Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Death in the desert

Los Angeles times
Operation Gatekeeper started in October 1994, focusing federal border security efforts on the five-mile stretch from the Pacific Ocean to San Ysidro. Within three years, the budget of the old Immigration and Naturalization Service -- since split into two agencies -- doubled to $800 million. The number of Border Patrol agents also doubled, along with the miles of fencing. Underground sensors nearly tripled.

In the 15 years since its inception,Gatekeeper, now shorthand for all federal enforcement efforts at the Mexican border, has had a range of consequences, some expected and others grimly surprising. For example, attempted crossings and apprehensions where enforcement is heaviest plummeted, just as officials had hoped. But migrants didn't stay home. Instead, thousands attempted to cross in the dangerous desert lands to the east, in Arizona and Texas -- and as many as 5,600 have died, according to a recent report by the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties and Mexico's National Commission on Human Rights. Illegal immigrants are now 17 times more likely to die while crossing the border than they were in 1998, according to the report.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Body Count on the Border

The Daily Beast

by Molly Kincaid

After nine years of stunning mortality rates along the Arizona-Mexico border, the medical examiners are fed up. Molly Kincaid on one morgue boss’s battle for Washington’s attention.

So far this year, 203 migrants have died along the Sonora-Arizona border. The number is nothing out of the ordinary. The death rates in this part of the country began rising notably back in 2001, and have not declined over the last nine years.

The body count along the border shows up from time to time in Washington’s immigration debates. But with the president’s agenda crowded with health care, Afghanistan and the aftershocks of last fall’s financial crisis, these fatalities are in danger of getting lost in the shuffle.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Congress Strips New Funding for Mexican Border Fence

The Washington Independent
By MIKE LILLIS 10/20/09 5:34 PM

In a move being cheered by environmentalists and community groups, Congress on Tuesday sent the White House a spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security which, for the first time, excluded mandatory funding for new construction of the controversial fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Although the Senate in July passed an amendment to build an additional 300 miles of pedestrian fence at the border, that provision, sponsored by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), was stripped during subsequent negotiations with the House. The Senate passed the altered bill Tuesday afternoon by a vote of 79 to 19. DeMint voted against the measure.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Border fence boondoggle

6:00 am October 16, 2009, by Bob Barr

The much-heralded and much-maligned 600-mile long border fence between the United States and Mexico, is morphing into a typical government boondoggle — way over budget, way behind schedule, and way short of its promised goals.

The border fence, designed to thwart illegal border crossings into the U.S. from our southern neighbor, was supposed to have been completed this year. However, estimates now place its completion date seven years hence — 2016, to be exact. Its construction costs have sky-rocketed, as has the amount of money needed just to maintain it, which now is estimated by the Government Accountability Office at $6.5 billion over the next two decades.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Democrat puts down his marker for immigration reform


October 13th, 2009, 5:20 pm · 24 Comments · posted by Dena Bunis, Washington Bureau Chief

Immigration RallyWith a throng of Latinos chanting ‘Yes we can’ in English and Spanish in the shadow of the Capitol, Rep. Luis Gutierrez laid down his marker for a comprehensive immigration reform bill he’s expected to introduce before year’s end.

Gutierrez, D-Ill., is the biggest champion in the House for a broad-based bill that includes legalizing the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants now living in the United States. He capped off a string of speakers organized by Reform Immigration FOR America, a group created to try and get a measure passed during this Congress after the failures in 2006 and 2007.

Immigration Rally“Justice for immigrants is today’s civil rights struggle,” said Gutierrez, who made it clear to the cheering crowd that they have their work cut out for them. “We have a Congress to persuade. We have a president to convince. We have justice to deliver.”

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Time to rethink the troublesome border fence

Friday, October 9, 2009

Border fence funds pulled at request of lawmakers

By GARY MARTIN Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau

Oct. 8, 2009, 11:42PM

The provision by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., was removed at the behest of House members from Texas, Arizona and California who called the fencing a waste of taxpayer money and an ineffective way to secure the border.

“We need to invest and secure our border and our land ports without being tied down to an amendment that is out of touch with border needs,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, who spearheaded the effort to remove the provision DeMint tucked into a Senate spending bill earlier this year.

The provision, approved 54-44 in the Senate in July, was supported by both Republican and Democratic senators from Texas, California and Arizona. New Mexico's two Democratic senators opposed the additional pedestrian fence.

The House version of the bill did not contain the provision.

Cornyn's complaint

This week, the House and Senate negotiators writing the final bill chose not to include DeMint's provision, prompting a protest from Sen. John Cornyn.

“I'm very concerned with anything that sends a signal that we're not serious about continuing to provide security along our border,” said Cornyn, R-Texas, who supported the DeMint provision.

But the Texas Border Coalition, a collective of border mayors and county officials, applauded the move. They had urged Democratic leaders in the House to remove the provision from the bill, saying the money could be better used to upgrade busy ports of entry that routinely see traffic congestion and delays.

Eagle Pass Mayor Chad Foster, the Texas Border Coalition chairman, said the decision is the first time community leaders “have been able to defeat an effort in Congress to require fence construction.”

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Report on Border Crossing Deaths Makes the Invisible Visible

Posted by Kevin Keenan, ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties September 30th, 2009 at 5:21 pm

So much of what human rights advocates do is try to make the invisible visible. The more marginal and vulnerable the victims and the more remote the geographic location, the harder it is to do.

That, in a nutshell, is the goal and challenge of the San Diego ACLU’s report on border crossing deaths, Humanitarian Crisis: Migrant Deaths at the U.S. – Mexico Border, which was released today and is well reported by Spencer Hsu in The Washington Post. Filmmaker John Carlos Frey also uncovers the crisis at the border in his new documentary The 800 Mile Wall.

Marking the 15th anniversary of the misguided border strategy known as Operation Gatekeeper, the report makes visible the following:

  1. In the past 15 years, as many as 5,600 people have died.
  2. These deaths were anticipated in the design of the U.S. border strategy, which deliberately pushes migrants away from inhabited areas into harsh desert and mountainous terrains.
  3. The rate of deaths has increased despite the economic decline and a drop in migration.
  4. The number of rescues has decreased despite a massive increase in Border Patrol agents.