Bordering the Future
Texas state agencies and the Mexican government cooperate on issues related to health, environment, wildlife, education, transportation, criminal justice, and tax policy along the border.
Major Texas-Mexico border activities include the Border Governors' Conference and the U.S.-Mexico Binational Commission. The Texas Department of Health, through its Office of Border Health, collaborates with four county health departments, two public university systems, six state agencies, two out-of-state health agencies, two federal agencies, and three international agencies in carrying out more than 20 health education, treatment, prevention, and research activities.
The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission's (TNRCC) Office of Border Affairs coordinates air-quality programs with Mexican border states and with the cities of Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, and Reynosa. Other programs include a toxic substances study in collaboration with Mexico's national water commission and a pollution-prevention site assistance program in coordination with Mexico's attorney general for the environment. In addition, TNRCC has been developing state-to-state strategic environmental plans with each of the four Mexican states bordering Texas.
The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department border activities range from stocking wildlife to conducting joint wildlife conservation, historical preservation, and environmental planning projects to safeguard the region's natural resources.
The Texas Education Agency has worked with the Secretaría de Educación Pública--the Mexican counterpart of the U.S. Department of Education--to develop a binational document enabling migrant students to transfer academic information and grades between schools in Mexico and the U.S. The Program for Mexican Communities Abroad, implemented by the Mexican State Department, offers courses for bilingual teachers in U.S. school districts.
Texas' public higher education institutions also have been implementing joint programs with Mexico. The University of Texas-El Paso (UTEP), Texas A&M International in Laredo, UT-Pan American in Edinburg, and UT-Brownsville have launched joint efforts in business, manufacturing, and other academic areas. Texas A&M International has teamed with the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, the Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila-Saltillo Campus, and the Universidad Regiomontaña in Monterrey; Texas A&M International also has begun negotiating partnerships with universities in Guadalajara, Guanajuato, and Mexico City.1
Since 1991, UTEP has been a member of a consortium comprising UTEP, El Paso Community College, New Mexico State University, and five Chihuahua institutions of higher learning. UTEP has participated, since 1992, in a faculty and student exchange program with the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana de México. A 1996 agreement between UTEP and Mexico's National Association of Universities and Institutions of Higher Learning permits graduate students from Mexico to get credit at Mexican institutions for graduate course work at UTEP. UT-Brownsville has joint programs with the Universidad Autónoma de Tamaulipas and the Instituto Technológico de Matamoros.
Since the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has increased its involvement in transportation projects related to the Texas-Mexico border.2 Activities range from membership and participation in the Land Transportation Standards Subcommittee, developing driver and vehicle standards for Mexican trucks crossing into the U.S.--including truck weight and dimension standards--to TxDOT district offices' long-time cooperation with Mexican transportation officials to resolve daily cross-border transportation issues. TxDOT's International Relations Office has functioned as the agency's primary border liaison to Mexican counterparts, representing the state in a variety of NAFTA-related transportation activities, including the Standing Committee on Border Affairs, and binational transportation committees with Mexican states.
In 1985, the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission (TJPC) implemented an award-winning Border Children Justice Project.3 In collaboration with federal authorities from both countries, juvenile courts, the U.S. Border Patrol, local law enforcement, Mexican and U.S. consulates, child protective agencies, and Mexican correctional officials, the TJPC developed policies and procedures for Texas and Mexican states to use in dealing with juvenile offenders in El Paso, Webb, Cameron, Val Verde, and Starr counties and in border Mexican states. Previously, the communities had no policies for holding, detaining, or transferring U.S. and Mexican juveniles who had run afoul of the law in each other's country. Since then, this project has been emulated in California's border region. The program, funded through TJPC discretionary funds and state challenge grants, coordinates the return of Mexican and American juvenile offenders to their communities on either side of the border.
The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts has served as a member of the Border States Caucus, an organization of state tax officials from Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico. Formed in May 1993, the caucus focuses on promoting free trade and reducing administrative barriers to trade between the two countries through uniform and equitable laws, rules, procedures, and documentation of taxable and non-taxable transactions.4
The Texas Attorney General's Office is a member of an organization composed of state attorneys general from both sides of the border, who meet annually to discuss legal issues that affect life in both countries. These joint efforts focus on criminal prosecutions, auto theft prevention, judicial relations, children's issues, and legal issues arising from NAFTA.
The Border Governors' Conference 16th annual meeting was in Brownsville this past June. Since 1982, the conference has enabled the 10 border governors (Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas) to develop personal relationships, identify and address issues and opportunities of the Border region, and to promote initiatives to improve the region's quality of life.
1 Texas A&M International University, Impact of NAFTA on International Trade and Education, by Dr. Khosrow Fatemi (Laredo, Texas, March 1998).
2 Texas Department of Transportation, International Activities Report (Austin, Texas, 1997), pp. 1-48.
3 Texas Juvenile Probation Commission, Border Children Justice Projects (Austin, Texas, March 4, 1998). (Facsimile.)
4 Border States Caucus, Bylaws and Mission Statement, May 13, 1993.
Bordering the Future