ACLU-NM Regional Center For Border Rights Calls On Obama To Abandon Its Damaging Enforcement-Only Border Policy
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LAS CRUCES, NM – While the ACLU of New Mexico Regional Center for Border Rights is encouraged by President Obama’s remarks Tuesday putting immigration reform back on the table, concerns remain with the administration’s continued emphasis on a costly, enforcement-only model.
Since 2003, border communities have witnessed a massive increase in federal law enforcement resources along the U.S.-Mexico border. There are now almost 10 border patrol agents per mile; thousands of other federal agents and members of the National Guard; 700 miles of fencing; and at least six drones patrolling our skies, costing taxpayers billions of dollars.
This rapid over-intensification of federal law enforcement resources has come with little accountability and oversight and has resulted in negative consequences for people who live along the border. The ACLU-NM Regional Center for Border Rights has received increasing reports of racial profiling and harassment, particularly of Hispanic community members—many of whom are U.S. citizens and have lived in the border region for generations.
In addition, the Center has received several reports of undocumented individuals who did not receive needed medical attention or adequate food or water while in the custody of immigration officials. Since May 2010, there have been at least seven migrants who have been seriously injured or died as the result of being shot, tasered or beaten by Border Patrol agents.
“Our national security, while critical, should never come at the expense of civil and human rights,” said Vicki Gaubeca, director of the ACLU-NM Regional Center for Border Rights. “At the very least, we need more transparency, accountability and oversight to prevent the border region from becoming a Constitution-free zone.”
In addition, President Obama needs to better account for the record-level deportations that have occurred during his term. In 2010, the United States deported nearly 400,000 people at a cost of $1.5 billion. According to the Department of Homeland Security statistics, almost 60 percent of the individuals who were deported committed were not criminals or committed minor offenses—which completely contradicts the administration’s emphasis on deporting “criminal aliens.”
“Initiatives like the so-called ‘Secure Communities’ program need to be suspended and assessed for their true effects,” adds Gaubeca. “Instead of going after serious criminals who may be a real threat to our communities, study after study confirms that these enforcement programs primarily target hard-working, honest individuals and tear families apart. We could save money and protect working families by finding a way for these individuals to become U.S. citizens, learn our language and pay taxes. Moving away from enforcement only models would even provide a much-need boost for our economy.”
“As a country, we need a serious reality check regarding our border enforcement policies and owe it to ourselves to find sensible solutions. Spending billions of dollars on a law-enforcement only model is wasteful and does nothing to fix the problem,” adds Gaubeca. “We need to step back and begin to truly address the larger issue of how we fix our country’s broken immigration system.”
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