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Bipartisanship on the Border Equals Surge of Militarization, Surveillance

Sarah Lazare

The Senate signaled bipartisan support for the heightened militarization of the US-Mexico border Monday, passing an immigration overhaul bill that, if implemented, will double border police to 40,000, fill the skies within 100 miles of the border with drones and helicopters, and erect a stunning 700 miles of new border walls.

The price tag of this military buildup? An estimated 46 billion dollars.

Colorlines reports concern among those who must live in the shadow of the escalated military presence:

“Border communities, and the DREAMers and families who live in the Southwest, have already been subjected to criminalization and militarization,” Evelyn Rivera of the group United We Dream said in a statement. “This amendment is based on the false notion that our border is not secure or there hasn’t been adequate enforcement up to this point.”

Border militarization was thrown into the bill by republican senators as a condition of including a track to citizenship for 11 million undocumented people already living in the United States.

Yet, it ultimately passed with the muscle of Democrats, who threw their weight behind it with 67 votes and 27 from Republicans.

The bill makes small improvements to due process to immigrants incarcerated in U.S. criminal justice and immigration courts and slightly extends oversight of infamous Homeland Security jails. However, it will also require employers to cross-check potential hires with federal databases to check their citizenship status.

Furthermore, it will continue incarceration prosecutions for 'immigration offenses.' As the ACLU reports, today there are a stunning 100,000 immigration prosecutions a year as undocumented people are shuttled into overcrowded prisons with dismal human rights records.

While the bill is being touted by Democrats as a bipartisan compromise that allows a fast-track for citizenship, many immigrant justice groups argue the bill is so compromised by the border militarization amendment that it will ultimately hurt immigrant communities.

The New York Times reports:

A coalition of groups representing border communities urged senators to reject the amendment, which they called “an example of excessive and wasteful government spending” and a “poorly thought-out policy.”

“It is an assault on our system of checks and balances and seriously threatens the quality of life of border residents,” wrote the border groups, in a statement.

The ACLU issued a searing condemnation of the bill's end result:

Changes were made to the bill at the eleventh hour that meddled with what was already an unprecedented expansion of border enforcement in the base bill and increased it to obscene levels. These expenditures are wasteful, unnecessary and lack government oversight or accountability, and they put everyone who lives, travels, and works near the border at risk.

...The so-called surge will inevitably exacerbate civil liberties violations that the ACLU and other organizations have for years identified as characteristic of Customs and Border Protection operations, including excessive uses of force and racial profiling.

Immigrant advocates say the bill capitulates to the most far-right demands of Congress.

Colorlines reports:

“It makes little sense for Democrats to capitulate to irrational Republican demands, particularly at this stage in the legislative process,” Chris Newman of the group National Day Laborers Network said in a statement, “Our focus should be on passing the best possible legislation in the Senate to maximize our ability to beat back the xenophobic and racist views that seem to have held the House of Representatives hostage.”

Having passed through the Senate, the bill is next headed for the Republican-controlled House where it is expected to go nowhere due to GOP objections to the path to citizenship provisions.

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