Proposed policy calls for militarization of US-Mexico border, more fences

Every day, 40 to 80 Mexican immigrants are brought to DeConcini Courthouse in Tucson, Ariz. to be deported.

Under the threat of a felony charge, these people are offered a choice by the judge: “Plead guilty to a misdemeanor entry, and the felony entry charge (which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison) will be dismissed,” Isabel Garcia, co-chair of the Coalition of Human Rights and Pima County Legal Defender, said to In These Times.

These are the border-crossers.

According to Turning the Tide, the number of deportees under President Barack Obama is the highest since Operation Wetback under former President Dwight Eisenhower.

“Obama says immigration reform is a top priority,” said senior Chloe Weiner. “This entails mass militarization of the border.”

Weiner organized a presentation in King Hall on Oct. 27 to address the U.S.-Mexico border crisis.

Junior Noelle Lane and Head of the Multicultural Education Department Jorge Zeballos both disagree with the president’s proposed policies.

“Budget increases towards militarization would increase the number of deaths (on the border),” Lane said.

“The policies applied to the management of the border are inflicting great human suffering, while not contributing to solve the stated problems that motivated them,” said Zeballos.

The effects of border militarization and incarceration are not confined to immigrants.  More money is going into the criminal justice system to keep immigrants incarcerated annually.

For example, in 2012 the U.S. government spent $441.9 million in federal contracts to house criminal aliens.  Then, after Sen. John McCain saw a woman climb the U.S.-Mexico divide, the government shelled out $1.5 billion for border fencing, according to No More Deaths, an organization working towards ending death and suffering on the border.

“If we think fences can prevent people from seeking a better life … we deeply underestimate the human conditions that drive immigration,” said former Sen. Alfredo Gutierrez in a letter to The New York Times.

Besides, only 50 percent of Mexican immigrants cross the border terrestrially. The other half make the journey by boat or plane.

Last spring, Lane flew to Phoenix, Ariz. to work with No More Deaths.  On her trip, she and other students “took gallons of water and food … and carried them to heavily trafficked migrant routes with the hope of providing someone with nourishment to survive,” Lane said.

If so many lives are on the line, why are most people still in the dark about humanitarian movements and advocacy groups like No More Deaths?

“It’s easy for people who are removed from the geographical location of the border and removed from the lives of immigrants to be unaware of how big of an issue this is,” said Weiner.

Lane adds: “The reason that the media doesn’t cover this in a way that would benefit aspiring Americans is because America capitalizes off of the labor of the undocumented.”

So what can we do to help?

“Simple steps will lead us towards a more humane solution,” said Weiner.  “Eliminating the use of ‘illegal’ while referring to a human; not allowing racial profiling to be the law; not allowing corporations to profit off of locking up immigrants; eliminating the ‘War on Drugs’ and recognizing that drug addiction is a public health concern rather than a criminal offense; active truth seeking; practicing solidarity with immigrant communities … the list goes on.”

“Students can be very active in advocating for more humane immigration policies (and) for reforming the current immigration system,” said Zeballos.  “They can also seek opportunities to support undocumented immigrants in the community and at Guilford.”