Popular public art piece in Brownsville hit by ‘tagging’

An uplifting example of public art in downtown Brownsville has been defaced by spray-painting vandals, while other properties around downtown and Palm Boulevard have been targeted in recent weeks as well. Perhaps a week and a half ago, the colorful “Bloom Where You Are Planted” mural at East 9th and East Adams Street was “tagged” by clumsy black lettering defined by city ordinance as graffiti. Mayor Trey Mendez, who posted a photo of the damaged mural on his Facebook page, said he’s observed an uptick in unauthorized spray painting over the last month, and encouraged residents to report such activity to the Brownsville Police Department. Read the full story at themonitor.com

SpaceX exhibit opens at Museum of Fine Art

The Brownsville Community Foundation in partnership with the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art invites the community to the Boca Chica to Mars exhibit, a photographic chronicle featuring the official photography of SpaceX and various local photographers. The exhibit opens today for the community during regular museum hours and it chronicles the journey from simplicity and solitude to eye witnesses of history self-charged with documentation. “ Here we are, just living our normal lives and the most-watched, most-trending, possibly the most lucrative space industry corporation picks us to launch and test and build their future rockets and we didn’t even know it was coming,” Diane Milliken Garza, executive director for the Brownsville Community Foundation and chairman of Brownsville Arts and Culture who is also curator of the event, said. Read the full story at themonitor.com

RGV Reef begins major construction

Friends of RGV Reef has launched a major new phase of its artificial reefing project off South Padre Island, even as fishing boats reel in large numbers of red snapper the reef is already producing. Gary Glick, president of Friends of RGV Reef, said 20 million pounds of concrete railroad ties and other materials are being sunk over the next few weeks at the 1,650-acre reef site eight nautical miles off the coast and 14 nautical miles north of the Brazos Santiago Pass jetties. “We’ll move more material in this one deployment than exists in any of the other Texas reefs,” he said. “We’re going to lay down the bones of a new 400-acre nursery reef.” Read the full story at themonitor.com

Hispanic Caucus tours migrant camp

A delegation of congressional leaders followed U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, into Matamoros to witness conditions in the camp of asylum seekers just past the Gateway International Bridge on Friday. The coalition, consisting of various members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, saw a version of the camp filled with Mexican military and federal police standing by, armed with rifles. The staircase leading up to a levee along the Rio Grande had been cleared of caked, dried mud. “Are these armed police usually here?” asked U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., before confirming that authorities were present in the camp on Friday as a direct result of the delegation. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Journalist’s asylum case granted closer look

A Sierra Leone journalist who appealed his rejected request for asylum was granted additional proceedings by a federal appeals court last week. Judges with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that both immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) failed to analyze the claims made by M.J. — namely that he would be killed by pro-female genital mutilation activists if he returned home to Sierra Leone. According to the ruling, M.J. fled his home country after receiving death threats for writing a newspaper article, published in December 2016, calling for the abolition of female genital mutilation. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Migrants, helpers face blocks to emergency care

When asylum seekers waiting in Matamoros need emergency medical care, crossing the border into the United States is never a given — despite medical exemptions in the White House’s “Remain in Mexico” policy. “When we first got started, Border Patrol told one of our doctors that ‘this will not be a thing,’” said Helen Perry, executive director of Global Response Management (GRM), from the organization’s mobile unit set up just past the Gateway International Bridge in Matamoros. “When we exhaust all other resources, we have to cross these people into the United States for emergency treatment. They basically implied that we should be very careful not to abuse the system. And we’ve respected that.” The organization is the only full-time NGO set up along the border between Tijuana and Matamoros despite an estimated 60,000 asylum seekers stuck at ports of entry under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) with severely limited access to medical care. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Cameron County investigates stray gunfire incidents

The Cameron County Sheriff’s Department reported that a second Brownsville resident was struck by a stray bullet on New Year’s Eve. Chief Deputy Gus Reyna said that a 22-year-old man was hit on his left toe at exactly midnight on Jan. 1. The incident took place in the 2400 block of Delia Avenue in Cameron Park. The man was able to drive himself to Valley Regional Medical Center, where he was then treated and released. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Santa answers questions about the big job

Nevitt Ray Hargett never gets tired of being Santa Claus, a role he has played at malls from here to College Station since 2006 and is currently reprising at Sunrise Mall in Brownsville. “I’m telling you. I don’t need a million dollars to be happy,” Hargett said between visitors on a recent weekday afternoon in Brownsville. “Just seeing the smile on one child’s face and my day’s complete.” Hargett answered questions about the queries he gets from the children who sit on his lap. A big one was this: How do you visit all those houses? The answer was simple: “I have helpers.” Read the full story at themonitor.com

Lower Valley trails tapped for US bike route designation

Brownsville and Cameron County’s hike-and-bike trail network will be the first in Texas officially part of the U.S. Bicycle Route System if the Texas Department of Transportation’s application to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials is approved. AASHTO, which coordinates state highway departments around the country, designates and catalogs USBRS routes. More than 14,000 miles have been officially designated as part of the system in 27 states and Washington, D.C., connecting urban, suburban and rural areas. Many more routes are proposed around the country. USBRS will total 50,000 miles when complete. Proposed routes include a north-south route connecting Brownsville with Dallas-Fort Worth and an east-west route linking El Paso to East Texas, though to date no URBRS routes have been designated in the state, according to Ramiro Gonzalez, the city’s director of government affairs, who gave a presentation on the URBRS application during the Dec. 10 city commission meeting. Read the full story at themonitor.com

NWS: Cold front to bring ‘feel like’ temperatures in the 20s, 30s

Winter doesn’t officially arrive in the Western Hemisphere until this weekend, but for those who live in the Rio Grande Valley it might feel like it arrived sooner. A cold front will move through South Texas, bringing in a significant change in temperatures. This weekend, temperatures hovered at 90 degrees, with daily records broken in McAllen (93) and Brownsville (90), but on Tuesday they will range between 40-60 degrees. The National Weather Service in Brownsville said mornings will feel even colder Wednesday and Thursday. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Judge recuses himself from Atkinson case

One day after U.S. District Judge Rolando Olvera Jr. was assigned to hear the case of BISD Vice President Sylvia P. Atkinson, the federal judge recused himself from the case, although he gave no reason. Atkinson is charged with eight felony counts alleging soliciting and accepting bribes in exchange for Brownsville Independent School District contracts. In addition to her position on the BISD Board of Trustees, Atkinson serves as the executive director of High School Programs and Community Outreach at Texas Southmost College. Atkinson previously served as superintendent of Socorro, Santa Rosa and Los Fresnos school districts, and assistant superintendent of BISD and Rio Hondo Independent School District. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Brownsville school trustee arrested on bribery charges

An indictment handed down by a federal grand jury charging school district trustee with accepting bribes detailed at least one incident in which she is accused of soliciting thousands of dollars from an undercover FBI agent posing as an employee of a Brownsville-based film production company. The document, which was unsealed just prior to Sylvia Atkinson’s arrest outside of a scheduled Brownsville Independent School District meeting Tuesday night, charged Atkinson with eight counts including conspiracy to defraud the United States, bribery concerning a program receiving federal funds, and five counts of violation of the Travel Act - State Bribery law. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

ACLU files lawsuit to stop removals of asylum seekers

Civil rights attorneys filed a lawsuit against the federal government challenging an “expedited removal” pilot program put into place by the Trump administration which strips asylum seekers at certain ports of entry along the U.S-Mexico border of their right to counsel. According to a press release circulated by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas (ACLU-TX), the coalition filed a lawsuit in the District of Columbia against several government agencies under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that handle immigration and asylum cases. Reports indicated that the Trump administration implemented two new, secretive asylum processes on or around Oct. 7 which would expedite applicants’ credible fear interview. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Gladys Porter Zoo introduces brother warthogs

The Gladys Porter Zoo welcomed two new warthogs, brothers Rollo and Leonardo, to the zoo recently from Indianapolis. The brothers, who are currently about one-third of their full-grown size, were transported from Indiana and are quickly settling in to their new habitat, finished days ago. Patrick Burchfield, Gladys Porter Zoo director, explained how the exhibit was set up to accommodate the pigs, which are native to sub-Saharan Africa. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Three UTRGV students design winning holiday cards

Some holiday cards carry a little extra meaning during Christmas. In fact, for designing cards, three University of Texas Rio Grande Valley students in Brownsville won scholarships with cash awards in the 2019 University of Texas Rio Grande Valley President’s Holiday Card Contest. UTRGV President Guy Bailey presented the winners at a reception Thursday afternoon at the Student Union on the Brownsville campus. He delayed the presentation, waiting for UT System Chancellor James B. Milliken to arrive. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Family files lawsuit against Marine Military Academy

A 17-year-old boy, alongside his mother, filed a Title IX lawsuit against Marine Military Academy in Harlingen on Thursday in which the two allege the school retaliated against the young man for reporting that an assigned roommate hit, kicked, punched, and threatened to rape him on a daily basis. According to a complaint filed in federal court in Brownsville on Thursday, the young man, who is identified only by his initials, N.M., began attending the academy in August 2016. MMA is a boarding school and the family is based in San Antonio. The academy was founded in 1963 and is located on the site of a former military base in Harlingen. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Boggus, Tipton families team up for new dealership

The two families have been friends since the 1920s, but they’re just now getting around to partnering in business. Jim Tipton, president and owner of Tipton Auto Group, and Bob Boggus, owner and president of Boggus Motors, acquired Don Johnson Motors in Brownsville on Nov. 1. The new name is Boggus Tipton Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram. The connection between the two goes back four generations, when their grandfathers were friends and coworkers at the same Ford dealership in the ‘20s and ‘30s, Tipton said. The friendship continued with Boggus’ and Tipton’s fathers, and later with Bob and Jim themselves. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Asylum seeker challenges removal

A complaint was filed in a federal court this past week on behalf of an asylum seeker who is stuck in Matamoros as a result of the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols. The extensively detailed, 53-page document was a petition for a writ of habeas relief accompanied by a request for a temporary restraining order that would prevent the government from transporting the 23-year-old Honduran woman, referred to as X.E.G.M., back to Mexico. According to the petition, the woman entered the United States at Hidalgo on July 27. She fled Honduras after experiencing threats against her person and physical violence at the hands of the Honduran military police. Read the full story at themonitor.com

RGV native inducted into UT hall of fame

Antonio Garza, former U.S. ambassador to Mexico and a native of Brownsville, was inducted into the University of Texas McCombs School of Business Hall of Fame on Nov. 7 in Austin. The honor recognizes outstanding professional, civic, philanthropic and educational contributions from former students, faculty and other supporters of the McCombs school, where Garza earned his bachelor of business administration. Born and raised in Brownsville, the 1977 St. Joseph Academy graduate was elected Cameron County judge in 1988, making him the first Republican and youngest county judge in Texas at the time. He served in that office through 1994 and later held state and federal office. Garza attributes his success to his Rio Grande Valley roots. Read the full story at themonitor.com

Students learn, earn on school’s beverage truck

By all accounts, Tuesday was a perfect day for hot chocolate. With temperatures hovering in the 40s the Falcon Express beverage truck was on hand at Los Fresnos High School selling the cold-weather favorite among its other offerings to students, faculty and staff before school and during lunch. New this year, the Falcon Express is paired with three Career and Technical Education courses for special education students that teach skills applicable to the food service industry. One aim is that after graduation they will be able to secure employment at restaurants and other food service industry businesses. Read the full story at themonitor.com

SpaceX extends deadline, reappraises Boca Chica properties

BROWNSVILLE — SpaceX has extended its buyout offer deadline to Boca Chica Village homeowners and agreed to reappraise the properties after complaints that the original appraisals were too low. Last month, the Hawthorne, Calif.-based rocket company sent property owners a letter dated Sept. 12, offering them three times the value of their homes based on appraisals SpaceX had commissioned. The deadline for accepting the offer was two weeks from the date of the letter and the offer was non-negotiable. SpaceX said it wants to buy the properties due to a greater-than-anticipated disruption to residents and property owners as development of the company’s Mars rocket, Starship, gains steam. Read more at The Monitor.com

Attorneys cross border in Brownsville to help asylum seekers

BROWNSVILLE — Local attorney Jodi Goodwin and a volunteer team of interpreters, attorneys and paralegals cross to Matamoros to help asylum seekers with their cases every week. With folding wagons full of blue binders that carry the paperwork for the individual cases, the legal team makes their way across the Gateway International Bridge and sits under the sun for hours, helping the never-ending line of people who live in tents at La Plaza. “I think it is necessary, any process that is to be fair and due and judicial, for people to be able to have access to legal counsel, and the MPP (Migrant Protection Protocol) program really destroys any possibility of access to legal counsel by making everyone wait in Mexico … Without access to legal counsel there is no way that people’s situation can be better,” Goodwin said. Read more at The Monitor.com.

Presidential candidate Julian Castro condemns ‘remain-in-Mexico’ approach 

Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro crossed the border at the Gateway International Bridge Monday morning to visit a few of the hundreds of asylum-seeking migrants stranded in Matamoros and waiting for immigration court hearings. The migrants, the vast majority from Central America, number around 1,000 in Matamoros and are there because of a Trump administration policy — the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols, or “remain-in-Mexico” policy — that makes asylum seekers wait in Mexico until their hearings. The policy is one way the Trump administration is trying to discourage migrants from coming to the United States and claiming asylum. Before MPP was implemented, asylum-seekers were allowed to wait in the United States, frequently with family members already living here, until their hearing dates. Read more at the monitor.com.

UTRGV announces tuition break for qualified undergrads

Qualifying undergraduate students with adjusted gross family income of $75,000 or less will be able to attend the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley at...