Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Analyzing the fence

Analyzing the fence
By Kevin Sieff
October 21, 2008 - 10:02PM

Students and faculty from the University of Texas at Austin's School of Law and the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College will bring their analyses of the border fence to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights today in Washington, DC.

The hearing marks the first time the barrier has been discussed in an international forum. UT law professors and students will raise questions about the fence's impact on the environment, indigenous rights and other international statutes with which the United States has agreed to comply.

"Our hope is by shedding new light on the issue and providing useful analyses we'll force the next administration to think about the project's compatibility with international human rights law," said professor Denise Gilman.

In the 10 months leading up to the hearing, students and professors researched the fence's potential affect in Brownsville and other stretches of the Texas-Mexico border.

One study by UTB-TSC professor Jeff Wilson revealed that the barrier would be built disproportionately on land owned by low-income, minority families.

Those findings bolster the case against the fence, Gilman said, including its encroachment on judicial protection and equality before the law.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is a branch of the Organization of American States, an international body charged with monitoring the human rights obligations of 35 nations in the Americas, including the United States.

Though the OAS may not be able to dictate whether the fence is erected in Brownsville, the hearing will offer an international perspective on an issue that has occupied federal courts for more than a year.

Today's hearing is the first of four that will be held in the next week.

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