The Texas Border Coalition has released a study asserting that the US government’s border security policy is failing. Titled “Without Strategy: America’s Border Security Blunders Facilitate and Empower Mexico’s Drug Cartels,” the TBC unveiled the report in a press conference call Friday.
The Rio Grande Guardian reports, “TBC asserts that the U.S. government has spent nearly $90 billion over the past decade to secure the Southwest border, with no better than mixed results. It says that while apprehension rates are up to 90 percent for undocumented persons seeking to cross the frontier between designated U.S.-Mexico border crossings, Mexican drug cartels continue to enjoy commercial success, smuggling more drugs than ever into the country through the nation’s legal border crossings. Read TBC’s statement on the Guardian’s website.
The TBC’s report is not surprising and more evidence of what we have known all along. “Border Security,” motivated by political interests, does not improve security of the border communities, on either side of the border. Instead of increasing drug and weapon smuggling and human trafficking-related law enforcement efforts—the cartels’ main industries—US Customs and Border Protection has increased prosecution of non-violent border crossers, laborers in search of a means to provide for their families but denied legal means of migrating to this country. This is policy motivated by anti-immigrant politicians taking advantage of anti-immigrant sentiment.
The impact of Operation Streamline on law enforcement shows how devoting increased resources toward prosecuting non-violent border crossers has actually taken away resources from operations focused on drug and weapons smuggling and human trafficking. While the Border Patrol and Justice Department focus more resources prosecuting poor workers, serious criminals involved in organized crime are neglected.
At the same time, the militarization of the US-Mexico border has increased human rights abuses, decreasing the security of communities all along the border. Families are separated, with children ending up in the custody of relatives and increasingly of state-run foster care programs. High speed chases through densely populated neighborhoods put bystanders at danger, while lack of community oversight of Border Patrol agents allows abuse of power to persist, often resulting in physical violence against non-violent crossers and residents along the border.
While the TBC’s findings emphasize the problem, their proposed solution does not get at the root of it. Organized crime will continue to grow while the economic conditions in which organized crime flourishes persist. Failed economic policy like the North American Free Trade Agreement have put Mexican workers out of a job and pushed peasant farmers off their land. Organized crime flourishes in such dire economic conditions. Until those policies are ended and Mexico’s economy is rebuilt from the ground up, no amount of border enforcement will put a dent in their operations.
This is a further reminder that we have a major need for immigration reform. We on the border understand the intimate connection between families and communities on both sides of the border, and that increased border enforcement spending strains those relationships. Comprehensive immigration reform needs to be passed that recognizes the need for increased access to legal immigration and that does not focus on criminalizing the members of our families and communities crossing the border.
Until that happens, and until the Mexican economy is rebuilt, instead of increased spending on enforcement efforts targeting non-violent border crossers, funds should be redirected toward fighting drug smuggling and human trafficking.
While recognizing the failure of recent border enforcement policy, TBC does not recognize the complexity of the problem or the solution. TBC’s policy recommendations will not fix the problem, but rather serve as a band aid solution on a wound that runs deep.