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Fronteras: Disease, Immigration And Insensitive Language


Fridays at 3 p.m., Saturdays at 6 a.m., and Sundays at 9 p.m.

This week on Fronteras:

-- How did measles, once eliminated in the United States, make a comeback?  One congressman is using insensitive language and blaming immigrants for the recent outbreak. But has immigration really caused measles to return?  Fronteras examines that concern and the loaded language that surrounds illegal immigration. 

-- The sealing of much of the Rio Grande border after 9/11 devastated that area of rural Mexico’s economy. Now, solar power is the key to reinvigorating it. Electricity and friendlier faces at a border crossing checkpoint are easing tensions and improving life in Boquillas.

-- Drivers cleared for so-called fast lanes at border crossings find themselves the unwitting victims of drug smugglers.

-- A new state of the art swimming pool at a YMCA makes swimming problematic for some Muslim women, in a large San Diego immigrant neighborhood.

Measles Outbreak Stirs Up Controversy When Politicians Blame It on Undocumented Immigrants

The return of measles to the U.S. is raising questions about how a disease eradicated in this country more than a decade ago, has infected nearly 800 people over the past year. At least two Republican politicians, Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama, have said that people who are here illegally might be responsible.  

Rep. Brooks' comments

We asked Dr. Thomas Mayes to weigh in. He is chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. 

Dr. Thomas C. Mayes on Fronteras

Rep. Brooks used the term “illegal aliens” to refer to people in the United States without government authorization.  It’s a label many people find offensive and politically charged, especially in the Southwest.

TPR News Director Shelley Kofler  said the terms “illegal aliens” and “illegals” were also used by candidates in last year’s election campaign, and during the debate over how to respond to thousands of unaccompanied Central American children coming into the country.

In the midst of those events, NPR put into writing its policy for terminology journalists should and should not use in covering this issue of illegal immigration.  Kofler talked with Keith Woods about it. Woods is Vice President for Diversity in News and Operations at NPR.

NPR's Keith Woods on Fronteras

Not all journalists, however, follow the guidelines Woods outlined, something that prompted Fronteras commentator Yvette Benavides to weigh in with her thoughts.

Commentary on Fronteras

Benavides is a professor of English at Our Lady of the Lake University and a book critic for the San Antonio Express-News.

Solar Power is Rekindling More Than Electricity in the Rural Mexico Town of Boquillas  

A rural Texas border crossing is the lynchpin of a plan to rebuild the economy along hundreds of miles of the Rio Grande. The sealing of the border after the 9/11 terrorist attacks crushed codependent, economies on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. A lack of electricity made it worse.

Lorne Matalon of Marfa Public Radio reports that everything is about to change. Solar power is the reason why.


Drivers Cleared for Fast Lanes At Border Crossing Are Fair Games For Drug Smugglers

The U.S.-Mexico border had about 12.5 million crossings in its “fast lane” during 2013.  Only the most trusted drivers get to use the fast lane. They go through extensive background checks and receive special car stickers to let them bypass hours of traffic in either direction. Now, drug smugglers have found a way to use those privileged drivers as drug mules, without their knowledge.  Nate John of KPBS in San Diego has more.

In January, one motorist who saw the magnet containers when he crossed into the U.S., called police because he thought it might be an explosive device. When police responded, they found more than 13 pounds of heroin under the vehicle in six magnetized cylinders.  


Some Muslim Women In San Diego Want to Go Swimming, But Privately

Also in San Diego, certain Muslim women are having a hard time finding a place to swim. In the largely immigrant mid-city area, the YMCA has offered Muslim women the option of swimming during off hours for several years now. But the facility has a new, impressive glass-enclosed swimming pool, which offers less privacy because it’s partially visible from the street and common areas. That has become a problem for some Muslim women who prefer to swim with no unfamiliar eyes on them.  KPBS reporter Megan Burks joined the women on a recent tour of the state of the art facility to understand the issue at hand.


Shelley Kofler is Texas Public Radio’s news director. She joined the San Antonio station in December 2014 and leads a growing staff that produces two weekly programs; a daily talk show, news features, reports and online content. Prior to TPR, Shelley served as the managing editor and news director at KERA in Dallas-Fort Worth, and the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.