Category Archives: Militarization of the Border

Friends of Friendship Park to Unveil Alternative Design to Assure Dignified and Humane Public Access to Border Park

Coalition Deems Border Patrol Plans Inadequate and Inhumane

WHEN: Wednesday, February 9, 5:30 p.m.
WHAT: Press Conference Unveiling of Proposed Design for Friendship Park
WHERE: Marina Vista Community Center, 1075 8th St., Imperial Beach CA
(MAP: http://mapq.st/hrUxOI)

The Friends of Friendship Park Coalition will unveil their alternative architectural design for San Diego’s historic border park in a press conference at the beginning of a public outreach Open House scheduled by San Diego Border Patrol on Wednesday evening, February 9.

Working collaboratively with the Friends of Friendship Park, celebrated San Diego architect James Brown, principal at Public Art & Architecture (http://www.publicdigital.com), has developed a proposal for Friendship Park that would celebrate bi-national friendship as a necessary part of true security.

“Jim Brown’s design for Friendship Park aptly captures the essence of bi-national friendship, while addressing every legitimate security concern that San Diego Border Patrol officials have shared with us across months of consultations,” stated John Fanestil, Executive Director at the San Diego-based Foundation for Change and a leader in the coalition.

At present Friendship Park features security infrastructure and arbitrary enforcement practices resulting in public confusion about whether and how the public can visit the park. A limited public access area created by San Diego Border Patrol has offered park visitors an experience that many liken to visiting someone in jail.

Formerly, families from San Diego, Riverside and Los Angeles would come to the park to visit with family members who had often traveled for days from the interior of Mexico for a family reunion. The present arrangement prevents families like these – and other visitors to the park – from comfortably talking with each other. Family members, who sometimes have not seen each other in years, are routinely turned away after a 30-minute visit.

San Diego Border Patrol will have on display at the Open House proposed modifications to the park which do nothing to address these problems. In addition, Border Patrol plans would place the Boundary Monument – an historic marker recognizing the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo at the end of the U.S.-Mexico War – on the south side of the border fence, leaving it inaccessible to the U.S. public.

“Proposals coming from San Diego Border Patrol continue to violate the spirit of Friendship Park,” stated Pedro Rios of the American Friends Service Committee and a leader in the coalition. “By ensuring that visitors can see each other, touch each other and converse freely in a dignified and orderly manner, our coalition’s proposal honors the original purpose of this historic border park.”


Click here for a slideshow of Friendship Park

Click here to REVIEW and ENDORSE OUR DESIGN

Contact:
John Fanestil, john@foundation4change.org, 619-823-6223
Jill Holslin, jholslin01@gmail.com, (619) 804-8030
Jim Brown, jb@publicdigital.com, (619) 682-4083

The Friends of Friendship Park is a coalition of leaders and organizations promoting orderly and dignified public access to Friendship Park, San Diego’s historic park on the US-Mexico border.

http://www.friendshippark.org
# # #

Border Crossing: Communion at Friendship Park

October 7, 2008

by John Fanestil

Originally published in The Christian Century

NOTE: This article was recognized by the Associated Church Press with its 2008 Award of Merit, the citation reading: “In this well-written article, the author uses the lens of his experience to focus on the larger issue of U.S.-Mexico border policy. A compelling and challenging look at a highly charged issue.”

Border Crossing: Communion at Friendship Park

Among the least recognized yet most lasting legacies of the Bush administration’s “war on terror” has been a dramatic transformation of the U.S.-Mexico border. This transformation is about to reach its symbolic and geographic culmination at Friendship Park, a plaza atop a seaside bluff south of San Diego.

For generations residents of San Diego and Tijuana have gathered at Friendship Park to visit with family and friends through the border fence. In coming months the Department of Homeland Security will erect a secondary fence across the park, eliminating public access to this historic meeting place. Until then, I will serve Communion at Friendship Park each Sunday afternoon, distributing the elements through the border fence.

Moves toward destroying Friendship Park began in the aftermath of 9/11, when Republicans in Congress, many of whom had long championed cracking down on illegal immigration, decided that control of the southwest border was a matter of national security. Never mind that the men who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon did not enter the U.S. from Mexico. Never mind that no known terrorist ever has. The psychic needs of an aggrieved nation matched nicely with the desire to limit Mexican migration to the U.S.—a desire shared to varying degrees by many Americans for many different reasons. Post-9/11, the idea that the nation’s security depends on “securing the border” became axiomatic for politicians of all ideological persuasions.

The Bush administration institutionalized the axiom in 2003, when the newly created Department of Homeland Security took operational control of the Border Patrol and other immigration-related agencies. The result was more than mere bureaucratic reshuffling: with all matters pertaining to life on the border now cast in the light of national security, the strategies of heightened vigilance, beefed-up enforcement and increased militarization came to trump all others in U.S. border policy. What was once the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was reorganized as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The sound of the acronyms reflected a deep shift in organizational culture. As a friend of mine once put it: “We used to offer services for immigration and naturalization; now we give a cold shoulder.”

This recasting of the border as a battleground in the war on terror has dramatically altered the physical and social landscape. By the end of the Bush administration, over one third of the 2,000 miles of border with Mexico will be covered by double or triple layers of fence. Vehicle and pedestrian waits at border-crossings have doubled and tripled too. Border Patrol staffing in the region has increased more than 50 percent since 2004, a figure which does not include periodic reinforcements from the National Guard and other branches of the armed services.

Rates of Mexican migration have not significantly diminished, but the pattern of this migration has been profoundly altered. The cost of entering the U.S. illegally—as measured by the price of a “coyote” on the streets of Tijuana—has increased tenfold in the past eight years, a fact that entails a host of unintended consequences. Because there is now real money to be made in immigrant-smuggling, the enterprise is more and more dominated by the forces of organized crime, which also traffic in illegal drugs.

With illegal entry so much more costly and difficult, Mexicans committed to bettering their families’ circumstances have been creative—in some cases desperate—in seeking alternative ways of entry. An estimated 30 to 40 percent of undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. did not cross the border illegally; rather, they crossed the border legally on student or tourist visas and then stayed illegally. Immigration officials refer to these people as “visa overstayers.” The black market in falsified documents has exploded, as have cases of Border Patrol corruption. Poor Mexicans unable to afford these more sophisticated means of entering the U.S. have assumed greater and greater risks by attempting to cross on foot through the borderlands’ remote mountains and deserts, and thousands have died trying.

Because the cost of reentering the U.S. is now so high, more Mexican immigrants than ever are making commitments to stay long-term in the U.S., commitments which often include arrangements for family members to come and join them. This is the most ironic consequence of increased border enforcement: what for generations was a pattern of two-way migration (from Mexico to the U.S. and back again) has been turned into a one-way street.

The transformation of the border from a filter through which people flowed slowly, steadily and freely in both directions to a less permeable barrier characterized by long waits for regulated crossings has imposed a deep toll on people who live in the region. People unfamiliar with fronterizo culture may have a hard time understanding it, but millions of border residents think of themselves and their families as living on both sides of the line. Of the region’s 13 million people, over 9.5 million are of Mexican ancestry, 6 million of these living on the Mexican side and 3.5 million living in the U.S. (Outside of San Diego and Tucson, Arizona, the region’s population is over 90 percent Mexican or Mexican-American.) Most border residents have kinship ties that span the international boundary, which means that U.S. policy is drawing a sharp line of division across millions of family trees.

Champions of “gaining control of the border” achieved a significant breakthrough in 2005 when Congress attached a rider to the Real ID Act granting to Department of Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff the authority to waive any and all laws as he deemed necessary to expedite construction of supplemental fencing along the border. While many consider the Real ID Act an abdication of Congress’s constitutional responsibility to exercise oversight of the executive branch, it has withstood legal challenges in the courts and retains the force of law.

On April 1 Chertoff exercised the authority granted to him by Congress and waived over 35 federal, state and local laws and regulations. In announcing the waivers, Chertoff made clear that he believes the executive branch has carte blanche to do whatever it pleases to complete construction of the fence. “I reserve the authority,” Chertoff wrote, “to make further waivers from time to time as I may determine to be necessary.”

In San Diego, the pace of construction has accelerated dramatically in the wake of the April 1 waivers. The urban corridor connecting San Diego and Tijuana had already been double-fenced, and DHS is now pursuing the construction of triple-fencing along the western-most 3.5 miles of the border, all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

To meet the stated goal of completing the project by year-end, DHS has condemned over 150 acres of land (without adequate compensation of county and state governments). A $48 million “design-build” contract has been awarded to the Kiewit Corporation, which will design the project and build it on a timetable allowing no room for public review of any kind. Cutting into the mesa tops and filling the canyons as they work their way to the coast, Kiewit will be relocating some 3 to 4 million cubic yards of earth, transforming what are now alternating canyons and mesa tops into rolling hills.

After reinforcing the existing border fence, Kiewit contractors will erect a second fence that is 20 feet high, made of concrete pylons with steel mesh angled at the top. Between these two barriers they will lay a patrol road made of decomposed granite, allowing for rapid movement of Border Patrol vehicles along the border. A third barrier—this one a chain-link fence—will be built north of the secondary fence, with a maintenance road in between. The final price tag on the project is expected to exceed $70 million, making it one of the largest public works projects in recent San Diego County history.

The project has been condemned roundly by human rights, interfaith and environmental organizations. Even mainstream groups like the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society have registered formal complaints, the Sierra Club joining a recent lawsuit contesting the constitutionality of the DHS waiver authority. In May the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the case.

For some of us in San Diego, the destruction of Friendship Park is a desecration. The park was constructed with the aim of promoting friendly relations between the peoples of the two nations. In its earliest days, the international boundary inside the park sported no fence at all but was marked by a single, low-hanging chain, allowing people to move freely from one side to the other. When the first fence at the park was erected in the 1970s it was made of chain link with the intent of preserving clear views of the other side and of promoting transnational gatherings.

I have been visiting the park for years, often to participate in an annual Christimas event called La Posada Sin Fronteras. La Posada is an ancient Mexican ritual in which participants reenact the search of Mary and Joseph for a dwelling place (posada, in Spanish) on the night of Jesus’ birth. Each December, a large interfaith crowd assembles at Friendship Park. People on the Mexican side sing a traditional song, “Pidiendo Posada,” asking for a place to stay. People on the U.S. side play the role of the innkeeper, declaring that “there is no room in the inn.”

Last December I was honored to preside at La Posada Sin Fronteras, and since then I have taken to visiting the park more frequently, sometimes weekly. Along the way I have gotten to know people who have been visiting the park for decades, and a not insignificant number who consider the border fence their spiritual home.

I have witnessed people kiss through the fence, cry together through the fence, buy and sell tamales through the fence and say goodbye to dying loved ones through the fence. I know one young man, a U.S. citizen, who visits the fence regularly to see his Mexican novia, the mother of his two small children. A recovering drug addict, he can’t convince his girlfriend to marry him, and he says he doesn’t blame her because of the way he’s treated her in the past. He can’t believe that public access to Friendship Park will soon be eliminated. It is the only place he gets to see his children. The last time I saw him, I gave him my phone number and told him that if he and his novia decide to get married at Friendship Park, he should give me a call.

The tradition of serving Communion at Friendship Park began with a vigil on June 1. For this event we planned to share a “love feast,” rather than enter into the complicated liturgical issues of how to share Communion with the spectacularly ecumenical crowd that turns out for our border gatherings. As we made our preparations, we were told by Border Patrol agents—for the first time ever in our years of gathering at this location—that we were not to pass anything through the fence. Doing so, we were told, would constitute a “customs violation.” On that day we decided to adhere to this new restriction, and in an act of lament, those of us in the United States ate our bread in silence, as we looked through the fence at our friends and compadres in Mexico, who went without.

Two months later, on August 3, we gathered again, and this time I couldn’t bring myself to tolerate what seems to me a farcical prohibition. “What have we come to as a nation,” I asked the crowd assembled, “when the simplest and most common act of human solidarity and fellowship is named an illegal act?”

This time I was determined to celebrate the sacrament. I consecrated the bread and juice and passed them through the fence to a Methodist colleague from a church in Tijuana. People formed into two lines, one in each country, and came forward solemnly to receive Communion. People were given the choice of receiving the elements from either celebrant, the people on the U.S. side having been forewarned that the act of taking a small piece of bread through the fence might be considered by some an act of civil disobedience.

I have never taken so much pleasure in not serving Communion. One by one, my friends on the U.S. side shook their heads at me as they approached the serving station and reached out their hands to receive the body of Christ through the fence. I sat silently with tortilla in hand, as my colleague from Tijuana, separated from me by 18 inches and an international boundary, served the entire congregation.

I am committed to serving Communion at Friendship Park each Sunday afternoon until border authorities prevent me from doing so. For at least a few more weeks, Friendship Park will remain a most humanizing place along an increasingly dehumanized border.

CONTAINMENT SOCIETY: REPRODUCING DETENTION AT FRIENDSHIP PARK

March 22, 2010

by Pedro Rios

Originally published on Detention Watch Network

Detention Watch Network chose the image of San Diego’s Friendship Park to represent our “Dignity not Detention” campaign (see on left). To explain its significance, we asked Pedro Rios of American Friends Service Committee in San Diego to write about his experience with Friendship Park and recent changes that have affected it.

Containment Society: Reproducing Detention at Friendship Park

It was a somber 16th Annual Posada Sin Fronteras (Posada Without Borders) last December, held at Friendship Park. There was an impressionable eeriness about the altered landscape; a feeling of loss prevailed. La Posada, where every year a couple of hundred people gather to remember the migrant lives lost in their attempts to cross into the United States, this time, for the first time, the event took place inside the strip of land contained within the primary and secondary fencing infrastructure that now outlines significant portions of the US-Mexico border. Those 25 people permitted entry into this “security zone” were further enclosed inside a 5-foot tall pedestrian barrier set to confine the access area around Monument Mesa. Human touch was no longer permitted between people on either side of the border wall. Of this scenario, my 7 year-old son commented, “It looks like we are going into a jail.”

Adding insult to injury, as we shared migrant testimonies, sang traditional posada songs, and even when our emotions overwhelmed some of us, standing behind us armed Border Patrol agents intruded by snapping pictures, some only 6 feet away, as if to remind us of the control and of the loss – they captured this in pictures and with video as if the enclosed steel pen surrounding our group didn’t already sufficiently attempt to degrade our humanity.

We all know about the crisis in immigration detention in the United States – the systemic violations – even the government acknowledges its detention centers are plagued by substandard conditions. Those secret detention facilities and news stories about unnecessary deaths point to the disarray that has become the norm for how human beings are locked up. It is completely intolerable that this occurs as corporations profit from it, but it also has been taking place in the public domain, and elements of detention and its horrors get reproduced in how public space is defined. Friendship Park is a clear example of that.

In 1849, shortly after the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the historic Monument Mesa became the site for demarcating the boundary between the U.S. and Mexico. This was recognized with a monument in the 1880s, at the same point where in 1971 Pat Nixon commemorated the celebrated site as Friendship Park remarking, “I hope there won’t be a fence here too long.”

For decades and until recently, bi-national events held at Friendship Park have included yoga and salsa classes, the cultivation of a bi-national garden, beach clean-ups, communions, Day of the Dead ceremonies, and the annual La Posada Sin Fronteras. Perhaps the most significant events but less profiled, were the personal family reunions that used to take place on any given day – a grandfather caressing the cheek of his 3 month old grandson for the first time, or a husband meeting his wife and children, interlocking fingers in spite of the metal mesh between their palms. Under the new “Rules for Entry” these timeless moments are forbidden.

The new “Rules for Entry” were established without proper consultation with community organizations, much less with the acknowledgement of the general public. Borrowed from military-speak, the central gauge for the Border Patrol is “operational control.” So long as the Border Patrol aspires towards this militaristic concept in gauging their threat assessment of the area, public space, in this case, Friendship Park, is subject to stringent containment and overzealous social control.

For years the challenge to fend off the border wall at Friendship Park brought together advocates from different experiences and vantage points – environmentalists, human rights advocates, grass roots organizations, and private citizens – all with the intention of preserving the dignity of Friendship Park and its unique surrounding landscape. The efforts to restore public access continue, despite the new physical infrastructure that restrains expression of true friendship and solidarity with our neighbors to the south.

At La Posada, when our friends in Tijuana threw candy bags over the primary fence, a customary symbolic act representing gift-sharing like in the breaking of a Mexican piñata, Border Patrol agents were quick to confiscate the candy, claiming it was contraband. The event ended and Border Patrol agents were quick to scurry us out of the containment area, closing the gate of the secondary fence behind us. The orange glow of the luminarias that were lit with the names of migrants who have died splashed against the metal bars that make up the secondary fence. This reminded me that in our struggle for a restoration of justice in how human beings are detained in immigration facilities, confinement gets reproduced in social spaces, Friendship Park being one of them.

School Board Vote to Regulate Military Recruitment in Schools

WE NEED YOU and YOUR CHILD on TUESDAY– COME and SPEAK OUT in SUPPORT OF THIS POLICY!

Pass the Policy to Regulate Recruiting in San Diego Schools!

¡Aprueben el reglamento que regule el reclutamiento en las escuelas de San Diego!

CONTACT: Education Not Arms Coalition
educationnotarms@gmail.com
760-634-3604
http://www.projectyano.org/educationnotarms/

San Diego Unified Board meeting location: Auditorium, 4100 Normal St., San Diego
Nov 30, 2010 – Regular Meeting, 5:00 P.M.

The policy to regulate recruiting activities in San Diego schools is on the Nov. 30 school board agenda.

This landmark achievement is within reach (see staff recommendation below), but we don’t know how much organized opposition there will be from the military and its supporters in the district. We therefore need to mobilize a large attendance on Nov. 30 to push for approval. (See attached document for Spanish/English fliers.)

We need speakers, particularly students, parents and individuals who work with youth groups or early college outreach programs. If you can speak (2-3 minutes per person), please get in touch with us ASAP.

Also, if you can help drive students to the meeting and/or home afterwards, please let us know how many you can transport (contact Stephanie, sjagitator@ucsd.edu, cell 619-507-4411). Pick-up points are generally at their schools around 4-4:30 PM.

Even if you won’t be speaking or driving students, your presence itself will have a big impact!

Our agenda item is #G.1. and will probably come up around 6:30 PM, depending on how quickly the board moves through preceding items. Please arrive early to make sure you get a seat. If possible arrive when the meeting begins at 5:00 PM.

Education Not Arms Coalition
educationnotarms@gmail.com
760-634-3604

Board meeting location: Auditorium, 4100 Normal St., San Diego

Agenda Item Details:

Nov 30, 2010 – Regular Meeting, 5:00 P.M.
G. Operational Matters Reserved for the Board
1. Policy on Campus Recruiting Activities in San Diego Unified School District Schools (de Beck); BUDGETED: N/A (OE-2; OE-3)
[STAFF] RECOMMENDATION: Approve the Recruiter Access Policy.

FISCAL IMPACT: None.

PRIOR YEAR EXPENSE HISTORY: None.

IMPACT TO DISTRICT STAFFING: None.

BACKGROUND: At the November 9, 2010 board meeting, Board Member John de Beck proposed a new policy regarding recruitment activities in San Diego Unified schools. The proposed policy statement was agendized as a first reading and information only. Staff has reviewed the policy and has determined that this policy fulfills the stated objectives of ensuring that district students have balanced access to information about the range of education and career options available to them and enhances the ability of parents and legal guardians to make affirmative choices regarding the release of confidential student information. Specifically, this policy directs that recruiters offering student information on careers and post-secondary educational opportunities have equal access to students as compared to that of military recruiters; and restricts all recruiting organizations to no more than two site visits per year. Additionally, schools which allow administration of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) must select ASVAB release option 8, which prohibits the automatic release of student information to local recruiters. Election of option 8 permits school counselors and students to make use of the aptitude data; and does not limit the student’s ability to use their ASVAB scores if they elect to explore military enlistment.

Border residents oppose calls for deployment of the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border

San Diego organizations join a borderwide network



Contact:
Ricardo Favela
Strategic Communications Coordinator

San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium
(760) 468-4519
communicate@immigrantsandiego.org.

Louie Gilot
Policy Director, Border Network for Human Rights
2115 N. Piedras, El Paso, TX 79930
(915) 274-0541
lgilot@bnhr.org.

May 26, 2010 — Organizations representing border communities from San Diego to Brownsville have written a letter to the Obama Administration and federal legislators strongly opposing the decision to send the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border. The organizations believe the deployment is ill-conceived and motivated by electoral politics rather than focused on the needs of border communities.

“While DC politicians like to paint the border as a war zone, the reality is that it is one of the safest areas of the country. Crime is down. Even immigration flows are down. The only emergency here is a political one,” said Pedro Rios, with the American Friends Service Committee in San Diego, one of the signatories to the letter.

However, the militarization of the border is not without consequences for the communities who live there. Economies are choked by inefficient border crossings, civil rights are pushed aside, and quality of life is seriously diminished. Worse, community safety is being sacrificed by those who believe that soldiers trained for war belong near family neighborhoods or should be involved in enforcing civilian laws. We cannot forget that in 1997, U.S. Marines sent to secure the border, shot and killed a teenage U.S. citizen who was peacefully herding goats.

“We are frustrated and disappointed by the Obama Administration because this strategy is a recipe for disaster. This militarization will further alienate border communities and jeopardize the success of border security goals and the fight against real criminal threats,” said Fernando Garcia, Executive Director for the Border Network for Human Rights in El Paso, Texas, who also signed the letter.

It is time to rethink our border policy. Increasing the quantity of armed agents and soldiers on our southern border does not enhance our national security, but in fact undermines it by misallocating resources. Humane border policies should emphasize quality law enforcement resources on real threats in the region, while protecting the rights and well-being of border residents.

Read the full letter which follows the media advisory.

The organizations who signed the letter are: American Friends Service Committee (CA); San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium (CA); San Diego Foundation for Change (CA); Border Action Network (AZ); First Christian Church of Tucson (AZ); ACLU Regional Center for Border Rights (NM); Border Network for Human Rights (TX); Immigrant Justice Alliance (TX); Freedom Ambassadors (TX); U.S.-Mexico Border and Immigration Task Force; Casa de Proyecto Libertad (TX); and Project Puente (TX).

###

To: President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

To: Members of the U.S. Congress
Washington, DC

Border residents oppose calls for deployment of the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border

Border communities who had hoped for a rational and accountable border policy from the Obama Administration are deeply disappointed at the news of the authorization to deploy National Guard troops to the border. We are also deeply disappointed by calls from Congress to deploy as many as 6,000 National Guard troops to the border.

Proposals to deploy the National Guard are ill-conceived and motivated by electoral politics rather than border realities. In the course of history, presidents have rarely called up the National Guard. Deployment of these forces has almost always been limited to emergency situations and for good reason. The creation of a national police force is anathema to our fundamental values and to the protection of individual liberties.

As men and women living in the border region, which includes metropolitan areas as well as small towns, we have tried time and again to share our concerns about the militarization of the region with members of the Administration and members of Congress. But it seems we are not being heard and the policies of this Administration, far from being the change that we were promised, mirror the policies of the prior Administration and may even be worse with respect to border enforcement.

To be clear, there is no emergency at the border that would warrant the deployment of the National Guard. Immigration flows are down and border cities are among the safest in the country. Violent crime is rare and when it does happen, as in the case of the Arizona rancher who was recently killed, the perpetrator is more likely to be a citizen than an immigrant. The only “emergency” is the political emergency of upcoming elections.

As residents of the border region, we refuse to allow our communities and our quality of life to be sacrificed in a political game played far away from this region by people with little appreciation for the vibrancy of the region and who are motivated by politics rather than actual border needs. We consider the deployment of the National Guard an affront to border communities and oppose the militarization of our region based on the following:

• The militarization of our border has already reached an extreme level and brought with it negative consequences for those who live there. Our economies are choked by inefficient border crossings, our civil rights are pushed aside, and our quality of life is seriously diminished. Worse, our safety is being sacrificed by those who believe that soldiers trained for war belong near family neighborhoods or should be involved in supporting domestic law enforcement. Let’s not forget that in 1997, U.S. Marines sent to help secure the border, mistakenly shot and killed a teenage U.S. citizen who was peacefully herding goats.

• Militarization is a misguided and unnecessary response that is not based in reality or in the opinions of President Obama’s own border experts. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has said repeatedly that her Border Patrol agents have operational control of the border. Crime statistics in border cities and counties show that crime is both low and decreasing. Yet, we are being told once again that we must secure the border, just three years after we built a border wall, added thousands of new Border Patrol agents and deployed virtual enforcement technology.

• Militarization costs us all. Continuing to throw money, resources and military responses at the border is not fiscally responsible, efficient, or humane. The ever mounting costs of militarizing the border are costs borne by taxpayers who can ill afford ineffective and ill-conceived political responses.

• Recourse to the military as a policy option for civilian law enforcement is a disturbing precedent. Forces trained for combat, should not be used for enforcing civil laws. As a matter of fundamental U.S. political values, the military should be withdrawn from all normal law enforcement activities, even in supporting roles.
It is time to rethink our border policy. Increasing the quantity of armed agents and soldiers on our southern border does not enhance our national security, but in fact undermines it by misallocating resources. Humane border policies should emphasize quality law enforcement, and the effective focus of resources on real threats in the region, while ensuring that border communities are consulted on their specific needs, and that the rights and well-being of border residents are protected and upheld. Toward this end, we need the following:

• Consultation with local border communities on a regular basis about border enforcement; decisions about the border should not be made in a vacuum in D.C.

• More accountability and oversight of immigration enforcement officers, who have become the largest law enforcement presence in the border region.

• A standardized complaint process that aggregates complaints the length of the border should be implemented to better understand potential abuse of power and civil and human rights violations. Enforcement agencies should publicize this data and then use appropriate performance measures to correct gaps in current or ongoing training.

• Increased funding for ports of entry to facilitate the flow of legitimate goods and people authorized to work, visit or contribute to the nation’s economy.

• Compliance with environmental protection laws without exceptions for the border; we deserve the same protections as the rest of the country.

• Compliance with national and international civil and human rights protections, and creation of humane detention and short-term custody standards at the border.

• A zero-migrant-death standard that is incorporated into enforcement policies and practices and addresses the mounting death toll—over 5,000—of migrants who lose their lives as a result of inhumane enforcement strategies.

• Comprehensive immigration reform that moves beyond enforcement and focuses on fixing the interconnected parts of our broken immigration system.

• Economic development for Mexico, our second largest trading partner and primary source of immigration; a stronger Mexican economy would benefit both countries economically and ease migration pressures.

The federal government is as responsible for protecting the lives and well being of border residents as it is of protecting residents of the interior of the United States. Unfortunately, border residents have borne the burden of national security under the current hard-line strategy, but can do so no more. We oppose the deployment of the National Guard to the border as a misguided political response, and we urge our national leaders to pursue real solutions to border enforcement that take into account the needs of the border region.

Signed:
American Friends Service Committee (CA)
San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium (CA)
San Diego Foundation for Change (CA)
Border Action Network (AZ)
First Christian Church of Tucson (AZ)
ACLU Regional Center for Border Rights (NM)
Border Network for Human Rights (TX)
Immigrant Justice Alliance (TX)
Freedom Ambassadors (TX)
Casa de Proyecto Libertad (TX)
Project Puente (TX)