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UTPA designated a partner in U.S. Department of Homeland Security project
By Office of University Relations
956/381-2741
Posted: 02/29/2008
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The University of Texas-Pan American has been named a partner university in the establishment of the Center of Excellence for Border Security and Immigration by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“The establishment of this center is another significant marker in UTPA’s transformation to a nationally recognized learner-centered research institution. This along with other recently announced initiatives, such as the Center for Rapid Response Manufacturing, are part of our plan to bring additional intellectual and fiscal resources to the Valley,” said Dr. Paul Sale, UTPA provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

The center, spearheaded by The University of Arizona at Tucson, will be a consortium of 12 universities, including UTPA that will focus on the research of population dynamics, immigration administration and enforcement, operational analysis, control and communications, immigration policy, civic integration and citizenship, border risk management and international governance.

Partner universities under the research component will share $15 million over the next six years to develop better models for understanding immigration and new technologies, such as surveillance, screening, data fusion and situational awareness using sensors, unmanned aerial vehicles and other technologies. While The University of Arizona at Tuscon will head the research area, The University of Texas at El Paso will lead the educational component of the center. The Center of Excellence for Border Security and Immigration is one of five new Centers conducting multi-disciplinary research and creating innovative learning environments for critical homeland security missions.

Dr. Van Reidhead, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences dean, will lead the cross-campus collaborative effort of UTPA interdisciplinary scientists, who will study a wide range of immigration-related factors affecting border security and quality of life in the U.S.-Mexico border region including undocumented immigration, civic integration of new immigrants, human and drug trafficking, utilization of public services, criminal behavior, detention and court processes, law enforcement practices and policies, and trade and international relationships of border communities.

“The beauty of this center is that DHS has funded UTPA researchers to study immigration on the border for what it really is, not what Washington thinks it is. The UTPA approach will be used to understand immigration throughout the country,” Reidhead said.

UTPA’s research is anchored to the Borderlife Research Project of Dr. Chad Richardson, professor in the Department of Sociology, who, for more than 30 years, has developed a model utilizing student researchers to conduct research related to the distinct South Texas social and cultural environment. Since then, his students have conducted more than 10,000 interviews among 25 distinct social or cultural groups on both sides of the border resulting in more than 6,000 ethnographic accounts of the lives of individual people as told by them. The economic value of the borderlife archive has been appraised in recent years at $2 million.

Reidhead said the center will not only support UTPA’s vision of becoming the premier learner-centered research institution in the state, but it will give UTPA students choices and the preparation needed to succeed in whatever career path they choose. The Center of Excellence for Border Security and Immigration Reidhead said is also a good addition to UTPA’s Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence, a federally designated center on campus that was funded through a $2.5 million government grant in 2006 and is piloted by the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.