Brownsville Literacy Center Seeing Slight Drop in Numbers Due to Tighter Border Security


POSTED: Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 2:19pm

UPDATED: Friday, April 1, 2011 - 7:19am

Tighter border security on both the U.S. and Mexican side is having an effect on enrollment numbers at the Brownsville Literacy Center.

News Center 23 reporter Na'Tassia Finley explains problems students are running into at the border.

Around 1200 students take classes at the Brownsville Literacy Center every year.

The most popular class is the English as a Second Language course. It's an adult class that has both American and Mexican nationals of all ages.

"I need to improve my English and things about me, what will be my future. If I continue to live in the United States I need to improve my English, it's necessary," says Astrid Valdivez, an ESL student.

But the enrollment numbers at the literacy center have slightly dropped recently. The majority of the students taking the ESL classes are those that live here on the U.S. side. The other 20% or so, are not American citizens, and they're the ones running into obstacles.

"We get a small percentage of students that do have working permits or that live here that cross the bridge," says the executive director, Victor Rivera of the Brownsville Literacy Center.

As border security has tightened, it's made learning more difficult for some of these students, some have even had to drop the course.

"A lot of the students are stopped at the bridge, their books are confiscated for whatever reason, and one particular student mentioned, "well they're hindering my opportunity to learn," says Rivera.

But it's not here on the U.S. side that these valuable learning materials are being taken; according to Rivera, it's actually on the Mexican side.

We spoke to a representative of the Mexican Consulate and even to a U.S. Customs Agent to see why these textbooks would be confiscated; both said it could have something to do with either copyright infringements or if a student has too many of one particular book.

But Rivera says the books that have been taken from students are single sets of original textbooks assigned for the class.

While it's not quite clear as to why the books are actually being picked up, the center is trying to help with the problem by storing some of the student’s books at the center so they don't have to carry them back and forth across international lines.

Rivera says the students who are taking the ESL courses are those who are working to become more productive members of society and those working towards u-s citizenship, and learning English is just one way to get them closer to that dream.

For more information on the Brownsville Literacy Center and classes offered, you can contact them at 542-8080 or through their website at, or visit them in person at 1235 E. Jefferson in downtown Brownsville.

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