Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced this week that the 1,200 National Guard troops that President Barack Obama ordered to the southwest border were deployed on Aug. 1, and hundreds of additional Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are being sent to the border to target dangerous criminals and help shore up security.
I asked Erica Schommer and Celestino Gallegos, Amnesty International members in Texas, what it’s been like living near the border. They were glad to set me straight! They wrote:
If you are like most Americans, you probably believe that our southern border is under siege. Recently, media coverage has had many people from D.C., New York, and other places far from the border talking about the crime and violence in the borderlands as if there was a crisis in the U.S. For those of us who live on that border, the report released by the FBI was welcome news, confirming what many of us know: statistics show that the border is safer than many places in the U.S.
We live ten miles from the Mexican border. The increase in violence in Mexico has indeed impacted our lives: we do not go to Mexico nearly as much as we used to, and when we do, we are much more cautious. But no, the violence that has plagued Mexico since the inception of President Calderon’s war on the drug cartels has not “spilled-over” into the U.S. as many outside commentators have claimed. Here in the U.S., life feels no different.
Nevertheless, pundits and opportunistic politicians have seized on the dramatic violence in Mexico to justify border militarization and undertake draconian immigration enforcement measures in the U.S. While these measures may cater to the fears of the American public, they neither offer a long term humanitarian solution to our broken immigration system, nor provide any security to border residents. Moreover, if adopted, these measures will result in significant human and civil rights violations of border residents.
We don’t want to live in a militarized zone. Would you? As it is, Border Patrol vehicles are a daily reminder of enforcement in our neighborhoods. We don’t want to hear helicopters over head and see tanks stationed by the bridges, like there are on the Mexican side of the border. We don’t want surveillance cameras in unmanned drones tracking our mundane daily activities. It is not necessary and it is not welcome.