Lawmakers call for more transparency in port-of-entry funding

WASHINGTON – Texas needs more funding for its ports of entry. So does Michigan. Lawmakers from both states berated federal officials Wednesday for failing to improve the ports and for not even having a current list of which ports are on a list for funding. “The lack of transparency is troubling, to put it kindly,” Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., said during a House subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security hearing. “Customs and Border Patrol cannot continue to be a big black hole when it comes to ports of entry infrastructure needs, which can impact both trade facilitation and homeland security.”

Infrastructure needs at ports of entry often refers to CBP staffing, identification technology and roads.

Here to make the border safe again. (Sergio Chapa/

Fin del viaje por la frontera Texas-México

La frontera central México-Estados Unidos: El Paso, Texas y Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua
Lo que sigue es el último episodio del viaje por la frontera Texas-México que realicé con mi amigo, el periodista Sergio Chapa, a mediados del año pasado. Hoy describiré nuestra experiencia en las ciudades de El Paso, Texas y Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. Este último tramo resultó ser uno de los más interesantes de nuestro recorrido fronterizo. La importancia de la frontera central México-Estados Unidos es evidente desde que uno se va acercando a la ciudad de El Paso, Texas. La frontera “central” —como le suelo llamar yo a la zona de El Paso-Ciudad Juárez— es una zona de gran desarrollo económico, de evidente complejidad y sobretodo de contrastes.

Mural at the Stanton Street Bridge in downtown El Paso. (Sergio Chapa/

Last stop, El Paso and Ciudad Juarez

I’m going to admit now. There is no way to describe El Paso in a single blog but I’ll try my best. With close to one million residents, El Paso is the biggest city on the Texas side of the border. But it’s also filled with many contrasts making it one of the most complex and intriguing. The border city is home to four international bridges and one international railroad crossing.

Mirel Argueta, a Juarez native and a professor at Tecnológico de Monterrey en Juárez, and Reinaldo Sánchez, Colombian and recent PhD graduate. (Courtesy of Mirel Argueta)

Love knows no boundaries for couples divided by the U.S.-Mexico border

EL PASO – Although El Paso and Juárez are sister cities, they are divided by differences and obstacles that present real-life challenges to unmarried couples whose relationships straddle the border. Three couples, all in their 20s, discuss their transnational relationships, explaining how they wish they could live in the same city with their partners and even though they speak the same language they still clash over differences in lifestyle. However, these committed relationships seem to be strong. Gina Nuñez-Mchiri, associate professor of sociology at UTEP, said, “I would say that love knows no boundaries, but boundaries are real, right? But it’s love that makes you resilient and hopeful, and people find ways.”

The testimony of these three couples lovingly expresses the adage “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Mirel & Reinaldo

“When I met him, I was like, ‘Oh my God.

Nuestra Casa exhibition at the Univeersity of Texas at El Paso. (Danya Hernandez/

Tuberculosis cases are more plentiful in states along the U.S.-México border

EL PASO — For three years a woman roamed the border region with an infectious disease, not knowing her health kept deteriorating and that she was endangering those closest to her. This is the story of Rachel Orduño, a social work graduate student at the University of Texas at El Paso, who in 2003 began having a recurring cough. Doctors of both sides of the El Paso-Cd. Juarez border region diagnosed and treated her for everything from bronchitis, pneumonia, to the common cold. “I began with the most common symptoms. Continuous cough, weight loss due to lack of appetite, sweating at night and then I begin having trouble breathing,” Orduño said.

A street car service was present in the El Paso/Juarez area from 1881 until 1974. (Amanda Duran/

Posters brought to life the idea of a cross-border trolley line

EL PASO – In an effort to explain the longstanding and sometimes complicated ties between border city El Paso, Texas and its Mexican sister city Juarez to fellow classmates at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, Peter Svarzbein decided to create a fictional advertising campaign for the revival of a trolley system that would connect the two municipalities. But he never expected his hometown to incorporate his graduate thesis art project into an actual city planning proposal that could possibly stimulate the economy in both countries, and reduce the risk of drunk driving accidents. “I wanted to challenge the negative media representation about the border by using the media itself,” said Svarzbein. Svarzbein, who now lives here, hosted a presentation on the El Paso Transitional Trolley Project recently at the University of Texas at El Paso. His talk, entitled Bridging Borders, was sponsored by UTEP as a part of the school’s DYNAMIC Communication Lecture Series.

Roberto Perezdíaz.... (Oscar Garza/

Más sabe el diablo que el escritor Roberto Perezdíaz

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EL PASO – El viejo ­que solo puede ver en blanco y negro, mientras que platica con un muchacho se da cuenta de las diferencias de la vida para poder experimentar y entenderlas. Un rito de pasaje de la niñez a la vejez es un tema fuerte en las escrituras de Roberto Perezdíaz. Él describe cómo a través de la madurez una persona es capaz de recorrer los senderos de la vida y los coloca en el desierto de la frontera. Con el lanzamiento de su nuevo libro Más sabe el diablo, Perezdíaz ha reunido una colección de cuentos que exploran temas de inocencia y cinismo, a través de cuentos que incorporan el humor y la introspección. “Cada cuento con la excepción de El papalote y Tomasito es de una verdadera idea independiente.

Roberto Perezdíaz.... (Oscar Garza/

The devil knows more than author Roberto Perezdíaz

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EL PASO – The old man is color blind, but as he converses with the younger man he brings to life the contrasts and dilemmas they must go through in order to understand la vida. A person’s rite of passage from childhood to adulthood is a powerful theme in Roberto Perezdíaz’ writing.  He describes how maturity makes people more adept at walking the paths to life and he places them in the desert of the borderland. With the release of his new book Más sabe el diablo, Perezdíaz has assembled a collection of short stories that explore themes of innocence and maturity through a collection of funny, insightful stories. “Every story with the exception of El papalote and Tomasito are independent ideas. But I noticed that one of the themes bubbling through the surface of the stories is that of oneself and the more you mature, the more knowledgeable you become,” Perezdíaz said.

El Paso, a border city considered by some as part of Mexico. (Raymundo Aguirre/

Learning journalism in El Paso opened my window to the world

EL PASO – Every time I’ve gone on vacation with my friends, people ask us where we are from. The conversation usually goes something like this: “We’re from Texas.” “I love Texas! What part?” “El Paso.” “Oh, so like, Mexico?” Yes, that’s right, at least once in Las Vegas, Chicago, San Diego, and even in Europe, people thought we were basically from Mexico. This used to bother me because I will always pride myself on being a patriotic American citizen; however, I started to see how it would be easy for people outside of Texas to think that El Paso was just this forgotten part of the United States that somehow belonged to Mexico also. If you look at reports about border violence in Mexico, El Paso is almost always mentioned as the sister city to Ciudad Juarez.

The lights of Ciudad Juarez can be seen from the UTEP campus. (Danya Hernandez/

El Pasoans want their sister city to remain in the family

EL PASO – With an ongoing drug war on the other side of a 10-foot high fence, El Paso’s reputation has taken some hits recently, but locals see the Sun City’s image in a brighter light. “It’s incredibly sad what’s happening across the border,” said Sonya Stokes, senior psychology student at the University of Texas at El Paso. “I think it’s terrible that El Paso’s image has been tarnished by irresponsible comments that people in power have made and the media has made.”

Over the past year, El Paso has made national headlines for a number of reasons. In November 2010, the annual Congressional Quarterly Press City Crime Rankings announced that El Paso had the lowest crime rate of cities with a population of more than 500,000. In August 2011, an El Paso Times article said that El Paso officials were taking “the first steps toward ending its ‘sister city’ relationship with Juárez.” The story said that the city was surveying local business to get their insight on El Paso’s “safe” image with the constant violence occurring in their Mexican “sister city.”  The survey wanted to know if the violence in Mexico was “hurt(ing) El Paso economically by reducing its ability to draw businesses, conventions and conferences.” According to the article, “up to 41,000 surveys were sent to the business community.”

On Sept.

(Jose Luis Trejo/

The safest city in the U.S. holds hands with the most dangerous city in the Americas

EL PASO – After being named one of the five safest cities in America every year since 1997, El Paso attained the top spot for the first time in 2011 –número uno– as the safest city in America. According to the Congressional Quarterly Press City Crime Rankings of cities with populations of 500,000 or more, El Paso finally became the “safest city” this year. The study made by the research company was created to help law enforcement agencies identify localities with problems, to allocate grant funding, and to compare crime rates from different jurisdictions. Being just across the border from one of the most violent cities in the western hemisphere, El Paso has managed to stay at the top of the list. Immigrants tend to get the blame for whatever crime occurs here, but UTEP Lecturer Melinda Lauck disagrees.

El Paso Times launched in August 19 to reach the growing Spanish speaking population coming from Juárez.

El Paso Times launches Spanish language online publication

EL PASO – In El Paso somos frontera.  That means we are the border and The El Paso Times has adopted that reality as the name of its new Spanish language web newspaper. Targeting an audience in a city that is ranked first in the U.S. in the number of people who speak Spanish at home, The Times launched  on August 19. “We saw the need to cover detailed information about Ciudad Juárez, about what’s going on in El Paso, and about what’s going on in Las Cruces,” said Editor in Chief Lourdes Cárdenas. Spanish is the most commonly spoken language in the western hemisphere, including 16 percent of the U.S. population. Here in the borderland, Spanish is considered the most valuable second language for native English speakers.

Members of the Diaz family listen UTEP officials honor the memory of Eder Diaz. (Danya Hernandez/

Los nombres de víctimas olvidadas se convierten en números en Juárez

EL PASO —  Miles han muerto y mas siguen muriendo en Cd. Juárez  – 4703 personas en 2010 y en lo que va de 2011 – personas que se convierten en números dentro de los escritorios de funcionarios y los nombres se desvanecen en vaga memoria. El primer aniversario de las muertes de Eder Díaz y Manuel Acosta, dos estudiantes de la Universidad de Texas en El Paso asesinados en Cd. Juárez,  se cumple Noviembre 2. La mayoría de los casos de víctimas en la cuidad de Juárez, terminan como casos desaparecidos.

El Paso, the safest city in the U.S. by fact, the most dangerous by media coverage. (José Luis Trejo/

Growing congestion on border bridges can stifle business and kill jobs

EL PASO – An expected doubling of the populations of Cd. Juárez and El Paso by 2035 would cause dramatic delays at the border bridges resulting in a threat to business in both cities instead of providing larger markets. By 2035 the combined population of both cities is expected to reach 3.4 million, compared to 1.1 million in 1980 and nearly 2 million today. According to a study by the Texas Department of Transportation, the continuous population growth will cause wait times on international bridges to increase from two hours today to almost four hours 25 years from now. The extended wait times will provoke a negative effect in El Paso-Juárez business, said Dr. Gary Hedrick, assistant professor of finance at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Paisano Valley Water Project In El Paso. (William Blackburn/

Bi-national projects lead to health benefits for border residents

EL PASO — The bi-national project Border 2012 aims to improve the environment of the border region and the health of nearly 12 million people through a partnership between the United States and México. The goals of Border 2012 are to reduce water contamination, reduce air pollution, reduce land contamination, improve environmental health, and emergency preparedness and response. Paving miles of highways in Sonora, México using asphalt pavement will reduce particulate matter in the air that leads to respiratory diseases. Protecting and preserving the U.S.-México border region by identifying, developing, implementing and overseeing these environmental infrastructure projects is the job of the Border Environment Cooperation Commission (BECC) headquartered in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. Since 2005 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has authorized the BECC to manage $7.4 million for 144 Border 2012 projects.

When sicarios threatened to kill her, the muralist brought her art to El Paso

EL PASO – Her art name means magician and just like a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat, muralist Margarita “Mago” Gandara pulls creativity and rebellion from deep within her soul to produce intricate murals, sculptures and bronze pieces that mirror the Mexican-American culture that she fell in love with as a young child. The lively 82 year-old artist spins her story of survival in Juárez like a skilled story teller. After living in Juárez for nearly 40 years, Gandara was threatened by “sicarios” or assassins, who targeted her after seeing her truck with Texas license plates outside of her adobe home studio in a southern Juárez colonia. Immediately after being threatened, Gandara, with the help of her son, fled from her home taking as many pieces of art as she could, while still leaving some behind. Many of the pieces, along with additional new works will be displayed at an exhibit she calls, “Peregrinas Immigrantes” at UTEP on October 13th.

Banda Guerra de la escuela secundaria Técnica 55 dirigida por el instructor Luis Raúl Aguirre. (Belinda Fernandez/

Miles celebran el Grito mexicano en la plaza central de El Paso

EL PASO – Miles celebraron el Grito de Independencia de México en la plaza central de El Paso por segundo año seguido después de que Juárez canceló la fiesta del bicentenario de la independencia mexicana el año pasado. Las calles de Juárez quedaron silenciadas y muchos mexicanos no pudieron celebrar la jornada de la Independencia de México como en años anteriores. Debido a la cancelación del evento del Grito en Ciudad Juárez el año pasado, la fiesta realizada por el Consulado General de México en la Plaza San Jacinto aquí se a convertido en un evento mas grande. “Hemos visto el evento crecer de los cientos a los miles. Como vieron hoy, definitivamente se notó el incremento de gente asistiendo el evento”, dijo Frank Núñez, encargado del estacionamiento Mills Plaza.

Members of the UTEP community greet UTEP Police officers to thank them for their services as custodials of the community's security. (Jesus Sanchez/

The borderland changed forever after 9/11

EL PASO— The tragic attack on America  that happened thousands of miles away 10 years ago rippled through the border region, tightening up security at the checkpoints that divide Ciudad Juárez, México from El Paso, Texas. Students, professors, and faculty at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) gathered at a ceremony remembering and reflecting on the event on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. UTEP student Karina Lopez, who crosses the border often said that ever since that awful day the border checkpoints have been a hassle. “Traveling across the border became irrationally long. Security became so high and people became paranoid about crossing the border, when before it only took 15 minutes, now it takes up to three hours.”

Lopez says that in a sense, El Paso has changed since the 9/11 attacks.

Ciudad Juárez walls full of colors, late 90's. (Courtesy of Cheryl Howard)

La frontera de mi memoria

Traducido por César Silva Santisteban

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EL PASO – Deseo escribir sobre la frontera. Deseo escribir sobre ella sin llorar, pero eso no parece posible. Si todas nuestras lágrimas juntas cayeran sobre el Río Grande/Bravo irrigarían de nuevo su torrente. La edición «Mexodus» de Borderzine justo acaba de salir, y yo deseo leer y escribir acerca de todo esto sin llorar, pero no es posible. Mi amiga Georgina publicó un enlace hacia un artículo de El Diario que dice que 300 mil viviendas en Ciudad Juárez han sido abandonadas.

(Raymundo Aguirre/

Texas Blind Salamanders found in El Paso’s City Hall

EL PASO – The Texas Blind Salamander, an endangered species getting closer to oblivion because of the drought that descended on our state, appears to be alive, well and indeed thriving in the swamp-cooled hollows and dark passageways of El Paso’s City Hall. The wily diehards have mutated to achieve some degree of communication skills despite their small size and terrible handicap.  Although they remain sightless, they have been given public relations assignments by the city manager. Their first major assignment hit the top spot on the front page of the printed edition El Paso Times Wednesday under the headline. “Survey asks if El Paso should drop ‘sister city’ relationship with Juárez.”

Way to go salamanders!  With 15 years of international public experience under my belt, I can tell you that rookie flacks don’t usually make the front page in 72-point type!

Running from violence, young student finds cultural barriers in her new country

EL PASO — Mariana had always dreamt of her quinceañera party. For several months, she and her family planned the celebration, looked for the nicest dress and the best place, sent the invitations and ordered a big cake. But exactly 15 days before the big day, she was kidnaped from her home by a gang of thugs. On April 1st, 2009, 20 men dressed as Mexican police agents broke into her house in a small town in the state of Chihuahua, beat up her father and threatened him and the rest of the family. They took her away for two days and one night.

Inseguridad aumenta número de migrantes a Estados Unidos

CHIHUAHUA — El ultimo censo realizado por el Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI), mostró que un total de 1 millón 112 mil 273 mexicanos viven en Estados Unidos, cifra que representa el 89.4 por ciento de los migrantes que dejan el país, en su mayoría de entre 14 y 24 años de edad. Según datos del Consejo Nacional de población, hay más 500 mil chihuahuenses residiendo en Estados Unidos. Entre las principales causas de la migración, históricamente se encuentra la búsqueda de empleo, a la que, en los últimos tres años, se suma la inseguridad. A pesar de los esfuerzos que las autoridades federales y estatales realizan en materia de seguridad, son muchas las personas que han tenido que abandonar el estado debido a problemas de esta índole, desde funcionarios públicos, como Marisol Valles García, ex directora de la policía de Práxedis G. Guerrero, quien recientemente solicitó asilo político al vecino del norte ante amenazas del crimen organizado, hasta familias de la localidad que están alejadas del ámbito político. Tal es el caso de Iván Zaldívar, un estudiante de 19 años de edad, ex alumno del Tecnológico de Monterrey Campus Chihuahua.

El Centro Comercial San Lorenzo cerró su estacionamiento e instaló casetas para evitar los robos de autos y facilitar la detención de algún delincuente. (Gilda Moriel/

Surviving Juárez: Besieged residents and businesses devise strategies to stay safe in the violence-plagued city

Lea esta historia en español

CIUDAD JUÁREZ – María, a mother of four children and business owner, says her family has had to adopt “survival” measures to protect itself from the crushing daily violence plaguing her city. “We had to install a system of cameras that we monitor from home through the Internet,” said María, 54, who requested that her last name, details of her family and name of her businesses not be disclosed. This was after her family had to pay a “quota” when several of its businesses were targets of extortion, one family member was victim of an “express kidnapping,” and they realized their businesses were under constant surveillance by criminals. Subsequently, the family has contracted a security guard and installed alarms. By early afternoon, they lock the doors of their businesses and, as soon it starts to get dark, open the door only for known customers. They also removed business ads from the telephone directory and switched business and private telephone numbers to unlisted numbers.

Negocios juarenses huyen cuando clientes dejan de tocar a sus puertas

EL PASO – Durante los últimos tres años, los empresarios de Ciudad Juárez han vivido con el miedo de ser víctimas de la violencia que se ha apoderado de su ciudad. De acuerdo con la Cámara de Comercio de Juárez, más de 10,000 negocios en la ciudad han cerrado durante los últimos tres años debido a la violencia en  la ciudad. En una atmósfera que impide que cualquier negocio crezca, algunos empresarios han decidido ir en busca de mejores oportunidades en los Estados Unidos. Este es el caso de Inglés Individual, una franquicia de escuelas que abrirá sus puertas en El Paso en julio. “Si la situación no fuera tan dificil en Juárez, yo me hubiera quedado allá”, dijo Gustavo González, quien fundó Inglés Individual en noviembre de 1985, junto con sus hermanos, esposa y cuñadas.

Sobreviviendo Juárez: Residentes toman medidas ingeniosas para protegerse de la narcoviolencia y la criminalidad

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CIUDAD JUÁREZ — María, madre de cuatro hijos y administradora de varios negocios en Ciudad Juárez, ha tenido que tomar medidas para “sobrevivir” y protegerse de la violencia a su alrededor. “Tuvimos que poner un sistema de cámaras que monitoreamos de casa a través del Internet”, dijo María de 54 años, que pidió no se revelara su apellido o detalles de su familia y negocios. Esto, después de la extorsión de varios de sus negocios, el pago de la ya conocida “cuota”, un “secuestro exprés” de un familiar, y la vigilancia constante por parte de grupos delictivos. Como consecuencia, contrató un guardia de seguridad para uno de los negocios e instaló alarmas. Ahora cierra las puertas de todos los negocios con seguros a media tarde y cuando empieza a obscurecer las abren sólo a clientes conocidos.

Juárez businesses fleeing violence open doors north of the border

EL PASO — Three years ago, Carlos Gallardo Baquier’s 14-year-old son was victim of a kidnapping attempt. Three armed men assaulted the boy just outside the garage of his house, but before they caught him he escaped. The event, however, prompted his family to flee Juárez, leaving behind their already successful catering business in the city. “It was traumatic for the entire family,” Gallardo Baquier said. “Even though it is more difficult to manage our business here because of the regulations, it is more important to be safe.”

For 20 years, Gallardo-Baquier, owner of Gastronómica de Juárez, ran the successful food service company for maquiladoras in Ciudad Juárez.

A store at Mercado Juárez. (Courtesy of Cheryl Howard)

The border of my memory

I want to write about the border. I want to write about it without crying, but that doesn’t seem possible. If all our collective tears fell into the Rio Grande/Bravo, it would be a raging torrent again. The Mexodus edition of Borderzine just came out, and I want to read and write about it without crying, but that doesn’t seem possible. My friend Georgina posted a link to an article from El Diario that says 300 thousand dwellings in Cd.

Mexodus: A student journalism project that truly crosses fronteras

EL PASO — This Sunday Borderzine goes to press with Mexodus, an unprecedented bilingual student-reporting project that documents the flight of middle class families, professionals and businesses to the U.S. and safer areas of México because of soaring drug cartel violence and widespread petty crime in cities such as Ciudad Juárez. We believe Mexodus sets the bar for future collaborate investigative journalism that builds bridges across academic, national and language borders, in this case English and Spanish, the U.S. and Mexico.  The web and digital technology facilitated the collaboration, as well as expertise from professional trainers from Investigative Reporters and Editors and research by Fundación MEPI in México City. The project received funding from Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation. The result is more than 20 stories in two languages, videos, slideshows, photos, info graphics and charts produced by participation from nearly 100 student journalists from four universities, University of Texas El Paso, California State University Northridge, and Tecnológico de Monterrey in Chihuahua and México City. Although it was difficult for students to quantify the dislocation of México’s middle class due to the violence –– researchers and demographers estimate the Mexodus at about 125,000 –– more empirical studies will likely reveal a larger number of refugees pushed out by growing violence, perhaps twice as many, according to some.