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The National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities and The Washington Office of Latin-American Affairs: cordially

invites you to a community discussion:

Beyond the border buildup: Mexico security and migration today

Oscar Chacon,
NALACCs Executive Director

Adam Isacson,
Senior Associate for Regional Security Policy

Maureen Meyer,
Senior Associate for Mexico and Central America from the Washington Office on Latin America
Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 6 pm Casa Michoacn 1638 S Blue Island Ave Chicago IL 60608
Immigration reform promises to be a big topic in Washington in 2013. But reform opponents say they won't give ground until the "dangerous" U.S.-Mexico border has been "secured." They call for more fences, Border Patrol officers, and even soldiers, drones and spies. This alarmist rhetoric hides a fact that few in Washington see: the U.S.-Mexico border zone is safer than it has been in decades, cross-border migration has fallen sharply, and our policies have often put migrants at great risk. A further buildup would do little more than endanger those who still attempt to cross into the United States. Join Maureen Meyer and Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin America, whose 2012 report "Beyond the Border Buildup" documents the incredible growth in the U.S. security apparatus, and the humanitarian crisis of migrants, at the border. Isacson and Meyer have carried out research in six different border zones since 2011, including a November survey of south Texas, and are immersed in the fast-moving debate in Washington.

Beyond!the!Border!Buildup! Security!and!Migrants!Along!the!U.S.8Mexico!Border!
April&2012 !
!

Executive&Summary&
In!Washington!and!some!U.S.!border4state!capitals,!political!leaders!and!pundits!have!dire! views!about!the!2,0004mile!border!that!the!United!States!shares!with!Mexico.!It!is!common! to!hear!the!whole!area!referred!to!as!a!war!zone,!with!violent!criminals,!drugs,!migrants! and!even!terrorists!streaming!northward!onto!U.S.!soil.!The!crisis,!border!hawks!say,! requires!the!Obama!administration!to!crack!down!harder,!build!more!and!higher!fences,! and!even!use!the!military!to! keep!Americans!safe.! These!voices!are!forceful especially!in!the!current!U.S.! election!seasonbut!they!are! wrong.!In!fact,!a!closer!look!at! the!border!reveals!that!after!a! historic!buildup!of!the!U.S.! security!presence!there,! further'increases'in'money,' Dire%views%of%the%border:&Americans&living& anywhere,&but&especially&along&the&border,& barriers'and'manpower'are' must&feel&safe&and&secure&in&their&homes& unnecessary.!The!threats!that! and&on&their&property.&They&cannot&while& actually!exist!dont!justify!them,! close&to&a&million&illegal&border&crossers,& many&with&criminal&records,&enter&through& and!the!side!effectsamong! the&southwest&each&year.Sen.&John& them!a!severe!humanitarian!toll! McCain&(RIArizona),&April&2011& on!migrantsare!mounting.!It! is!urgent!that!Washington!view!the!border!security!buildup!as!a!past!policy,!not!a!direction! for!the!present!or!future.! That!is!a!main!finding!of!Beyond'the'Border'Buildup,!a!new!report!based!on!a!year4long! investigation!by!two!veteran!research!organizations,!the!U.S.4based!Washington!Office!on! Latin!America!(WOLA)!and!Mexicos!College!of!the!Northern!Border!(COLEF).!!Beyond'the' Border'Buildup!details!the! complex,!overlapping!edifice!of! law4enforcement,!military!and! intelligence!agencies,!plus! fences!and!aid!programs!for! Mexico,!that!the!United!States! has!built!over!the!past!20!years.! This!time!period!has!seen!a! fivefold!increase!in!the!size!of! the!U.S.!Border!Patrol,!an! unusual!new!domestic!role!for! the!U.S.!military,!deployments!of! drones!and!other!sophisticated! technology,!and!the!building!of! hundreds!of!miles!of!fencing.!

Today,!the!report!finds,!while!Mexico!has!suffered! over!50,000!organized!crime4related!murders!since! 2007,!this!violence'is'not'spilling'over'the' border.!Ranchers!in!very!remote!areas!say!they!are! more!threatened,!in!part!because!the!security! buildup!has!not!deterred!drug!smuggling!through! their!lands.!But!except!for!a!few!notorious!incidents,! the!U.S.!side!of!the!border!region!suffers!less!violent! crime!than!the!U.S.!average,!or!even!the!averages!of! the!four!border!states.!One!of!the!most!crime4ridden! cities!in!the!world,!Ciudad!Jurez,!Mexico,!sits!across! the!borderline!from!one!of!the!safest!cities!in!the! United!States,!El!Paso,!Texas.!! One!reason!violence!is!not!spilling!over,!we!found,!is! the!behavior!of!Mexican!trafficking!organizations! themselves:!they!act!to!avoid!any!incident!on!the! U.S.!side!that!might!trigger!a!closure!of!official! border!crossings,!through!which!most!drugs!pass.!

The!report!also!notes!a'sharp'drop'in'migration.! While!we!cannot!know!how!many!migrants!attempt! to!cross!into!the!United!States!each!year,!we!do! know!how!many!the!Border!Patrol!apprehends.! Since!2005,!this!number!has!plummeted!by!61! percent,!to!levels!not!seen!since!Richard!Nixon!was! president.!We!found!that!the!drop!has!three!main!causes.!The!U.S.!security!buildup!is!a! factor,!but!the!U.S.!economic!crisis!is!at!least,!if!not!more!important.!Also,!the!dangerous! gauntlet!of!abuses!at!the!hands!of!criminal!organizationsand!certain!Mexican!officials through!which!migrants!must!pass!on!the!way!to!Mexicos!northern!border!causes!some!to! reconsider!the!journey.!!

Homicides%per%100,000%people%in%U.S.%and% Mexican%cities%over%100,000%population,% within%100%miles%of%the%border,%2010% Jurez,&Chih& 282.7& Nogales,&Son& 103.5& Tijuana,&B.C.& 80.6& Nuevo&Laredo,&Tam.& 37.5& Tecate,&B.C.& 34.6& Matamoros,&Tam& 18.8& Piedras&Negras,&Coah& 17& Mexicali,&B.C.& 14& Reynosa,&Tam.& 13.6& San&Luis&Ro&Colorado,&Son& 12.3& Tucson,&AZ& 9.7& Laredo,&TX& 3.9& Brownsville,&TX& 3.9& McAllen,&TX& 3.7& Riverside,&CA&& 3.0& San&Diego,&CA& 2.2& Temecula,&CA& 2.0& El&Paso,&TX& 0.8& Carlsbad,&CA& 0& Irvine,&CA& 0& All%Mexican%border%cities% 96% Mexico% 22.9% All!U.S.!Border!Cities! 3.6! United!States! 4.8!

Despite!these!dissuasive!factors,!though,!hundreds!of!thousands!of!people!per!year!continue! to!attempt!the!trip.!The!risks!are!still!worth!it,!many!conclude,!if!the!United!States!still!offers! economic!opportunity,!if!violence!at!home!(in!Central!America,!for!instance)!is!as!certain!as! it!is!in!northern!Mexico,!and!especially!ifas!is!the!case!for!a!growing!portion!of!deported! migrantsones!spouse!or! children!remain!on!the!U.S.!side.' Beyond'the'Border'Buildup! walks!the!reader!through!the! panoply!of!U.S.!police,! investigative,!intelligence,! military,!and!foreign!assistance! bodies!with!border!security! responsibilities.!All!of!them! have!grown!rapidly,!especially! in!the!post4September!11,!2001! period.!Amid!this!growth,! cooperation!and!coordination! have!suffered,!not!least!because! the!federal!government!lacks!a!

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single!comprehensive! border!security!strategy.! Meanwhile!bi4national! cooperation!and! coordination!with! Mexico,!despite!reaching! historic!levels,!is!less! regular!or!established! on!border!issues!than! one!might!expect!from! two!countries!sharing!a! long!border!marked!by! so!much!commerce,! migration,!violence,!and! smuggling.! The!buildup!accelerated! in!response!to!the! possibility!of!terrorists! crossing!the!border!to! do!harm!in!the!United!States,!a!threat!thatwhile!requiring!continued!vigilancehas! remained!hypothetical.!Today,!with!migration!down!and!violent!crime!on!the!U.S.!side!at!its! lowest!levels!in!a!generation,!any'further'increases'in'the'U.S.'security'presence'will' yield'diminishing'returns.! Instead!of!following!border!hawks!calls!for!more!fences,!agents,!drones!and!troops,!it!is! time!to!pause!and!reconsider!what!is!and!is!not!working,!and!how!our!resources!can!be! better!spent.!One!immediate!improvement!would!be!to!focus!much!more!funding!toward! the!overwhelmed!officials!manning!the!very!busy!ports!of!entry.! Another!urgent!priority!is!to! improve!the!humanitarian! situation!of!the!vulnerable! population!caught!in!the!middle! of!both!countries!security! buildups:!the!hundreds!of! thousands!of!migrants!who! continue!to!seek!to!enter!the! United!States!every!year.!! Each!year,!as!many!as!20,000! migrants,!mostly!Central! Americans,!are!kidnapped some!of!them!tortured,!raped!or! even!murderedby!organized4 crime!groups!in!Mexican! territory.!Too!often,!these! crimes!are!aided!and!abetted!by!corrupt!Mexican!security!and!migration!officials.!!On!the! U.S.!side,!non4governmental!groups!have!documented!thousands!of!unsanctioned!cases!of! abuse!and!mistreatment!of!migrants!in!the!custody!of!U.S.!authorities.!The!badly!needed! response!here!is!greater!accountability,!both!criminally!and!administratively,!for!public! servants!in!either!government!who!are!in!any!way!involved!in!abuse.!

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The!border!security!buildup!has!also!led!more!migrants!to!use!smugglers,!who!are!charging! increased!fees!to!cross!into!the!United!States.!Our!research!also!found!more!contact! between!migrants!and!drug!traffickers.!In!some!sectors!of!the!border,!the!line!is!blurring! between!human!smugglers!and!drug!traffickers:!nothing!crosses!the!line!that!is!not!under! the!control!of!the!drug!trafficking!organization!that!dominates!the!area.!! Migrants!are!also!facing!U.S.!deportation!practices!that!do!unnecessary!harm.!Families!are! routinely!separated!by!policies!that!send!people!to!federal!prison!for!the!crime!of!being!in! the!United!States!without!permission,!or!by!policies!that!repatriate!people!to!cities! hundreds!of!miles!from!where!they!were!detained.!At!times,!these!lateral!repatriations! send!migrants!to!conflictive!Mexican!border!cities!where!they!can!fall!prey!toor!be! recruited!bythe!criminal!groups!who!have!de!facto!control!over!the!area.!! The'border'buildup,' meanwhile,'has'made' migration'more'deadly.! Migrants!are!now!attempting!to! cross!in!some!of!the!most! inhospitable!and!treacherous! terrain!along!the!border,!and! the!number!of!those!who!die!of! dehydration!and!exposure!on! U.S.!soil!has!jumped!in!the!past! 10!years.!Even!as!the!overall! number!of!migrants!drops,!the! number!of!human!remains! found,!in!the!Arizona!desert!and! elsewhere,!remains!shockingly! high.!Decency!demands!an! increase!in!humanitarian!measures,!like!search4and4rescue!capabilities!and!water!stations,! which!can!prevent!hundreds!of!needless!deaths!each!year.! Beyond'the'Border'Buildup!goes!beyond!the!Washington!border!hawk!narrative!to!tell!the! whole!story!of!security!and!migration!at!the!border!today.!It!concludes!that!the!whirlwind! security!buildup!can!stop!now.!Instead,!the!U.S.!and!Mexican!governments!need!to!pause,! reconsider,!and!take!the!steps!needed!to!make!the!worlds!busiest!frontier!more!efficient,! lawful,!and!humane!for!the!rest!of!the!21st!century.!

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