Posts Tagged ‘border patrol’

Calls for increased militarization of the border come from Texas members of the ‘Drone Caucus’

Posted on: January 31st, 2012 by Teddy Wilson 1 Comment

A predator drone (source: Wikimedia Commons)

The increased violence in Mexico fueled by the war between drug cartels and the Mexican government has also fueled political rhetoric on the American side, calling for the militarization of the countries’ border. (more…)

Sen. Bingaman denounces House budget because of large cuts to border patrol

Posted on: February 22nd, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman signed onto a letter with Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., announcing opposition to the budget bill passed by the House because of large cuts to border security that would cut 870 Border Patrol agents and $272 million in funds for surveillance systems along the United States’ border with Mexico.

The letter was written by Schumer and co-signed by Bingaman and Tester.

The New York Times reported:

Support for their criticism came in testimony last week before a House Homeland Security subcommittee by Richard M. Stana of the Government Accountability Office. He reported that by the Border Patrol’s own standards, its agents had “operational control” over only 873 miles of the 2,000-mile border with Mexico in 2010, or about 44 percent.

However, chief of the Border Patrol Michael J. Fisher disputed the numbers used by Stana because of advances in surveillance technology and a doubling of the Border Patrol force since 2004.

With more than 20,700 agents last year, the Border Patrol has doubled in size since funding increases began in 2004. Arrests of illegal border crossers have dropped steeply, to 463,000 last year from 1.1 million in 2004.

DC: When is a wilderness bill more than just a wilderness bill?

Posted on: October 29th, 2010 by The American Independent No Comments

For the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, designating land as wilderness is pretty much like breathing. And so when the committee unanimously passed a bill to convert a swath of southern New Mexico into wilderness in July, people didn’t think much of it.

Until they did. Suddenly, advocates of tight immigration enforcement are up in arms, claiming that the measure to protect the environment of this mountainous terrain would hinder Border Patrol and allow a new flood of immigrants to enter New Mexico. And an increase in activity by immigrants and cartels, in turn, could actually end up hurting the environment, they argue.

But environmental groups say this argument is just a political ploy to clamp down on immigration. It’s a complicated debate, with no clear answers. The full Senate will be considering the bill sometime after it reconvenes, and much is up in the air. Elise Foley has the full story.

DC: Latino fears of anti-immigrant backlash rise

Posted on: October 28th, 2010 by The American Independent No Comments

A new poll from Pew Hispanic Center provides some insight into how Latinos — both U.S.-born and immigrants — view immigration issues. Perhaps most interesting is the fact that fears over discrimination and deportation have increased since 2009. This makes sense: Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported a record number of illegal immigrants this year, and one-third of the Latinos polled said they knew someone who had been deported or detained by immigration officials within the past year.

But despite laws such as Arizona’s SB 1070 that increased fears of anti-immigrant backlash, the number who reported experiencing discrimination remained nearly the same as it was in 2009, at about 33 percent. The number of Latinos who said they had been asked for papers actually went down a few percentage points, from nine percent in 2008 to five percent in the most recent poll.

While Latinos largely dislike laws like SB 1070 — 79 percent said they opposed it, versus 32 percent percent of Americans overall who opposed the law — and think immigration enforcement should be left to federal authorities, they differ on how the country should handle illegal immigration. Here’s a breakdown on what Latinos said should be done with undocumented immigrants already in the country:

Most Latinos polled said they disapprove of other enforcement measures such as workplace raids or more fences along the border. About half support the idea of more border patrol agents, though, and most said they would support a national ID card.

The poll also adds some interesting perspective to the debate over so-called “anchor babies,” or the practice of illegal immigrants coming to the country to have children who will be U.S. citizens. While 30 percent of Latinos said illegal immigrants come to the United States to have a child here, 64 percent said this was untrue. Republican politicians have said birthright citizenship creates an incentive for illegal immigration, and some plan to propose legislation ending the practice in their states.

(Photo: John Amick)

DC: Border enforcement program critics say it’s expensive, ineffective and unfair

Posted on: October 21st, 2010 by Paul No Comments

As Republicans push for increased border enforcement, many have sought to expand Operation Streamline, a “zero tolerance” immigration enforcement program that automatically slates all migrants caught crossing the border illegally for criminal prosecution. (Immigrant deportation is generally a civil, not a criminal, matter.) But critics of the program point to serious concerns with Operation Streamline, claiming it is too expensive, too unfair and has not been proven effective at deterring illegal immigration. The Phoenix New Times provides a comprehensive — and long — look at these criticisms in a piece today on border crossers who plead guilty as part of Operation Streamline.

The whole piece is worth a read, but I’ll break it down into the concerns it raises about Operation Streamline:

Cost: It’s unclear exactly how much Operation Streamline costs, because it pulls money from various involved agencies rather than having its own budget. But studies have found the program could cost as much as $1 billion per year. Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl, both Republicans, have argued for additional funding of Operation Streamline as part of their proposed 10-point border security plan.

Strategies: In part due to the high cost of prosecuting so many migrants, an Operation Streamline court in Tuscon, Ariz., only sees 70 of the 1,000 migrant apprehensions per day. The Phoenix New Times reported the group of 70 migrants is generally about 70 percent first-timers and 30 percent migrants who had been apprehended for crossing the border before — meaning they face felony illegal re-entry and misdemeanor illegal entry. The punishments for these offenses are very different: Misdemeanor illegal entrants can serve as few as three days, while felony illegal re-entry can earn a migrant up to twenty years in prison.

What happens to the approximately 930 migrants apprehended each day but not chosen for Operation Streamline hearings? They are sent back to Mexico, which means some migrants who re-entered illegally — the criminal illegal immigrants the Department of Homeland Security claims are its priority — are passed over by the supposedly “zero tolerance” program.

Operation Streamline courts also see a fair number of people who were apprehended on their way back to Mexico, which critics argue is a Border Patrol tactic to drive up enforcement data. “They’re boosting [the Border Patrol's apprehension] numbers,” Federal Public Defender Matthew Johnson told the Phoenix New Times, “by arresting the people going southbound.”

Effectiveness: The piece also points to concerns about the effectiveness of Operation Streamline as a deterrent. While proponents of the program argue it will keep migrants from crossing the border illegally, this seems to not fully be the case — at least anecdotally. The Phoenix New Times spoke to many migrants who were prosecuted under Operation Streamline who said they planned to return to the United States. While Border Patrol claims there is little recidivism, the possibility that migrants return without detection means actual data on illegal return is hard to come by. Overall, experts argue the program lacks consistent review and oversight to ensure it’s doing its job.

Justice: Operation Streamline courts usually operate through mass hearings, where a public defender represents a large number of clients and judges issue questions and decisions en masse.  Defendants sign away their right to an individual judge to enter Operation Streamline, because the process promises to be much faster: a couple of days in jail, typically, rather than months awaiting a trial. Still, critics argue the program creates criminal prosecutions without adequate defense (many defendants cannot communicate with their public defender due to language barriers) and unjust court procedures.

(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/junksignal)

DC: Miller argues for East Germany-like border security plan

Posted on: October 19th, 2010 by Patrick Brendel No Comments

Speaking of border security, Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller, a Tea Partier who ousted Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the state’s Republican primary, has a proposal for how to make the borders safer: Emulate East Germany.

“The first thing that has to be done is secure the border,” Miller said Sunday. “East Germany was very, very able to reduce the flow. Now, obviously, other things were involved. We have the capacity to, as a great nation, secure the border. If East Germany could, we could.”

Looking past the fact East Germany had more trouble keeping its residents in than keeping immigrants out, how much would it cost to implement East Germany-style border security?

First, it would require building a fence along the country’s borders, which could cost as much as $49 billion over a 25-year lifespan of the fence, according to a non-partisan Congressional Research Service report. That cost accounts for up to $70 million per mile for construction and upkeep of the fence, which would likely be damaged by would-be border crossers. Plus, there would be the cost of acquiring private land along the borders, hiring private contractors for construction and increased staffing of Border Patrol and customs agents along the borders.

Murkowski, who is challenging Miller with a write-in campaign, also supports a border fence. She voted the approve the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which allowed for a fence to be constructed along 700 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border — still a far cry from creating a fence along the entire 1,950-mile border.

(Photo: Flickr/JoeWMiller)

DC: What does ‘secure the border’ actually mean?

Posted on: October 14th, 2010 by The American Independent No Comments

Alan Bersin, the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, was asked a good question during a talk this afternoon hosted by the Migration Policy Insitute: Securing the border is his job, but what exactly does he consider a secure border? It’s an interesting question, particularly given the debate over when the country should take on comprehensive immigration reform to deal with the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country. One side of the debate argues the borders must be secured before the government can take steps to allow some of those illegal immigrants to gain legal status. On the other side — the one the Obama administration has supported — reform advocates argue that providing paths to legalization for some illegal immigrants is necessary to reducing tensions and creating secure borders. But neither side seems to provide a clear answer as to what factors would indicate that the border was officially “secure.” Bersin did not make such a pronouncement either, but he did provide some clarification into the Obama administration’s objectives. “What we mean by border security is public safety, and this perception in the community that the border is being reasonably managed,” he said. It’s possible to measure public safety: The FBI and other organizations track rates of violent crime and property crime across the country. But perception is trickier to define. While some polls have indicated that residents of border regions feel safe, rhetoric among some officials encourages high levels of fear about illegal immigration. Warranted or not, this definition means the border cannot be secure unless all residents of border regions think it is secure — a seemingly impossible feat given the length of the border and the differences of opinion on the issue. The problem is that no one seems to be exactly sure how many resources should be directed at the border. After National Guard troops were deployed to the southern border in recent months, national security experts argued that the government had done too little research to determine what methods were actually effective at keeping illegal immigrants and smuggled items from crossing the border. “We frankly don’t have a very good understanding of what we should invest more in and where we should spend our resources,” Jack Riley, director of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, told Politico last month. When Bersin was asked how many agents, roughly, would be needed to secure the border, he hedged. “We need to obtain a secure southwest border to say how many agents we need,” he said. On the one hand, this makes sense: The border is 1,950 miles long, and needs for agents shift as migrants and smugglers change their routes for entering the country. But the lack of specifics seems to leave a large window for anti-comprehensive immigration reform to demand more border patrol, whether or not it is actually increasing safety and security. There are currently 20,000 Border Patrol agents along the U.S.-Mexico border — higher than at any time in the country’s history. The Obama administration argues the border is at its most secure point in history, citing lower rates of illegal immigration and increased enforcement within the country. But in the end, securing the border fully — or completely eliminating illegal immigration — is impossible while illegal immigrants can still find work in the U.S., Bersin said. “Absent comprehensive immigration reform, people will try to enter the country illegally,” he said. “We will try to stop that, and we are doing that better than ever. But absent reform, that will continue.” If Republicans define a secure border in absolute terms, then, it seems likely gridlock over immigration reform will continue.

(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/Jonathan McIntosh)

DC: Will National Guard troops at the border make a difference?

Posted on: October 8th, 2010 by The American Independent No Comments

There are 1,200 National Guard troops on the U.S.-Mexico border, working as extra “eyes and ears” for Border Patrol agents to watch for trafficking and illegal border crossing. But as the Associated Press points out in its story today on the troop deployment, many question whether they will make any real difference.

The problem is that National Guard troops have no power to make arrests. This is partially to maintain foreign relations: Mexican President Felipe Calderón said in May he would support the deployment as long as National Guard troops did not make arrests. “If the National Guard helps toward a common purpose of having a safer border and if they can do this without detaining Mexican migrants, I think this [planned deployment] could bring about positive results,” Calderón said.

But without arrest power, critics argue the troops will be ineffective. Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce (R) told the AP the troops amount to a “welcome wagon” for illegal immigrants:

“They’re military, and instead of letting them do their job, we let them down there with typewriter ribbon and oil cans,” said Pearce, who wrote Arizona’s controversial immigration legislation. “We send them overseas in harm’s way but we don’t let them defend our own borders in a proper manner?”

On the other hand, critics of the deployment argue there are too few troops to substantially increase border security. Of the 1,200 troops deployed, 524 went to Arizona, 224 to California, 72 to New Mexico and 250 to Texas. The final 130 went to a national liaison office. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has pushed for additional troops as part of his 10-point border security plan, said in May that he welcomed the troops but that the move was “not enough” to stabilize the border.

Questions over the National Guard’s effectiveness do not just come from the right: Human rights groups argue the troops are unnecessary because residents of border states already feel safe.

Still, Border Patrol officials said the National Guard is boosting security. About 400 illegal immigrants were arrested this summer after being spotted by National Guard troops, the AP reported.

(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/Jonathan McIntosh)