I just read an excellent but disturbing article via Common Dreams.org about the militarization of the U.S. border. Below are a few excerpts:
Unlike Mexican border states where drug-fueled violence has been on the upswing, violent crime rates in U.S. states bordering Mexico have been decreasing for the last several years. El Paso and San Diego are rated among the safest cities in the United States. Since 9-11, no terrorist has been detected crossing from Mexico. Even detentions of border-crossers are way down, up to 90 percent in the New Mexico corridor alone, according to media reports.
“If you look at the facts, the border is more secure than ever,” headlined a recent op-ed by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. So what would be the Obama administration’s next border initiative? Call out the National Guard and toss another $500 million at “border security.”
Untrained in civilian law enforcement, many of the troops in the upcoming deployment are likely to have served in Iraq or Afghanistan or both, countries with brown-skinned people and a landscape not all that different from the US-Mexico borderlands. Post-traumatic stress syndrome suffered by troops serving in the War on Terror, which could eventually surpass the rates afflicting Vietnam veterans, should be taken into account in the National Guard deployment, Dunn said.
Still, the National Guard is a small component of the larger security apparatus that has arisen on the U.S. southern border. Quadrupled in size during the last five years, nearly 90 percent of the 20,000 existing Border Patrol personnel are now stationed on the southern border, according to the ACLU.
Additionally, 6,000 Customs and 5,000 ICE agents are active in the region, according to the civil liberties group. The numbers do not include FBI, DEA, ATF and other law enforcement agents who are assigned to often duplicate drug interdiction, immigrant smuggling, arms trafficking and other missions.
Unarmed Predator drones are now reportedly flying over the US-Mexico border, with plans to add more of the small planes costing $10-12 million each in the coming months.
On the ground, Secretary Napolitano vows to finish the costly and controversial border wall; it remains to be seen if the construction will satisfy Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer, who demands the modern-day equivalent of a moat between her state and Mexico. In a phone conference with reporters, the University of San Diego’s Dr. David Shirk, lead researcher for the Trans-Border Institute, asserted that the “border will never be secure enough” for some people including legislators who essentially seek to erect a “glass dome” over the United States.
According to San Diego activists Rios and Guerrero, a border security state has meant restrictions on freedom of movement due to multiple checkpoints, roving patrols through neighborhoods and more stops of residents, including many citizens. A high turnover of young, inexperienced agents, and deadly run-ins like the death of Mexican immigrant Anastasio Hernandez after a confrontation with Border Patrol agents at a border crossing last month, are other ingredients of a volatile situation, Guerrero contended. What’s more, the use of a military force like the National Guard to enforce civilian laws such as drug prohibition is a troubling development, she said.
In a broader context, the National Guard deployment could be viewed as part of an incremental but steady trend of restricting personal liberties that first resulted from the Drug War, then the War on Terror and now the New War against Immigrants. Torture, warrantless wiretaps, political spying, employment and school-related drug testing, checkpoints, and proposals for a national identify card are among the bitter fruit falling from the entangled branches of Washington’s endless wars. So are contraband smuggling and corruption.
Boosters of the “more boots on the ground” approach rarely mention the growing cases of corruption involving U.S. border security personnel. Among notable examples were the arrests of National Guardsmen in Arizona and Texas accused of drug and immigrant smuggling during Operation Jumpstart, or the largely hushed-up 2009 murder case in which an active-duty soldier stationed at Ft. Bliss was accused of killing a reported ICE informant at the behest of another ICE informant allegedly on the payroll of the Juarez cartel. The shooting happened in a residential neighborhood where El Paso police Chief Greg Allen lived.