“No, the [Senate bipartisan immigration] bill would not loosen security at borders and ports… Ms. Napolitano’s testimony evoked a world of drones, radar and motion sensors, Border Patrol agents and National Guard troops, fencing and razor wire stretching for miles and miles. The bill calls for up to $6.5 billion in new spending, with expanded workplace-verification and entry-exit visa systems, and still more boots and fencing…”
- From a recent editorial in the New York Times
Do we really need more money for securing the border?
The noontime sun was intense, its light blinding and the air desiccating. Some ten of us were in Nogales, just south of the border, about a year ago. We–all Unitarian Universalists, from different parts of the country–went there to witness conditions at the Arizona-Mexico border. We were standing in the hazy shadow of the monstrous border fence. This is a part of what the Department of Homeland Security calls the “tactical infrastructure.”
To see it is to hate it–so oppressive is its sight. It stands about 25 feet tall–that is four to five times as tall as most of us. It goes on for miles and miles. It is a steel picket-style fence, set in concrete. Each picket is a three or four inch square, incredibly strong. These square pickets stand next to each other, their diagonals separated by a couple of inches. There are connecting structures on the top. Make no mistake: you will have to be very skilled–and very desperate–to try to scale this wall.
So, we were standing in the scorching sun. Our local guide told us about how Nogales–on both sides of today’s border–was once a united community. How the community used the open space that marks the border at festival times. The border was there but it meant very little to the people.
On our left, there was a little hill. The fence, of course, went up on the hill. We decided to walk up the hill, mostly to get a better view of the city.
Oh, but we had company! On the U.S. side of the border, there was a service road, some 50 feet from the fence. There, shining in the blinding sunlight was a white truck, Border Patrol sign emblazed on its side. Our tax dollars are indeed at work. I assumed innocently that they were just on a routine drive, looking for any trouble.
We kept walking. The truck moved. We stopped to talk or just look around. They stopped. We walked some more. The truck crept along. This went on until we reached the top of the hill. After stopping and taking a couple of pictures, we turned back. The truck turned back. And so it went on until we got in our own van and left the area.
We heard that a few weeks earlier, there had been an incidence where a young man trying to scale the fence had been shot at. The Border Patrol is well equipped with helicopters, drones, night vision equipment, and has lots and lots of men, vehicles, weapons, etc. Not to mention practically unlimited power. This certainly is a “militarized” zone!
With so much power, why do we need more and more resources for border security? Is the administration simply trying to mollify the conservatives? Or, is this proposal just another way to funnel money to contractors and equipment manufacturers who will ultimately receive a sizable portion of this allocation?
Are we really that vulnerable?
This post was written by Rashid Shaikh. Rashid is a member of the Immigration Task Force at First Parish Cambridge UU. You can find out more about BorderLinks immigration justice trips via the Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice.