Posts Tagged ‘Mexican border’

A graphic history of the U.S.-Mexico border fence

April 29, 2020

The U.S.-Mexico border is 1,954 miles long.  Click to enlarge.

Let’s Call it a Wall by Theo Deutinger for Architecture – e-flux.

Wanted: an immigration policy

July 18, 2019

Donald Trump’s immigration policy is to discourage crossings of the southern border by means of deliberate cruelty.

But it is not enough for liberals and progressives to protest President Trump.  They need to come up with a policy of their own.  This they have not done.  Until they do, the present situation will continue, which will be to Trump’s political advantage.

The policy of cruelty did not originate with Trump.  Under the Clinton administration, the U.S. government built walls at key border crossings, so that unauthorized immigrants would be forced into the desert and risk death by thirst.  Under the Obama administration, conditions were terrible in detention centers.

The Trump administration doubled down on all these policies.  And a cynic could make the argument (although I don’t) that control by cruelty is working.  It probably has a deterrent effect, while sufficient unauthorized immigrants make their way into the U.S. to supply employers’ need for low-paid labor.

But what is the alternative?  Is it open borders—no controls on immigration at all?  I know of nobody who has made that argument.  I know of no government that has such a policy.

Julian Castro, Elizabeth Warren and others have proposed repealing a 1929 law that makes it a crime to cross into the United States without authorization.  That wouldn’t be the same as open borders.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents could still turn you back.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and others propose abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which is responsible for enforcing immigration laws in the interior of the United States.

This would not necessarily affect the sister Customs and Border Protection agency, which is responsible for controlling entry into the United States.  But AOC and Omar also oppose any additional funding for detention centers or deportations.  Some immigrant rights groups oppose all funding for detention centers or deportations.

In practice, all this means no limit on immigration at all—open borders in all but same.  The alternative to control by cruelty is no control at all.

AOC, Omar and others also call for a “Marshall Plan” to promote economic development in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, the three main countries that asylum-seekers are fleeing.  But the original Marshall Plan was to rebuild democratic nations of western Europe after World War Two, not dictatorship like these three countries.

There is no point in aiding oppressive governments that are creating the problem in the first place.  Far better to aid the democratic governments of Costa Rica, Belize and Panama and the semi-democratic government of Nicaragua, and cut off support for the dictatorships.


Top Democrats once voted for a border fence

January 14, 2019

This photo, published in 2011, shows a section of the border barrier built under the Secure Fence Act of 2006.

In the debate over a southern border wall, we might remember that 650 miles of “fence” already has been built along the border with Mexico, and many top Democrats voted to authorize it.

The barrier was built under the Secure Fencing Act of 2006, which was proposed by President George W. Bush and supported by a majority of Democrats, including Senators Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Joe Biden and Dianne Feinstein, and also by then-Rep. Sherrod Brown.

Admittedly there’s a difference between a wall and a fence—although what President Trump means by a wall isn’t completely clear.

And, to be sure, some Democrats opposed the 2006 law, including Rps. Bernie Sanders and Nancy Pelosi and Senators Ted Kennedy, Harry Reid and John Kerry.

Even so, with this history, it’s hard for me to see why the Democratic leadership chose this particular issue to go to the wall over (so to speak).

The bill was part of a package that included a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants already in the United States and stricter controls on new unauthorized immigration, including the border fence.

In 2011, President Obama declared the fence had been completed, but his opponents claimed the result wasn’t what Congress intended.

The original bill called for a double row of fencing, but it also gave the Secretary of Homeland Security authority to choose alternatives if deemed more suitable for the location.  Only 36 miles were built as double fencing.  Federal officials said the fence includes 299 miles of vehicle barriers and 350 miles of pedestrian fence.

The U.S.-Mexican border in its entirety is about 1,950 miles long.


Mexican border as secure as it is going to get

May 14, 2013


Apprehensions of unauthorized immigrants at the U.S.-Mexican border, which is the only way we have to measure illegal immigration, are at the lowest level in more than 40 years, according to the Washington Spectator.  Deportations of unauthorized residents meanwhile are at their highest level in more than a century.

I don’t say that this is a solution to the unauthorized immigration problem in the United States.  I do say this is as close as we’re going to come to solving the problem through enforcement alone.

Click on The Border Hasn’t Been This Secure in 40 Years for the full article in the Washington Spectator.

Click on The Wrong Kind of Immigration Spending for a report and charts from The American Prospect

Click on Immigration Enforcement In the United States for a PDF of the Migration Policy Institute’s report.

Click on Migration Policy Institute Topics for a menu of recent news items about the Institute from USA Today.

Death along the Arizona border

March 17, 2011

During the mid-1990s, the Border Patrol attempted to deal with illegal immigration by sealing off the crossings opposite San Diego, El Paso and the other cities along the Mexican border.  Officials of the Clinton administration figured that the problem was solved because no sane person would brave the Sonora-Arizona desert with its murderous heat and lack of water.  They were tragically wrong.  Hundreds of  people die in the desert each year, but they continue to cross, in search of a better life and the means to feed their families.

Margaret Regan, a reporter based in Tucson, wrote The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona Borderlands as a connected series of stories about deaths, near deaths and rescue attempts of migrants in the desert, but touching on all aspects of the border situation.  She did not directly advocate a policy, but her accumulation of human stories has a powerful and mind-changing impact.

The stories that touched me the most were several different incidents when illegal migrants summoned the Border Patrol for help when one of their party was sick or injured, sacrificing their own chances of entering the United States even when the other person was a stranger.

The book’s title is based on the story of Josseline Hernandez, a 14-year-old girl from El Salvador, who crossed the border with her 9-year-old brother. Her mother worked illegally in California and her father in Maryland at low-wage jobs; she lived with relatives until her parents saved enough money to pay for her trip north with trusted friends.

Josseline knew nothing of what to expect or how to dress for the desert, which can be freezing cold (as it was then) or unbearably hot.  When she became sick and couldn’t keep up, the “coyote” (guide) went on without her.  He told her the Border Patrol would be sure to rescue her.

Josseline Hernandez

This didn’t happen.  Weeks later her body was found by a member of No More Deaths, one of the volunteer organizations that sets out water and food along the likely migrant trails.  No More Deaths reports that 1,755 bodies were found along the Arizona border over a 10-year period, and more than 5,000 along the U.S. southwest border as a whole over a 15-year period.  This is a count of bodies, not deaths; nobody knows how many bodies were never found.

Josseline’s mother couldn’t accept the fact her daughter was dead, and an unscrupulous coyote claimed to know of her whereabouts, which he would disclose, for a fee.  Only after a DNA test did she give up hope.

Why would loving parents subject their daughter to such risk?  Regan did not describe the individual circumstances of Josseline’s parents, but it is hard to survive economically in El Salvador or any of the other countries that are sources of migrants.  These countries suffer not only from internal conflicts, but from the influx of subsidized U.S. grain, which has wiped out small farmers in the region.  Free trade agreements with the United States were supposed to make it possible for Mexico and Central America to create export industries that would employ their people, but this didn’t happen.

If the United States had a guest worker program, under which Josseline’s parents could have entered the United States legally on temporary visas, they could have gone back for their daughter.  But with the closed border, illegal migrants don’t dare leave because they might not get back.

I was struck by how many of Regan’s stories were about migrants were from El Salvador, Guatemala and other central American countries rather than Mexico itself.  There must be some sort of known system, maybe even an underground railroad, for getting past guards on Mexico’s southern border, traversing Mexico’s 2,000 miles from south to north, crossing the U.S. border and then traveling within the United States to their destination.  As a friend of mine said, this is a whole shadow world that is all around us, and which affects our lives, but of which we are unaware.

Much of the book is about the impact of the reverse Berlin Wall the United States has built along its southern border.  I was tempted to write that the East Germans were more successful at keeping people in than we Americans are at keeping people out.  But the volume of illegal immigration has declined during the past decade, and the estimated number of illegal immigrants present in the United States also has fallen a little in the past couple of years.  Perhaps there are economic factors, but stepped-up border enforcement must have an effect.

Regan interviewed many resident Arizonans with a roughly equal dislike for the illegal immigrants, who trespass on their property, leave litter and trash, and sometimes commit vandalism and theft, and the Border Patrol, which also has little regard for property rights.  This includes residents of the Tohono O’odham Nation, whose Indian reservation touches on a big segment of the border.

She stuck strictly to facts, and did not overtly propose any policy.  She did an outstanding job of being fair to all points of view, including the Minute Men border vigilantes, who are shown performing individual acts of kindness to people in distress.

I have a certain sympathy for the Minute Men.  I think there is an upper limit to how many immigrants a nation can absorb and still preserve its social and economic fabric.  The question that Margaret Regan forces me to confront is: How many 14-year-old girls am I willing to see die in a futile attempt to enforce that limit?

Click on U.S.-Mexico Border Crossing Deaths Are a Humanitarian Crisis for a summary of a 2009 American Civil Liberties Union report.