Root Causes of Abusive Border Enforcement

Get border_lines in your inbox


_Tune in to this riveting conversation (on Instagram) between colleagues Nicole Austin-Hillery of Human Rights Watch’s U.S. Program and Haddy Gassama of the UndocuBlack Network, where they discuss what is happening at the U.S.-Mexico border, how dangerous policies are gravely affecting the lives of Black and brown immigrants, and what needs to happen to ensure safety for migrants and asylum seekers. 

_We are encouraged to hear that a U.S. District judge has allowed an ACLU-New Hampshire lawsuit to go forward that challenges Border Patrol checkpoints far from the actual border_on the grounds that these violate constitutional protections.

_Please read this informative Q&A analysis from our colleagues at Human Rights Watch on Title 42 expulsions and how this policy disproportionally affects the lives of Black immigrants.

_Our colleague Aaron Reichlin-Melnick of the American Immigration Council provides this timely update and breakdown of the numbers of unaccompanied children and families seeking safety at our southern border.

_Immigrant rights counsel Melissa Crow of the Southern Poverty Law Center explains the complex layers of Trump’s anti-immigrant and anti-refugee policies and how some of these are either continued or not being addressed under the Biden administration’s plan to “build back better;” she urges the new administration to take a more holistic approach.

Sign up now to receive more stories like these in your inbox.



_Root Causes of Abusive Border Enforcement. We can point to many historic root causes that have contributed to the abusive, militarized, racist and enforcement-centric approach to the people arriving to the border today, but here are two key elements: (1) plain old systemic racism and (2) greedy private contractors who profit enormously from a border security industrial complex that is aided by creating fear of “the other” under a guise of national security. For an example of the first root cause, please check out this amicus brief on the racist, anti-Mexican origins of the laws criminalizing unauthorized entry and unauthorized re-entry (8 USC 1325 and 1326). Leading scholars of the history of immigration law filed the brief in the Supreme Court case United States v. Palomar-Santiagowith counsel from the new Center for Immigration Law and Policy (CILP) at the UCLA School of Law and the firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.  In the brief, they note how supporters of these racist laws described Mexican immigrants as "rat men" and "pigeons" who would "dilute" the "race stock of the country." The U.S. government needs to recognize these statutes as the racist policies that they are_and repeal these immediately. 

On the second element noted above, it’s no secret (not to us anyway) that greedy private contractors are selling invasive surveillance technologies, war-like law enforcement tools, and border wall design and construction services to CBP, using billions of taxpayer dollars to make themselves unethically wealthy. These private contractors have created a strong lobbying arm that has served them well in co-opting politicians on both sides of the aisle. Even Biden has been compromised by this profit-driven industry as illustrated in this report from Todd Miller, author and independent journalist, who notes that private border security corporations donated three times more to Joe Biden ($5,364,994) than to Donald Trump ($1,730,435) during the 2020 presidential elections campaign. To learn more about the political and corporate pressures making border communities ever more surveilled and militarized, tune in to this teach-in hosted and coordinated by our South Texas colleagues. Mr. Miller and other panelists discuss the history of U.S. border enforcement, the present policies focused on physical and virtual border walls, and the ongoing trend of militarization and surveillance sanctioned by both major political parties. As we tackle immigration reform, we cannot continue to sacrifice the borderlands. Our communities do not need more walls, surveillance, or militarization. 

_Border wall intrigue. We have been highly concerned by a report in The Washington Times regarding several statements that Department of Homeland Secretary Mayorkas allegedly made to a group of ICE employees, indicating plans to continue wall construction to fill in 'gaps.' We say “allegedly,” because the story is written from notes provided to the newspaper; there was no reporter in the room covering the meeting. Nevertheless, we remain concerned that these statements appear to go against President Biden's campaign promise to “not build another foot of wall.”  In addition to the devastating impacts of wall construction, the use of any resources for any wall construction is even more damaging and irresponsible especially at a time when there are significant needs for resources to: (1) address humanitarian needs of unaccompanied children and families seeking safety at our southern border, (2) mitigate environmental harms from the wall, and (3) support communities spiralling from the economic impacts of the pandemic. A White House spokesperson later said, "There is some limited construction that has been funded and allocated for, but it is otherwise paused." We've reached out to DHS and congressional offices to request more clarity on these (alleged) statements. Meanwhile, our collective eyes rolled when we read this un-informed, contradictory and hypocritical opinion, published in the New York Times, that stated that the deaths of 13 migrants in a tragic car accident near Holtsville, California, could have been prevented if a wall had been “standing in their way.” Wait, what? How could a wall that was breached by the smugglers be effective in preventing deaths? Not only does the opinion make the weakest argument ever for a wall, it repeats the tired trope that massive amounts of border enforcements solves the problem of migration, which_as we’ve seen in the last three decades_ is a solution that completely ignores that most of these people who are seeking safety are forced to do so by climate change and our own trade policies. For another example of how Trump’s “big, beautiful wall” has been breached, check out this videoWe need to stop wasting taxpayer dollars and better invest them where they’re needed.

_Yesterday. Yesterday, all our border troubles seemed so far away...But, seriously, check out this video from Angry Tias and Abuelas of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, who describe how things used to be before border militarization. Yours truly fondly remembers these days. Maybe one day, the narrative of the border will be transformed into recognizing it again as a place of encounter, hope and opportunity. For an example of the vibrancy that remains in the borderlands, check out this story on border muralists and how the murals they paint tell our true stories. 

_Weekend hearing. If you have some downtime this weekend, we encourage you to tune in to the following two The Intercept: Deconstruction podcasts. The first, “From Coyotes to Coffin Ships: Joe Biden and the Border,” makes comparisons of the migration of Biden’s Irish ancestors with what is happening at the border today. The podcast ends with an informative conversation about the historical roots of the violence we are seeing in the Northern Triangle Countries of Central America. Guess who’s responsible? We have met the enemy, and he/she/they are us_PogoIn the second podcast, “A Big New Idea to End the Border Crisis,” the host interviews U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar about the number of unaccompanied children and families coming to our southern border, and conditions at Border Patrol facilities versus those at Health and Human Services (HHS) facilities. Escobar notes that this is a “moment of reckoning where we should recognize our colossal failure of the past,” suggesting the need to create a new way of doing things in the future. We couldn’t agree more! Instead of using the challenges at our border to score political points, we need to work together on real and proactive solutions, like developing a rights-respecting, welcoming system that doesn’t rely on detention. So, to those politicians who persist on using our home as a political prop, please stop, roll up your sleeves and start working on real solutions. Militarized border agencies like CBP have long legacies of holding people in cruel and inhumane conditions. We cannot allow them to continue keeping people, including children, in cages or to think that this is an effective solution to the challenges we are experiencing in the southern border region. The only role border agents should be playing is to quickly identify needs and refer people to the appropriate resources. We need a #NewBorder Vision.


border_lines is published every Friday for your reading pleasure. If you’d like to submit an item for inclusion, please email Vicki B. Gaubeca at [email protected], by Wednesday COB. The Southern Border Communities Coalition is a program of Alliance San Diego.


Privacy Policy / Terms & Conditions

Southern Border Communities Coalition is a program of Alliance San Diego.


Sign in with Facebook, Twitter or email.

Created with NationBuilder