FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Prevention Through Deterrence: The Strategy Shared by the El Paso Shooter and the U.S. Border Patrol

Photograph Source: ruperto miller – CC0

It is a simple strategy. First: murder Latinos in the U.S. Second: news of the killings spreads south. Third: fear of violent death paralyzes those hoping to leave Mexico. Terror deters migrants.

It appears this was Patrick Crusius’ logic when he stormed an El Paso Walmart on August 3. His alleged manifesto insists “that the Hispanic population is willing to return to their home countries if given the right incentive. An incentive that myself and many other patriotic Americans will provide.”

But this scheme is not original. It is not some cruel deviation from our core values, some Trump-era warping of our fundamental decency. No: Crusius wielded his gun the way the Border Patrol has used the desert for 25 years.

Because it was a simple strategy the Patrol enacted in 1994. First: shift migrant crossings from established entry points, like San Diego or El Paso, to “hostile terrain” where “mortal danger” awaits. Second: let the desert claim its victims. Third: witness fear of apprehension in, say, El Paso, or dread of a Sonoran Desert death, raise “the ‘cost’ to illegal entrants to the point of deterring repeated attempts.” Latinos would keep out, given the right incentives.

This policy, Prevention Through Deterrence (PTD), was Bill Clinton’s. Sandia National Laboratories, a Lockheed Martin subsidiary, drafted it in 1993 at the White House’s request. When implemented, PTD reckoned migrant deaths one measure of success. This point cannot be overemphasized.

For example, in 1997, the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) listed several “Indicators for Measuring the Effectiveness of the Strategy to Deter Illegal Entry Along the Southwest Border.” One indicator: “Deaths of aliens attempting entry.” If the “strategy is successful,” the report elaborated, “deaths may increase.”

Which they did. It was soon obvious this policy was an effective migrant-killer. Its deterrent effect was less apparent. In 2001, the GAO noted that “shifting illegal alien traffic away from urban areas” was successful, but “at a cost to…illegal aliens…. In particular, rather than being deterred from attempting illegal entry, many aliens have instead risked injury and death by trying to cross mountains, deserts, and rivers.”

The Border Patrol guesses some 7,000 have died crossing in recent decades. No More Deaths, the humanitarian group, suggests 8,000. But these figures are likely fractions of the total killed.

Dr. Robin Reineke, a Tucson anthropologist, calls Patrol statistics “completely meaningless,” since they tally only those remains agents encounter, not the bodies police, activists, and ranchers find. Other bodies vanish. Vultures, gorging in wakes of 35, can strip all flesh from a corpse in hours, then scatter bones dozens of feet apart. Because of official count deficiencies, because of the way scavengers disappear the dead, Todd Miller, a reporter on border issues, believes “the actual death toll is triple” the official figure.

Patrick Crusius, in his way, added to this toll. Blame Trump’s rhetoric, rip the Republicans. Sure. There’s something to that. But the killer embraced thinking more mainstream than pundits admit. He followed ideas birthed in a national defense lab, at a Democratic administration’s urging, that made the desert a graveyard and a Walmart a slaughterhouse.

More migrant deaths, more mass shootings are all but assured. There’s no use averting our eyes from this future. And it will remain dark, unless we resist easy answers to the problems we face.

More articles by:

Nick Alexandrov lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  He can be reached at: nicholas.alexandrov@gmail.com

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
September 20, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Unipolar Governance of the Multipolar World
Rob Urie
Strike for the Environment, Strike for Social Justice, Strike!
Miguel Gutierrez
El Desmadre: The Colonial Roots of Anti-Mexican Violence
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Pompeo and Circumstance
Andrew Levine
Why Democrats Really Should Not All Get Along But Sometimes Must Anyway
Louis Proyect
A Rebellion for the Wild West
T.J. Coles
A Taste of Their Own Medicine: the Politicians Who Robbed Iranians and Libyans Fear the Same for Brexit Britain
H. Bruce Franklin
How We Launched Our Forever War in the Middle East
Lee Hall
Mayor Obedience Training, From the Pet Products Industry
Louis Yako
Working in America: Paychecks for Silence
Michael D. Yates
Radical Education
Jonathan Cook
Israelis Have Shown Netanyahu the Door. Can He Inflict More Damage Before He Exits?
Valerie Reynoso
The Rising Monopoly of Monsanto-Bayer
John Steppling
American Psychopathy
Ralph Nader
25 Ways the Canadian Health Care System is Better than Obamacare for the 2020 Elections
Ramzy Baroud
Apartheid Made Official: Deal of the Century is a Ploy and Annexation is the New Reality
Vincent Emanuele
Small Town Values
John Feffer
The Threat of Bolton Has Retreated, But Not the Threat of War
David Rosen
Evangelicals, Abstinence, Abortion and the Mainstreaming of Sex
Judy Rohrer
“Make ‘America’ White Again”: White Resentment Under the Obama & Trump Presidencies
John W. Whitehead
The Police State’s Language of Force
Kathleen Wallace
Noblesse the Sleaze
Farzana Versey
Why Should Kashmiris be Indian?
Nyla Ali Khan
Why Are Modi and His Cohort Paranoid About Diversity?
Shawn Fremstad
The Official U.S. Poverty Rate is Based on a Hopelessly Out-of-Date Metric
Mel Gurtov
No War for Saudi Oil!
Robert Koehler
‘I’m Afraid You Have Humans’
David Swanson
Every Peace Group and Activist Should Join Strike DC for the Earth’s Climate
Scott Owen
In Defense of Non-violent Actions in Revolutionary Times
Jesse Jackson
Can America Break Its Gun Addiction?
Priti Gulati Cox
Sidewalk Museum of Congress: Who Says Kansas is Flat?
Mohamad Shaaf
The Current Political Crisis: Its Roots in Concentrated Capital with the Resulting Concentrated Political Power
Max Moran
Revolving Door Project Probes Thiel’s White House Connection
Arshad Khan
Unhappy India
Nick Pemberton
Norman Fucking Rockwell! and 24 Other Favorite Albums
Nicky Reid
The Bigotry of ‘Hate Speech’ and Facebook Fascism
Paul Armentano
To Make Vaping Safer, Legalize Cannabis
Jill Richardson
Punching Through Bad Headlines
Jessicah Pierre
What the Felicity Huffman Scandal Says About America
John Kendall Hawkins
Draining the Swamp, From the Beginning of Time
Julian Rose
Four Funerals and a Wedding: A Brief History of the War on Humanity
Victor Grossman
Film, Music and Elections in Germany
Charles R. Larson
Review: Ahmet Altan’s “I Will Never See the World Again”
David Yearsley
Jazz is Activism
Elliot Sperber
Captains of Industry 
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail