May 22, 2013
By Edward Alden, Bryan Robers and John Whitley, Politico, 5/21/2013
The immigration reform bill before the Senate is called the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. The order is no accident. Border security is the linchpin, and few Republicans will support the broader legislation unless they are convinced the border can be secured and that the United States will not see another surge in illegal immigration as it did following the 1986 reform bill.
But how can Congress know whether the borders are secure? Despite an enormous buildup of Border Patrol agents, fencing and technology over the past two decades, the U.S. government has yet to assess whether these expenditures have actually been effective in reducing illegal immigration. In a new report for the Council on Foreign Relations titled “Managing Illegal Immigration to the United States: How Effective is Enforcement?” we argue that the administration can gain congressional and public trust only by developing and publicly reporting real measures of the effectiveness of border enforcement. Such accountability, coupled with better congressional oversight, would help reassure a skeptical public that the U.S. government is indeed serious about controlling illegal migration.
March 18, 2013
The Washington Post, March 17, 2013
With the winter sun’s glare bouncing off his old red pickup, John Ladd drives slowly along the 10-foot wall of iron stakes and steel mesh that crosses his 14,000-acre cattle ranch, dividing his great-grandfather’s land from the Mexican desert but not always keeping intruders out.
“Here’s where the drug smugglers cut through the wall in January,” Ladd says, pointing to a large jagged square in the metal that has since been rewelded. “They use blowtorches and hydraulic grinders. They can get a truck through in minutes, and as soon as they reach the highway they’re gone.”
Ladd’s ranch in the southeastern corner of Arizona is dotted with cameras on stilts, and U.S. Border Patrol trucks cruise the range daily, scattering his Herefords and Angus. Beyond the wall, Mexican soldiers patrol in Humvees. Before it was erected in 2007, illegal migrants constantly camped in his bushes on their way north. These days, fewer make the attempt, but a more sophisticated and dangerous threat has replaced them.
March 12, 2013
By Michael Dear, The New York Times, 3/10/2013
Nearly 700 miles of walls now separate the United States and Mexico. Would-be migrants still find ways over, under, through and around them. As a tool for controlling immigration to the United States, the border fortifications have been remarkably ill suited to the task. And yet these barriers are having a significant and lasting effect nonetheless: they are harming communities on both sides of the border.
We should tear them down before the damage becomes irreparable. After Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush instructed the Department of Homeland Security to prioritize the construction of fortifications along the Mexican border. The result has been an astonishing array of barriers across America’s southern frontier. The number of Border Patrol agents doubled in seven years to more than 21,000. And interior enforcement was expanded to identify, detain, prosecute and deport undocumented migrants.
March 7, 2013
Illegal immigration, drug smuggling and border crime may rise as U.S. spending cuts reduce hours for Border Patrol agents, their union said yesterday.
The officers may have to take as many as 14 days of unpaid time off, or furloughs, and see their typical work hours cut to 8 from 10 as overtime is scaled back by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said Shawn Moran, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, representing 17,000 non-supervisory agents.
March 7, 2013
The Christian Science Monitor, 3/6/2013
Twenty-five miles north of the line, a giant white canopy stretches over the northbound lanes, with green-shirted border patrol agents and drug-sniffing dogs buzzing around the checkpoint. Farther south in Nogales, Ariz., green-and-white border patrol vehicles are as conspicuous as yellow cabs in New York, and stadium lights trained on the border fence dwarf the rustic Sonoran homes below.
Ten years ago, the permanent checkpoint, the stadium lights, and the ubiquity of those green-and-white cars would have seemed jarring. But since 9/11, America’s southern border has changed. President George W. Bush’s most famous surge might have been in Iraq, but along the US-Mexican border, he also presided over a doubling of manpower and a shift in the border patrol’s mission to make it a tool in the war on terror.
March 4, 2013
The New York Times, 3/2/2013
The border fence behind Manuel Zamora’s home suggests strength and protection, its steel poles perfectly aligned just beyond the winding Rio Grande. But every night, the crossers come. After dark and at sunup, too, dozens of immigrants scale the wall or walk around it, their arrival announced by the angry yelps of backyard dogs.
“Look,” Mr. Zamora said early one recent morning, “here they come now.” He pointed toward his neighbor’s yard, where a young man in a dark sweatshirt and white sneakers sprinted toward the road, his breath visible in the winter dawn. Three others followed, rushing into a white sedan that arrived at the exact moment their feet hit the pavement.
February 21, 2013
The porous border has long been the Republicans’ main argument against reforming immigration laws. The last time Congress took up the issue, in 2007, it bogged down over the government’s inability to stop the flow of undocumented laborers. More than 850,000 people were caught trying to illegally cross the nearly 2,000-mile-long southern border from Mexico that year, and the number of Mexican immigrants living in the country illegally was at a 40-year peak, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Even with the backing of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, President George W. Bush couldn’t persuade enough Republicans to support an immigration bill.
This time, those looking to revive concerns about a lawless border must contend with a far different set of facts: The line between Mexico and the U.S. is now more secure than it’s been in decades. Obama has poured money and resources into border security. In his first term, he spent $73 billion on immigration enforcement. That’s more than the budgets of all other federal law enforcement agencies—the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Secret Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Marshals Service—combined, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research group. (Bush spent $37.4 billion on immigration enforcement in his first term and $60 billion in his second.)
February 15, 2013
Automatic spending cuts due March 1 could pose a real setback for immigration reform by forcing the Border Patrol to reduce its workforce hours by the equivalent of 5,000 agents beginning in April — a nearly one-quarter reduction.
That’s the upshot of testimony by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday. The number 5,000 is the most detailed public assessment yet by her department of the fallout from the threatened sequester.
February 12, 2013
The Washington Post, 2/12/2013
While reporting on a story last week among the down-and-out (and recently deported) at a migrant shelter in Tecate, Mexico, I met a few men who had a whole new reason to dread re-arrest by U.S. Border Patrol. They were trying to sneak back into California. But if caught, they were likely to be transported hundreds of miles east by U.S. immigration authorities, where they would be released onto the streets of some of Mexico’s scariest border towns.
The procedure is known as Lateral Repatriation, or Lateral Deportation. It began a decade ago as a pilot program aimed at reducing migrant deaths in the blazing deserts of Arizona. The thinking was this: Instead of sending illegal migrants back to the Mexican side near their point of arrest, U.S. agents could break the catch-and-release pattern — and ties to local smuggling guides — by shipping deportees from the harsh deserts to more settled areas opposite south Texas.
January 24, 2013
By Adam Isacson and Maureen Meyer, 1/24/2013
Since 2011, WOLA staff have carried out research in six different zones of the U.S.-Mexican border, meeting with U.S. law enforcement officials, human rights and humanitarian groups, and journalists, as well as with Mexican officials and representatives of civil society and migrant shelters in Mexico. As part of this ongoing work, the authors spent the week of November 26-30, 2012 in south Texas, looking at security and migration trends along this section of the U.S.-Mexico border. Specifically, we visited Laredo, McAllen, and Brownsville, Texas, and Matamoros, Mexico.
We found that unlike other sections of the border, the south Texas sections have seen an increase, not a decrease, in apprehensions, particularly of non-Mexican migrants; migrant deaths have dramatically increased; and there are fewer accusations of Border Patrol abuse of migrants. We also found that the Zetas criminal organization’s control over the area may be slipping and drug trafficking appears to have increased, yet these U.S. border towns are safer than they have been in decades. Lastly, in spite of the ongoing violence on the Mexican side of the border and the failure of the Mexican government to reform local and state police forces, U.S. authorities are increasingly repatriating Mexicans through this region, often making migrants easy prey for the criminal groups that operate in these border cities.