APRIL 07, 2010
Nearly half a year after a professor at a public university spent taxpayer dollars to create a tool that helps Mexicans enter the United States illegally, the area’s congressional delegation has finally decided to investigate the matter.
The activist Chicano professor (Ricardo Dominguez) at the University of California San Diego, a major public institution not far from the Mexican border, proudly announced his new invention—Transborder Immigrant Tool—in November without scrutiny from university officials or the feds. The idea is to help Mexicans enter the U.S. illegally by mapping the safest routes through the notoriously rigorous southern border desert.
The innovative technology is a simple mobile application —inserted into the cheapest available cell phone on the market—which guides illegal aliens through the least dangerous routes, areas with shelter, food, water and so-called Quaker help centers that provide medical attention and directions to the nearest major U.S. highway. The mobile program is touted as an “intelligent agent algorithm” that parses out the best routes and trails on a particular day and hour so that Mexicans can cross the “vertiginous landscape” as safely as possible.
Dominguez, a tenured visual arts professor, was inspired to create the technology by the thousands of Mexicans who have died on their journeys north because they got lost in the treacherous terrain. For months he boasted about his new Transborder Immigrant Tool, but the publicity campaign has come to a screeching halt and his tenure is at risk because federal lawmakers are finally looking into the matter.
The area’s three representatives in the U.S. House—Brian Bilbray, Duncan Hunter and Darrell Issa—are demanding that the university’s chancellor provide a precise accounting of public funds associated with the Transborder Immigrant Tool. Referring to it as a “troubling use of taxpayer dollars,” the legislators point out that those who worked on the device may be committing a federal felony by encouraging illegal immigration.
Dominguez has dismissed the probe as a sort of witch hunt, assuring that he used less than $10,000 in taxpayer grants and suggesting the congressman should be more concerned about the cost of investigating him. That amount, the professor believes, will be much more than what he spent on the entire project to help illegal border crossers.
Mexico’s government has provided its nationals with valuable tools to help them cross the border safely but Dominguez is the first American resident, with a salary provided by U.S. taxpayers, to openly promote such a gadget. A few years ago Mexican officials published a 32-page booklet (Guia Del Migrante Mexicano) with safety tips for border crossers and distributed hand-held satellite devices to ensure the violators complete their journey safely.
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