Immigration Reform Continues Border Militarization

By Crystal Contreras

This past March, 150 undocumented people from all over the United States participated in a mass border crossing; an act of civil disobedience which was meant to counteract the record deportations that have been happening under the Obama Administration. The events took place at the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa ports of entry in San Diego, California, bringing the treatment of our fellow human beings to the front and center of the immigration conversation. The actions couldn’t have happened at a more opportune time, especially when you consider that nearby just weeks before, a man was killed in a show of excessive force after he threw rocks at a Border Patrol agent.

Since 2010, ten people have been killed for throwing rocks, and Border Patrol is being allowed to continue this practice unabated. And with the recent immigration reform bill outlining significant increases in surveillance and security equipment, one can only expect deaths by excessive force to continue.

The area between San Diego’s main ports of entry is slated to receive a private contractor Christmas list of high-tech devices meant to wrangle, harass, and terrorize people attempting to cross into the United States. It would seem that corporate lobbying dollars are paying off, because if the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization act (immigration reform) passes in its current incarnation, this less than six mile strip of land will receive:

“3 integrated fixed towers. 41 fixed camera systems (with relocation capability) which include Remote Video Surveillance Systems. 14 mobile surveillance systems, which include mobile video surveillance systems, and mobile surveillance capability systems. 393 unattended ground sensors, including seismic, imaging and infrared. 83 handheld equipment devices, including handheld thermal imaging systems and night vision goggles.”

The companies furnishing this gadgetry include Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and IBM, who in 2012 received a combined total of $242 million in U.S. Customs and Border Protection contracts. Also profiting are companies like GEO Group, Corrections Corporation of America, and G4S, who make their taxpayer-funded revenue by providing inmate transportation services and incarceration facilities.

The immigration reform bill calls for similar security measures at other ports of entry throughout the Southwest, which only forces people to take riskier measures in order to cross, subjecting themselves to perils such as human trafficking, robbery, and death by exposure. Even though for now it seems this legislation will not become law, once it does it will contain major security provisions, whether or not it’s passed comprehensively or in piecemeal form.

In what was perhaps a thoughtful gesture to the future generation, in early February agents near San Diego held an event where they taught children to shoot paintball guns at targets resembling migrants. Activities like this only normalize brutal tactics done in the name of “public safety,” But with every new death we are reminded that public safety more and more means protecting our communities from the dangers of law enforcement.