as a state, and frankly they are already insufficient for the task at hand,” Perry said at a field hearing held by the Committee on Homeland Security earlier this month. “Officials who should be guarding the border are dealing with the overflow instead of fulfilling their primary tasks. As a result, the border between the U.S. and Mexico is less secure today than at any time in the recent past.”

At the hearing, titled “Crisis on the Texas Border: Surge of Unaccompanied Minors,” Perry elaborated on safety concerns residents of the RGV face due to immigration, including drug cartels, gangs and terrorism.

“We know that drug cartels and transnational gangs are already seeking to take advantage of the situation, attempting to circumvent security and spread pain and suffering on both sides of the border through their criminal activities,” Perry stated. “We’re also in danger at the hands of those who might be slipping through from countries with known terrorist ties. With a range of potential threats facing us from abroad, this is not the time to be distracted by something else.”

According to The Washington Post, since Border Patrol agents are occupied with controlling the influx of immigrants, Mexican cartels have had an easier time smuggling drugs across the border. When agents are pulled away from their patrol stations, gaps are created along the border that the traffickers can exploit, said Chris Cabrera, the vice president of the National Border Patrol Council Local 3307.

During the field hearing held at the South Texas College Technology Campus July 3 Perry asked federal lawmakers to send the National Guard to the border to assist local law enforcement with this issue. The former lieutenant governor of Texas stated that there is simply not enough manpower and resources to secure this sector of the border.

“When you look at the United States border from El Paso to California, there are 17 border patrol agents per mile dedicated to that region of the United States,” he said. “From El Paso to Brownsville, it is seven border patrol agents per mile.”

Joshua Rojas, the president of the College Republicans at UTPA, agrees that protecting sovereignty should be the government’s primary concern.

“We need to secure the borders,” said the junior finance major. “Until that happens we can’t discuss any type of amnesty for anyone here illegally.”

ECONOMY

Another concern for Rojas is the impact immigration will have on the local economy. In 2013, Brownsville and Harlingen were named the poorest cities in the country by the U.S. Census Bureau and economic website 24/7 Wall St.

“We have so many poor people here that if we bring in more, it’s only going to hurt us even more, it’s going to be harder to find jobs,” he said.

As the son of an undocumented immigrant, Rojas is familiar with the struggles these migrants are facing but believes the economic burden should not fall on the shoulders of current legal citizens.

 At the Congressional field hearing, U.S. Representative Lou Barletta, R-Pa., echoed similar concerns. His hometown of Hazelton, Pa. was being considered as a location to house unaccompanied minors.

“As a mayor of Hazleton for 11 years, I saw firsthand what burden illegal immigration has on local government,” Barletta said. “When I saw our population grow by 15 percent but our tax revenue stay the same, realizing we had an illegal immigration problem, quality of services suffered. I helped sound the alarm to stop potential relocation of unaccompanied minors to a property in my hometown in downtown Hazleton, Pennsylvania, which had been identified as a potential housing facility.”

According to a February 2013 article by The New York Times, labor economists found that undocumented workers lowered wages of U.S. adults without high-school diplomas, approximately 25 million people, between 0.4 and 7.4 percent. However, that same article states that undocumented immigrants could be beneficial to skilled laborers.

“From 1990 to 2007, undocumented workers increased legal workers’ pay in complementary jobs by up to 10 percent,” the article said. “In states with more undocumented immigrants…skilled workers made more money and worked more hours; the economy’s productivity grew.”

In addition, chief actuary at the Social Security Administration Stephen Goss states in the article that undocumented immigrants contribute about $15 billion a year to social security through payroll taxes, state and federal taxes that employers are required to withhold and/or pay on behalf of employees. The article goes on to explain that undocumented workers have contributed up to $300 billion, or nearly 10 percent, of the $2.7 trillion Social Security Trust Fund.

HUMANITARIAN CRISIS

Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra brought to light one aspect to the humanitarian crisis at field hearing – immigrant deaths. According to Guerra, there were 19 immigrant deaths the sheriff’s office responded to in 2012. In 2013, they responded to 25 immigrant deaths. This year they have already responded to 14 immigrant deaths.

“There are dozens of immigrants that have lost their lives trying to fulfill their hope of finding freedom and opportunity here,” Guerra said at the field hearing. “Bodies are found in the river or in the brush, many in deplorable condition. Many of these immigrants die from drowning or heat exposure. The hardest to take, is the death of children. Most recently we responded to the death of an 11-year-old boy from Guatemala. His decomposed body was found in the brush just a quarter mile away from a residential neighborhood where he could have sought help.”

The sheriff also remarked that the immigrants are often victims of crimes themselves but due to their legal status, these crimes go unreported.

“For the most part, the offenders are not the undocumented immigrants coming into the United States, they are the victims,” he said. “At times, human smugglers sexually assault the women, who are victims and often feel they have no voice because of their legal status so the crime goes unreported. There are instances where criminals will hold ransom undocumented persons- once again, some of these crimes will go unreported.”

Another aspect to the humanitarian crisis discussed at the hearing, and the initial reason it was held, centered on undocumented children and the dangers they face crossing the border.

“Here in Texas we are facing an escalating refugee and national security crisis. Since October, more than 50,000 unaccompanied minors have crossed our Southern border into the United States– nearly two-thirds of those crossed here in the Rio Grande Valley,” said Michael McCaul, chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, at the field hearing. “These children are being exploited by the drug cartels who are turning a profit by smuggling these kids to the U.S. at a cost of $5,000 to $8,000 per child…These children are often subjected to beatings, starvation, sexual assault and are at risk of being trafficked.”

U.S. Representative McCaul, R-Texas, highlighted humanitarian concerns due to the immigration influx, focusing on unaccompanied minors. McCaul and Perry both favored returning the children to their native countries.

“To break this cycle we need to add in some real deterrence – first, mandatory detention and then we should explore ways to promptly return those who come here illegally,” McCaul said. “Not doing so puts more young lives at risk of exploitation.”

However, U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, disagreed with these proposed actions.

“A massive deportation policy for children and a mandatory detaining for children is not a humane thing to do,” Jackson Lee said at the field hearing. “This is not a national security crisis, this is a humanitarian crisis.”

According to The New York Times, more than three-quarters of unaccompanied minors are from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. According to Jackson Lee, these three central American countries have among the highest per capita homicide rates in the world with Honduras topping the list and the two other nations in the top five.

UTPA alumna Kayleigh Garcia agrees with Jackson Lee. Garcia, who earned her master’s in public administration in 2013, said she can’t imagine sending these immigrants back to the countries they are fleeing.

“They are coming here as refugees, we can’t send them back to their deaths like we did when the Jewish community came to us on a boat from the Nazi regime telling us they needed help back in the ‘40s and we turned around and sent them back…we sent them back to their deaths,” said Garcia, president of the Hidalgo County Texas Young Democrats. “I refuse to be a part of that.”

Diaz, who will continue to volunteer at Sacred Heart Church during this immigration crisis, agrees with Garcia.

“Some of the DREAMERS have gone through these situations…and we know what it feels like, we’ve been in their shoes,” he said. “When we didn’t get help, we know what it felt like to be neglected and now that we have the opportunity to give help to them and change the way they see things, we can make an impact in their lives.”

“DREAMERS” is a term often used by undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. when they were young and are now pushing for immigration reform. The name originates from the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, a stalled legislative proposal that would have helped undocumented immigrants in college become legal citizens.

Diaz is one of approximately 645 DREAMERS at UTPA and is also a participant in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. According to the Department of Homeland Security, those who are part of DACA are not conferred legal citizenship, but are allowed to stay in the country while they attend school. DACA recipients are also eligible for work authorization, which allows them to be lawfully employed in the U.S.

While Diaz has been able to make the best of his situation, he acknowledges that not all the minors entering the U.S. will have the same path he has. He hopes to do what he can to help, no matter what the outcome may be for these children.

“You have to think about what is the humane thing to do,” he said. “If one of these people were my family members, what would I do for them? Personally, I would give my life for my child, just like these families are. So as a human, I want to give as much as I can.”

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Cross-country, track looking for something new

July 17th, 2014

After a season in which recent graduate Martin Casse and Edinburg native Luis Serrano led the Broncs for most of the 2013 cross-country season, a new era is on the rise and preparation has begun.

Xavier Richardson, coach for cross-country and track and field, knows that it won’t be easy to replace some of the record-breaking performances made by Casse, but he is up to the challenge.

“When you have someone who has contributed so much to your program over the years, it’s very difficult to simply replace him or her. We search for new talents to bring in and hope that they also develop into great ambassadors for our program and athletic department,” Richardson said. “We continue to recruit athletes with the talent and drive that guided Martin over the years. With that strong combination, they too will be successful.”

The Broncs announced July 3 that they will be holding tryouts for any UTPA student who wants to be a part of the 2014 Bronc cross-country and/or the 2015 track and field team. Tryouts will be held at the UTPA Track and Field Complex, located on the southeast corner of campus Aug. 20-29.

The tryouts will also be practices for current players and are made to give everyone an opportunity to get their legs under them before the Rio Grande Valley Relays.

Richardson believes this is a chance for somebody to make a name for themselves and earn a spot on the team.

“Each year we inevitably have students that are interested in joining the program. By announcing and holding tryouts, they have notice of the opportunity to train with the team and try out for a spot within our distance program,” Richardson said. “We’re always hoping to find a diamond in the rough that has the talent to be successful at this level and just needs the opportunity and the coaching to do so.  If there turn out to be, that will help us add depth to our already established incoming class of distance runners.”

Those who feel ready for the challenge will have to complete National Collegiate Athletic Association registration, amateurism certification, submit high school transcripts and test scores as applicable. Students must also be enrolled full time for fall 2014 and provide the Athletic Training Room with insurance information and student-athlete physical forms.

Tryouts will be for the 800-meter, 1,500-meter, 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter races along with the 30,000 meter steeplechase run during track and field season. The tryouts will conclude Aug. 29 with the RGV Relays Invite.

The RGV Relays Invite is a friendly competition that theinvolved men and women run simultaneously as they each form two-person teams, running two miles each as part of a relay race.

With a young group, Richardson is excited for the team coming in and wants to see what they can do.

“We have high expectations for several of our incoming transfers and freshmen alike,” he explained. “They will have the challenge and opportunity to be the group that gets this distance program back on the track it has strayed from. They are of the first steps and it’s not going to be easy, but we believe they are up to the task.”

A new season brings new challenges for Richardson in the second chance in the Western Athletic Conference and he will have new talent. But with Serrano returning, Richardson is hoping for a better standing than last year, when the Broncs finished fifth out of eight in the WAC Championship back in November.

“We are certainly bringing a stronger overall team to the Conference Championships this year for both genders. So our goal is immediately to improve our standings from last year’s team places,” Richardson said. “We have tapped leaders for both the men and the women, and we are looking to them to guide this young team through.”

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Fosdick heads to rogers

July 17th, 2014

Head Men’s Golf Coach Josh Fosdick will be leaving UTPA to accept the head men’s coaching position at Rogers State University in Claremore, Okla. Fosdick has been the head coach for the men’s golf team for the last two seasons.

 

“We are grateful for Josh’s (Fosdick’s) leadership and contributions to the men’s golf program over the past two years,” UTPA Director of Athletics Chris King said. “In a short period of time, (he) provided a solid foundation for our men’s golf program and I want to sincerely thank him for his efforts and wish him well on his future endeavors.”

 

In his first season as head coach, Fosdick propelled the Broncs to one of the top five finishes. He then led them to a second place finish at the Professional Golfers’ Association Minority Collegiate Golf Championship May 12.
In addition, Fosdick guided junior Chris Felix as he became the first Bronc to place at the the U.S. Amateur Championship in August 2013. During his final and second season at UTPA Fosdick took the Broncs to three top five finishes, including a second place trophy at the Colorado State University Cougar Invitational Sept. 24, 2013.

 

At that invitational sophomore Ricky Solis won his first collegiate tournament, taking the individual championship. As the season wound down, Fosdick took the Broncs to a second place finish at the Moe O’Brien Intercollegiate Invitational Feb. 25, 2014. The season closed with an overall fifth place finish in the Western Athletic Conference Championship.

 

Now the former head coach will move on to RSU’s National Collegiate Athletic Association Division ll athletics program. The announcement comes only one month before the opening of the UTPA golf season, but Fosdick has not made light of his choice.

 

“This is a hard decision, but the opportunity to be closer to home was too much to pass up,” Fosdick said. “This department is amazing and I am going to miss everyone here, especially my players. I am a better coach because of them.”

 

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Net nightmare

July 17th, 2014

UTPA freshman Sergio Nuñez watches Netflix on his laptop at the Student Union while drinking a latte. He checks his phone, connected to UTPA’s wireless network, before heading to class.

“I use UTPA’s Internet for everyday use including web, music and videos,” the 19-year-old said. “If the Federal Communications Commission passes (the net neutrality) law, I might be spending more time at the University because of the limited connection I have at home.”

Nuñez referred to the FCC’s proposed “net neutrality” rules.Open Internet Rules, the current net neutrality rules that have been in effect since 2005, are a set of three rules Internet Service Providers must follow, according to the FCC. The first rule states ISPs must provide proof on how they manage their networks. Secondly, they are prohibited from blocking legal content to applications such as Netflix. The last says ISPs should not discriminate against their competition by slowing their service to benefit their own offers.

Slow speeds are exactly what Comcast customers complained about in 2007 when subscribers argued the Internet company was deliberately slowing its Internet speeds when trying to access the peer-to-peer application BitTorrent. The FCC immediately took action and ordered Comcast to stop the practice. Comcast filed a lawsuit to overturn the order, claiming the FCC had no jurisdiction as to how ISPs should manage their networks, although the Open Internet Rules say otherwise.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found the trio of rules illegal. The FCC then proposed a new set of rule. ISPs will still be forbidden from slowing traffic to websites, but they can now create “fast” lanes for companies willing to pay more.

The FCC’s website closed its comments section July 15, which had allowed the public to voice their opinion on net neutrality. This will be followed by a 120-day consultation and response period where the FCC will address the public’s questions on how Internet usage will change for users, businesses and educational institutions.

According to Anne Toal, a technology assessment officer for the Division of Information

Technology at UTPA, the University is committed to ensuring students have high-speed Internet regardless of what the outcome holds for net neutrality. UTPA gets its Internet bandwidth from the University of Texas Office of Telecommunication Services in Austin then distributes it across its campus. The way students experience the Internet on campus would remain unaffected, Toal said outside of campus is a different story.

“Many students come to UTPA to watch Youtube or Netflix videos because its faster,” Toal said. “If their ISP at home decides to start charging more to services like YouTube or streaming movies, it would slow down because Google and Netflix might not want to pay more.”

Nuñez, who experiences spotty Wi-Fi service at home, leaves all the web browsing, downloading and streaming to UTPA. He sometimes makes trips to the University from McAllen solely to use the Internet, even when he doesn’t have class.

“It’s just way faster and more convenient,” the McAllen native said. “If I have to pay more to access Netflix or YouTube or if my Internet slows down at home, then the UTPA staff might start knowing me on a first name basis.”

Although the comment section of the FCC’s website is now closed, the public is still able to respond to comments that others have made. Toal encourages students to make their voices heard by participating in the discussion on the FCC’s website.

“In the present world of net neutrality, you have a faster network connection. In a world of no net neutrality, ISPs can slow down networks that don’t pay more,” Toal explained. “They have that power, and it would affect Internet users everywhere they go.”

 

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