By Fidel “Butch” Montoya
When the issue of protecting one’s home or neighborhood comes up, the first thing we say as homeowners is we should have the right to determine what we want done to protect our quality of life.
If there is one thing home owners despise, it is having outsiders telling them what they think is the best approach to dealing with any safety issues. We have heard the heated arguments and the local refrain, “We live here and we know what is best for our area.”
An article in the Texas Observer explains how border communities are finally uniting to fight militarization of the border and determine what the best policies are to secure their communities.
The main complaint residents along the border have is that they have become the victims of politicians’ hateful rhetoric bent on perpetuating the fear about undocumented immigrants.
One of the main culprits is Arizona Senator Jon Kyl who tried to get an amendment passed that would throw undocumented immigrants in jail for two weeks before deporting them back to Mexico. Kyl said this would be a deterrent to them trying again. This is just another scheme to criminalize undocumented immigrants.
According to the Observer, border communities are concerned once the Democrats realize a lot of horse trading with the GOP is going to be necessary to push immigration reform forward, “Residents are already bracing to become the sacrificial lamb for Democrats desperate for Republican buy-in on immigration reform. They're already seeing it with the 1,200 guard troops and a Predator Drone dispatched to El Paso.”
Arizona Senator John McCain is so desperate to get re-elected; he has pushed aside his personal values and political beliefs and has become one of the strongest proponents of harsher laws against undocumented immigrants.
McCain attempted to have the Senate pass an amendment sending 6,000 National Guard troops to the border. Even after losing that vote, he still managed to sneak his amendment back in a defense bill that comes up for a vote later this year.
One of the leaders of the effort to unite border communities puts the nasty debate about border safety in perspective. Louie Gilot, director of the Border Network for Human Rights in El Paso told the Observer, “We’ve got to separate border security from immigration reform. We need to have an independent voice for the well being of the communities and so the border isn’t sacrificed the next time immigration reform is taken up.”
Gilot went to mention she is a resident of El Paso, Texas, and according to the latest FBI crime statistics just released; El Paso has the second lowest level of violent crimes per capita among the top 25 most populated cities. In plain language, El Paso is the second safest city in the USA!
Putting those statistics in better perspective, El Paso with a population of about 612,000 residents had 4 homicides last year. Our nation’s capital, with a smaller population of about 592,000 had 66 murders last year.
Yet, the people leading the effort to unite border communities rightfully complain that the border area is often described by the news media and the politicians that rarely venture out of the belt way in D.C. as “a war zone.”
Gilot says one of the main problems is that these politicians have a misperception about the border, and so when they discuss border options, they are made from a “border perceived to be a war zone.”
In March 2010, the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano issued a press release outlining the border security initiatives.
“Over the past year, our unprecedented cooperation with the Mexican government and sustained security efforts along the border have resulted in major progress in combating the ruthless cartels that threaten the safety of both our nations.”
Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has also taken a tougher enforcement approach in trying to secure the border, but has focused on capturing undocumented immigrants instead of closing the border to the drug cartels and gangs that are involved in human trafficking.
But as one reviews the press release, one has to wonder why an additional 1,200 National Guard troops are needed at the border at this time?
Ordering troops to border is just another example of how political rhetoric and bad policy decisions are meant only to exploit the politics of immigration reform, and create more fear and hate.
Texas Senator John Cornyn perhaps best exemplifies how the fear sound bite works to stall any efforts to move immigration reform forward by exploiting the issue of the border. "Until we deal with this broken border, we are not going to be able to deal with other aspects of our broken immigration system."
If the border is still considered “a war zone,” by the politicians back in Washington, D.C., we need to demand answers from them why all of the border initiatives Napolitano claims have made it safer are not working.
The DHS press release touts the facts about border improvements that are simply hard to rationalize. “Since last March, DHS has doubled the number of personnel assigned to Border Enforcement Security Task Forces; tripled the number of ICE intelligence analysts working along the U.S.-Mexico border; quadrupled deployments of Border Liaison Officers; and begun screening 100 percent of southbound rail shipments for illegal weapons, drugs and cash—for the first time ever.”
Yes, you read that correctly. Doubled the number of personnel assigned to Border Enforcement Security Task Forces. Tripled the number of ICE intelligence analysts working along the U.S.-Mexico border. DHS quadrupled deployment of Border Liaison Officers.
Most startling to me is the fact that for the very first time ever, the U.S. government has “begun screening 100 percent of southbound rail shipments for illegal weapons, drugs and cash - For the very first time ever!”
This means that for years, our government simply ignored the fact that shipments of weapons, drugs and cash were probably being shipped across the border without any threat of government intervention. Outrageous if you ask me!
The Border Patrol in its 85 year history has doubled its agents from 10,000 in 2004 to over than 20,000 agents in 2009.
A question that must be asked is that if the Department of Homeland Security is accomplishing all of these goals and making the border safer, why it is even necessary to talk about the border as “a war zone?” Why is Senator McCain still talking about adding 6,000 more National Guard troops to militarize the border?
It is time that the President along with his Department of Homeland Security and every elected politician in D.C. stop viewing the border as “a war zone” and need to demand accountability of all the high priced technology and border personnel being sent to the border.
It is also time to listen to the people living along the border who know better than anyone else what is actually happening at the border and stop this rhetoric of fear and panic the politicians use to politicize the immigration reform movement.
Lobbying for more troops on the border, Arizona Senator John McCain said, "The borders are broken. We have an obligation to our citizens to secure our border and allow them to lead lives where they not live in fear."
If anyone knows what border policies may actually allow residents to lead their lives where they are not living in fear, it is the residents who live on the border.
So why aren’t our politicians and President listening to these people? Militarizing our borders is bad public policy. We must stop paying attention to news media reports, politicians, and opinion pundits that claim the border is out of control.
For once, why don’t we let the people most affected by the impractical border initiatives from uninformed politicians in the DC beltway have a say in what is best for their communities?
Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries - Latino Faith Initiative. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA - TV Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked at the news station for 24 years. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; as the Manager of Public Safety for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000. Montoya was Licensed to preach in 1972. He serves on the Executive Council for the Hispanic Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.