Securing a better future

On a beautiful near-spring day in Austin more than a thousand people from all over the state gathered at their state Capitol to show support for comprehensive immigration reform.

One clear message from the Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance, which included dozens of supporting organizations, including the El Paso-based Border Network for Human Rights, was that “border security” should not be tied to immigration reform.

Immigration reform is a question of what to do with people who are in this country, contributing to society, but being kept in the shadows. “Border security,” at least in the context in which it is used, is a fuzzy term that allows opponents of reform to insist upon unreachable goals as a way of stalling the process.

As has been recently reported, we have spent more on border security than on all other federal law enforcement combined. A staggering $18 billion in Fiscal 2012 alone went to border security — more than the combined budgets of the DEA, FBI, ATF, Secret Service and U.S. Marshals Service!

We have met benchmarks for funding, staffing, and other quantifiable elements of “border security.” Undocumented border crossings are down, even as record numbers of people are deported.

This paragraph in a Business Week article sums it neatly:

In negotiating the failed 2007 deal, Republican lawmakers demanded that President Bush deploy four drones to scan the border, build 105 radar and camera towers, raise the number of Border Patrol agents to 20,000, and erect 670 miles of fencing. Today, the U.S. has 10 border drones, 300 towers, and 21,394 agents—18,500 of them stationed on the U.S.-Mexico border. Fencing now covers 651 miles of the border, twice the length in 2009, and immigration agents have deported some 1.5 million undocumented workers in the past four years, the most since Dwight Eisenhower was president.

Ya Basta! Enough!

Now we must review, and where needed, reform, how we have applied our resources to the border, not use the term “border security” as a way to delay the necessary reforms to our immigration system that will take millions of people out of the shadows and on the track towards full economic, social and cultural participation in the American Dream.

To place a focus on our communities as “subjects of interest,” immediately suspect as a “national security threat,” is to do a disservice to the millions of people who live and work on the border. It also dishonors the hard work and dedication of those who continue to do their job of securing the border, and who now would benefit from further oversight, not further blank checks. More than a dozen people have been killed by Border Patrol agents in the last three years.

With respect to “national security,” here’s what The Atlantic recently reported:

There’s never been a reported case of a terrorist attack in the U.S. that involved someone coming across the Mexican border. A congressional subcommittee report on the threat of cross-border terrorism cited unsubstantiated claims and three specific cases, including a Tunisian cleric caught hiding in the trunk of a car in San Diego who was not accused of involvement in any terrorist activity. The other two also were not linked to specific terrorist plots.

The prism of “border security” is a myopic and misinformed way of viewing a region that generates billions of dollars in trade and millions of jobs, not just in border states but all over the nation. The border is not a national security threat. It is a national resource, a unique cultural and social community, and an economic driver.

That is where we must focus the discussion.

We must modernize and expand our ports of entry, respect the rights of people who live on the border, and honor the struggle and sacrifice of those who have risked everything to seek work in our country.

We cannot be distracted and sidetracked. We must insist upon the reforms necessary so that our immigration system can rise to the challenges and opportunities of the moment.

Sincerely,

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José Rodríguez

 

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