May 26, 2010

The American Civil Liberties Union's affiliates in the border states of Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas were dismayed to learn of the Administration's plan to send as many as 1,200 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border and to make a request to Congress for $500 million in supplemental funding to secure the border and enforce federal laws.

"The Administration is buying into an electoral political rhetoric that claims an interest in border enforcement first, before the dialogue on a fair and just immigration reform has even been considered," says Vicki B. Gaubeca, director of the ACLU of New Mexico Regional Center for Border Rights. "The truth is that there have never been more federal resources and technologies placed at the U.S.-Mexico border than at this point in history."

Currently, about 90 percent of the more than 20,000 border patrol agents employed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection are deployed along the southern border. This number does not include an additional 6,000 customs officers and another 5,000 ICE agents working along the U.S.-Mexico border. Other federal agencies operating on the southwestern border include the FBI, ATF, DEA, U.S. Marshals and more. Nor does it include complementing initiatives such as 700 miles of border fencing and so-called "fusion centers."

Community members along the border region, particularly those living within the 100-mile "Constitution Free Zone," have become pawns of political compromise in exchange for an immigration reform strategy that has yet to materialize. This border enforcement boom has resulted in an increase in civil rights violations, traumatic family separations and entire communities, which include many U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, experiencing a deterioration of their freedom of movement and quality of life.

In addition, community members of Latino/Hispanic descent have experienced an increase of racial profiling and harassment as a result of heightened border enforcement initiatives.

"It is time to move on to broader, more effective solutions that will fix the broken immigration system, instead of using stop-gap measures that place the civil liberties of the border communities at risk and do little to solve the problem in the long term," states Gaubeca.

ACLU affiliates expressed additional concerns about the Administration's decision to feed into the myths about cross-border criminal activity. A May 2, 2010, article in the Arizona Republic debunked the connection between immigrants and crime by noting that crime rates in Arizona border towns have remained flat for a decade despite population increases and drug violence in Mexico.

"While ACLU affiliates recognize that it is the job of federal officials to enforce immigration law, it is equally important for the Administration to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of border enforcement needs prior to taking a step of this magnitude," adds Gaubeca. "Instead of conducting a true risk assessment, consulting with border communities, or focusing on how to better deploy and train currently deployed CBP agents, the Administration has chosen to simply throw more money at the problem and add to the already massive deployment of federal forces
along the border."


Statement of ACLU Border Affiliates

National Guard Deployment ACLU.pdf