(Oakland, CA: Aug. 13, 2010)Earlier today President Obama signed a new bill authorizing an additional $600 million to increase border security, strengthening a deadly border militarization strategy. Tragically, this move will surely increase the number of migrants who perish at the U.S.-Mexico border and the bill contributes nothing to ensuring the safety and rights of migrants and border communities. The U.S. border security strategy forces migrants to cross through the deadly desert region, deliberately sending hundreds to their death every year.
The new bill promises to enhance controversial immigration-police collaboration and places more military technology, including surveillance drones, on the border. An additional 1,000 Border Patrol officers, 250 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and 250 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents will be hired. These increments do not include Obama's recent announcement of the deployment of another 1200 National Guard troops to patrol the border in Arizona.
The Coalicion de Derechos Humanos (CDH), based in Tucson, AZ, reports that the remains of 214 migrants have been recovered as of July 31, 2010, on the Arizona stretch of the border alone, more than was recorded last year. Two months remain in this fiscal year before the final tally of migrant deaths is complete.
As many as 8,000 migrant dead have been recovered on the U.S.-Mexico border since the U.S. government's current "prevention through deterrence" strategy was implemented in 1994. Human rights groups working to prevent migrant deaths and abuses on the border believe that for every migrant dead found at least ten others are missing in the desert.
Along with a record number of migrant deaths at the border, the U.S. under the Obama Administration is achieving a record number of deportations this fiscal year. The "Southwest Border Security Bill" is a reminder of what type of “CIR,” or immigration reform, is being offered: A piece-meal enforcement approach that continues gutting the rights of immigrants, with more jailings and deportations and promises of restrictive access to "legalization" and guest worker programs.
Demilitarize, Decriminalize: End Border Deaths
The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR) is greatly disturbed by the Administration's determination to deepen the flawed and fatal militarization of immigration control and border communities, further fueling the criminalization of immigration status.
The U.S. must end the deliberate "funneling" of migrants through the border desert, stopping the death of migrants and the criminalization of status. Instead, the U.S. must increase access to legal immigration with the protection of rights, provide more options for permanent residency and citizenship and create routine programs of legalization. But this will not be enough if the root causes are not addressed. Fair and just immigration reforms must be accompanied with fair and just trade policies and initiatives. By taking such measures and steps, the Obama Administration can make immigrant families, workers and communities less vulnerable to abuse and exploitation and create safer environments and strengthen everyone's rights.