Immigration bill would create radically militarized border
June 28, 2013
As the US draws down its involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, Congress has turned its jingoistic instincts inward, and is now moving forward with plans to dramatically expand surveillance along the Southern frontier, a militaristic remedy to the perennial flow of immigrants and drugs across the US-Mexico border.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate voted 69-29 in favor of the so-called “border surge” proposal, an amendment to the Gang Of Eight’s comprehensive immigration reform bill that would shove tens of billions of dollars into border surveillance, fencing, and enforcement. The legislation, authored by Republican Senators Bob Corker of Tennessee and John Hoeven of North Dakota, cleared the way for the Senate’s passage of the overall comprehensive immigration reform Thursday afternoon, locking up support from 14 GOP Senators.
In exchange, the compromise attempts to allay Republican concerns about border security, calling for a state of “persistent surveillance” along the border with “continuous and integrated manned or unmanned, monitoring, sensing or surveillance of 100 percent of southern border mileage or the immediate vicinity of the southern border.” To accomplish that, the legislation would pour unprecedented resources—$46 billion in total—into border security, including:
$30 billion to double the number of Border Patrol agents along the Southern border, from about 18,000 today to 38,405. That’s about 19 agents per mile.
$8 billion to complete and reinforce a 700-mile pedestrian border fence.
$4.5 billion in high-tech surveillance technology, including 24/7 use of unmanned aerial drones; six “Vader” (Vehicle Dismount and Exploitation Radar) radar systems developed for the military in Afghanistan; 40 new helicopters; 30 marine vessels; 4,595 unattended ground sensors with seismic, imaging, and infrared capability; 86 towers; and hundreds of cameras, night-vision goggles, fiber-optic inspection scopes, and mobile surveillance systems.
$1 billion to expand the E-Verify System, a computerized data network that allows employers to check the immigration status of potential workers, and build a “photo tool” that allows a company to match applicants to photos in the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services Database. (Just 7 percent of employers are currently using the E-Verify system, but the bill calls for the system to be rolled out to all employers within four years.)
Development of “fraud-resistant, tamper-resistant, wear-resistant, and identity theft-resistant social security cards.”
Nearly everyone agrees that these measures are excessive. Even the amendment’s author, Sen. Corker, has said that the border security deal is “almost overkill.” More than securing the border, the primary goal of the amendment is political—the Gang of Eight needed to make big promises on border security to get the Republican votes they need to pass the bill later this week.
“Is it more than I would have recommended? Honestly, yes,” Arizona Sen. John McCain said last week. “But we’ve got to give people confidence.”
Stop the militarization of our borderlands! We cannot compromise on immigration reform when the consequences are drones flying over our borders & our land becoming a death zone for immigrants.