Opinion: Immigration System Won't Be Solved By Militarizing the Border

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The Senate is scheduled to vote today on a border security proposal solely designed to boost Republican support in Congress for the most significant revision of our broken immigration system in decades.

The plan as described by Republican Senators Bob Corker and John Hoeven, aims to spend around 30 billion dollars to fortify the U.S.-Mexico border, already one of the most intensely patrolled areas in the planet.

It also pays for the expansion of initiatives like "Operation Streamline," an Arizona-based program that prosecutes people en masse for unlawful entry into the United States.

In theory, the proposal ensures passage in the senate of the Gang of Eight's immigration bill and increases its chances in the Republican-controlled house.

Ask the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US if this border surge is too high a price to pay for comprehensive immigration reform and they'll probably say no. They're already here and after decades of living in constant fear of deportation, just about any path to get out of the shadows will be considered a victory for them. Some may even call this political pragmatism. I beg to differ.

Efforts to secure the border can't be grounded in catchy rhetoric and the simplistic assumption that increasing security at "the line," as locals refer to the border, will keep the country safer. History has proven otherwise.

Forty thousand well armed men, --one about every 250 feet if lined up together- and a wall extending at least 700 miles won't seal the border, they'll suffocate it.

As Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democratic Network points out, the only other country where the US has 40,000 guards on the border is North Korea.

Over the last two decades billions of dollars have gone to waste trying to stop the flow of undocumented immigrants, mainly through the Southwest portion of the border. On the other hand, migrant deaths have steadily increased since the mid 1990's while human trafficking organizations, mostly run by Mexican drug cartels, have seen a boom in business.

Rather than viewing border enforcement as part of a broader strategy, border enforcement became the only strategy to stop undocumented immigrants from coming across the border. This security-based approach has led to a degradation of the quality of life for once dynamic border communities as well as grave human rights violations.

Lately, things have taken a turn for the worst. According to the ACLU, at least 18 individuals have died since January 2010 as at least 18 individuals have died since January 2010 as the result of alleged excessive use of force by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials, including six minors and five U.S. citizens.

Among them Anastasio Hernandez, a 42-year-old construction worker and father of five who died after being beaten and shocked with a taser by a group of Border Patrol agents, and Sergio Hernández Güereca, a 15-year-old, who was fatally shot several times in the back by a CBP officer after the Mexican boy reportedly threw rocks at him from them Mexican side of the border.

CBP has become the largest law enforcement agency in the nation and its rapid expansion has come at a cost. The frequency of the agency's use of lethal force is alarming as its the complete lack of transparency and the impunity in which it operates.

Even the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights criticized the U.S. Border Patrol last year for what it called "excessive use of force."

There's also the matter of who profits from the surge. As troops come back from Afghanistan and budget cuts hit defense spending, companies like Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman, among others, are turning their attention towards the Mexican border.

The New York Times reported recently that half a dozen major military contractors are already preparing for an unusual showdown to secure DHS contracts.

More security means more immigrants detained in private prisons and more profits for industry giants like Corrections Corporations of America, Management and Training Corporation and the GEO group, who recently ramped up its lobbying for immigration reform, according to this recent article published in The Nation.

Life at the border is complex. Communities keep important ties to countries on both sides, creating a unique set of opportunities, but also, a unique set of challenges.

Immigration policies must be formulated and implemented in a way that respects the rights of these community members and the needs of their hometowns and cities.

Militarizing the border is something enemies would do, not friends and partners. Immigration is an economic issue and it won't be solved by having more armed guards at the front door.

Are we protecting our citizens or holding them hostage? It's getting harder to tell the difference.

Enrique Acevedo is the co-anchor of Univision News late night newscast. Follow him on Twitter at @Enrique_Acevedo

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Immigration Reform is a heated political issue that we view from all angles in the hope of getting politicians to address those impacted by the decisions they make.

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