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The Brutality of "Border Security"

Last Thursday, the US Senate passed an expansive “immigration reform” bill. The bill’s Hoeven-Corker Amendment would increase the US government’s “border security” spending to $46.3 billion.

This money will be used to create what John McCain calls “the most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall,” staffed by at least 38,405 Border Patrol agents. That’s a larger force than George W. Bush had stationed in Afghanistan when he left office. No wonder it’s been called the “border surge.”

Those agents will be armed with billions of dollars worth of equipment from America’s leading war profiteers. According to the Washington Post, the bill demands “among other items, six Northrop Grumman airborne radar systems that cost $9.3 million each, 15 Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopters that average more than $17 million apiece, and eight light enforcement helicopters made by American Eurocopter that sell for about $3 million each.” As usual, militarization means obscene corporate profits at taxpayer expense.

Moreover, increasing “border security” funding means expanding an agency whose members routinely violate civil liberties and have even committed murder. John Carlos Frey has documented 10 instances where Border Patrol agents have shot innocent Mexicans on Mexican soil. In one case, 16-year old José Antonio Rodríguez was shot eight times when he went to buy a hot dog in the border town of Nogales.  In another incident, Frey explains, “a husband and wife were celebrating the birthday of their two daughters. The husband got shot and killed, shot in the heart.” This is what Border Patrol agents do to peaceful people who haven’t even crossed the border.

When immigrants cross the border, they are subjected to further violence. In 2010, 42-year old migrant worker Anastasio Rojas was tased and beaten to death by a dozen officers. These sorts of murders are rarely prosecuted. And while such overt murders are relatively rare, the Border Patrol has caused still more deaths indirectly. Migrants travel across dangerous deserts, and often die of heat exhaustion and dehydration. Activists with No More Deaths regularly leave water on travel routes to try to save immigrants’ lives. Border Patrol agents have slashed open, kicked over, and dumped out these water bottles, effectively condemning immigrants to suffering and death.

The Senate bill would spend billions of dollars to support war profiteers and murderers, and for what? The stated goal is to “secure the border.” This is an utterly unjustifiable goal. The border between the US and Mexico was drawn through violent conquest and the theft of indigenous lands. Ultimately, border security is not a protection of property rights, but a violation of property rights. If you want to invite a friend from Mexico to work with you or visit you on your own personal property, the state’s border agents use force to prevent that.

Moreover, “securing the border” particularly means hurting indigenous people. The Tohono O’oodham Nation has members on both sides of the border. As Eileen Luna-Firebaugh explains, “Those who continue to use traditional border crossing areas are in danger of being shot by U.S. Border Patrol personnel, U.S. military, or vigilante citizen groups. For a young Texas shepherd named Ezequiel, U.S. military personnel who opened fire while he tended his goatherd along the Texas-Mexico border cut life short.” Should indigenous communities be split apart by militarized violence so that an imaginary line in the sand can be “secure?”

Ultimately, “border security” means violence and brutality. It means financing murderers and war profiteers. It means impeding freedom of movement, violating individual rights, and dividing indigenous communities. Let’s stop this violence. Instead of securing the border, let’s abolish it.

Nathan Goodman is a writer and activist living in Salt Lake City, Utah. He has been involved in LGBT, feminist, anti-war, and prisoner solidarity organizing. In addition to writing at the Center for a Stateless Society, he blogs at Dissenting Leftist.

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Nathan Goodman is the Lysander Spooner Research Scholar in Abolitionist Studies at the Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS.org). He blogs at Dissenting Leftist.

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