This past summer, I was quite irritated when the topic of immigration was brought to the nation’s attention after the state of Arizona attempted to pass a senseless bill (S1070) that would allow local authorities the right to question people they suspect are undocumented. Recently, many communities have been bombarded with even more Border Patrol agents than the previous years. The government keeps putting more money towards security, but are more officers really necessary? Do we really need to keep spending more money on border control, or is just a way to avoid fixing our immigration system?
This past Tuesday, September 28, I attended a congressional briefing entitled “From Quantity to Quality”, on border and community security by the Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR). The message was clear, YES, we need enforcement but, NO, we do not need more patrol officers.
BNHR started their research by conducted a security poll of residents who lived at the border to find out how safe they felt in their neighborhoods. The Arizona Governor, Jan Brewer, was quoted stating that the border was full of “murder, terror and mayhem”. These negative remarks make the rest of the population view the border as barren and lawless when in fact it’s the complete opposite. When asked if they felt safe walking and driving in their neighborhoods, close to 90% of residents responded yes. My own aunt lives out there and she have never complained. Astonishingly, the government continues to think we need more security when what we really need is to reform our current enforcement policies.
There are two agencies along the U.S.-Mexico border: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). With the FY2011 budget of $56.3 billion, there are around 18,500 Border Patrol Agents, 5,600 U.S. Customs Officers and 7,500 ICE Agents. Back in August, Congress approved adding an additional 1,000 Border Patrol Agents. One of the speakers explained that with that many agents, there are 9.4 agents per linear mile of the border (they can wave to each other)!
With the amount of officers securing the border there is a lack of accountability and an abuse of civil rights and liberties. Consequences highlighted were the lack of adequate training and illegal search and seizures. Another interesting point, ICE’s main priority is removing dangerous criminals from our country, but because of their ineffectiveness as of August, less than 10%of the individuals deported were violent or narcotic offenders.
The Border Network for Community Rights proposes a policy solution that I absolutely think Congress needs to hear. Their strategy implements effective and safe border policy change where people can “cross legally, orderly, and without violence”. They have included 6 principles for better border enforcement policy:
1. Community Safety – Community members living at the border need to trust in their law enforcement officials. To do this, programs that mandate that local police enforce immigration laws needs to be terminated.
2. Accountability – Needed are responsible enforcement officers who have been through proper training, have proper supervision, and include the community in decision-making.
3. Fiscal Responsibility – Border security is expensive for taxpayers. The government needs to redirect funding to go toward ports of entry and community-centered programs.
4. Focus on Real Threats – Congress needs to implement policies that focus on real threats to our nation rather than the deportation of immigrants that are wrongly treated as criminals.
5. Human and Civil Rights – Severe enforcement has put a burden on local communities and has caused constitutional protections to be undermined. Border Patrol agents should engage in human right and civil rights training.
6. Comprehensive Immigration Reform – CIR is central to having an effective border security. An immigration policy that manages future flows would take pressure of border security.