EL PASO -- The U.S.-Mexico border is constantly changing and officials at the Department of Homeland Security believe the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) is the perfect institution to help meet the future security demands of the nation.
The National Center for Border Security and Immigration at UTEP was officially unveiled Tuesday during the fifth annual Border Security Conference at UTEP.
The formal announcement was made this morning by Jay M. Cohen, Undersecretary for Science and Technology for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. U.S. Representative Silvestre Reyes and UTEP President Diana Natalicio joined Cohen in the announcement.
Retired Army Brigadier General Jose Rojas will be the Executive Director of the center.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Rojas lauded the program's launch. "This is about aligning our intellectual capital ... with the needs of DHS," he told the AP. "They've given us a challenge to make a different and new approach."
Officials at the conference announced that UTEP will be joining forces with the University of Arizona at Tucson to conduct research and come up with new technologies, tools, and advanced methods to balance immigration and commerce with effective border security.
According to a news release, their focus will be to assess threats and vulnerabilities, improve surveillance and screening, analyze immigration trends, and help enhance policy and law enforcement efforts.
"What we're trying to do, is to create the workforce, the students, develop the next generation that will make the nation safer," said Cohen.
The university was elected the National Center for Border Security and Immigration earlier this year. It will receive up to six-million dollars over the next six years to aid in the research and long-term solutions to border security and immigration issues.
Officials say it will allow students to take courses dealing with border security and immigration, and help prepare them for various new career opportunities with the department.
"It will be great for students that are into those careers and it just adds to the opportunities here at UTEP," said Julieta Ibaraki, UTEP student.