On October 10, a U.S. Border Patrol agent shot and killed 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez at the border of Mexico and Arizona. According to details in a new autopsy report, Elena Rodgriguez may have been shot as many as 11 times, all but one bullet hitting the teen from behind.
The details are still emerging in an ongoing FBI investigation. Officials say an agent opened fire on the Mexican teen, who was throwing rocks over the border fence. Under the Border Patrol’s current policy, lethal force can be used against someone throwing rocks if agents view a threat. But according to Nogales, Arizona police, it is extremely unlikely those rocks could have hit someone standing next to the fence.
An independent medical examiner who was not involved in the autopsy said the shooting “could be consistent with someone being shot and falling, with subsequent shots hitting the prone body.”
Since 2010, Border Patrol agents have killed at least 19 people. These investigations take years to resolve, and even then it is “extremely rare” for border authorities to face criminal charges. The Department of Homeland Security is reviewing its policy that allows deadly force against rock-throwers, as its current policies face sharp criticism of human rights abuse.
Continuing the science-fiction-as-class metaphor, with a soupçon of immigration, is the gorgeous-looking, and yet mysteriously distributor-less Upside Down:
There’s a pretty clear emerging pattern in science fiction movies of physical boundaries between classes. In Time had the zoned checkpoints that Justin Timberlake has to cross through, the border fee he pays escalating at every checkpoint. These aren’t just basic visa fees: he’s got to prove that he’s got time to burn, or at least that he wants to be there badly enough to spend part of his life to pay for the crossing. When he comes into possession of a million years, the movie becomes a story about trade and monopolies. It’s not just frightening to the ruling class that the years get out into other districts, it’s that the borders themselves are permeable.
It looks like the same will be true in Upside Down. I’ll be curious to see how the boundaries between the two worlds are physically controlled (it looks like it’s a matter of finding inflection points and making the conceptual leap that allows you to realize you can walk on the ceiling), but there’s no question it’s important. The Boarder Patrol actually goes by the same name in these worlds and our own, and is clearly willing to try to prevent that conceptual realization and those crossings by force.
In both movies, there are two clear reasons that the ruling classes don’t want the borders they’ve set up to be permeable. In both cases, they’ve built beautiful, controlled worlds that they don’t want disturbed by the presence of uncouth members of the lower classes. They have beautiful things, and they don’t want to share. But in both movies, the goal is also to make sure no one realizes the borders can be crossed, that resources can be redistributed, that the system everyone lives isn’t a natural and immutable condition.
I wonder if that’s a more important message for privileged people than for the people who want to cross borders, though. It’s not like Mexican immigrants, or gay binational couples don’t already know that the system is rotten, and aren’t working to subvert it, whether they’re continuing to make border crossings irrespective of the danger or lobbying to get laws changed. It’s the folks who think that borders can be entirely secured, that we can preserve some kind of purified society, who need the lesson.
ThinkProgress filed this report from a campaign event in Harriman, Tennessee
Former pizza magnate Herman Cain has previously indicated that as president he would support the construction of a fence along the United States’ southern border with Mexico as a way to curb illegal immigration. Those plans, Cain joked, included plans for an alligator-filled moat.
But at a campaign stop Saturday, Cain laid out a plan more serious and even more troubling than those he has joked about in the past. As president, Cain said he would support building an electrified border fence, complete with barbed wire at the top and signs printed in English and Spanish warning those who approached the fence, “It will kill you.” If that didn’t work, Cain said he would send American troops with “real guns and real bullets” to guard the border:
CAIN: It’s going to be 20 feet high. It’s going to have barbed wire on the top. It’s going to be electrified. And there’s going to be a sign on the other side saying, ‘It will kill you — Warning.’
Sunday morning, Cain told Meet the Press host David Gregory that he was joking about this plan too, but if he was, the audience of a couple hundred couldn’t tell — the portion of Cain’s speech detailing the immigration plans drew some of his loudest cheers of the day.
Cain isn’t the only Republican presidential candidate to suggest building a border fence, a plan dismissed by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano as an impractical way of dealing with illegal immigration into the United States. The two Republican presidential candidates who have governed border states — Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson — also oppose a border fence.
Cain, however, continues to press the idea. And evidently, a 1,200-mile fence isn’t enough — Cain seems determined to make it as inhumane as possible.
By Jessica Goad, Manager of Research and Outreach, Center for American Progress Action Fund
Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee passed a bill out of committee yesterday that would waive 36 environmental, health, and tribal laws within 100 miles of U.S. land borders. H.R. 1505, the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act, would give Customs and Border Protection, an agency under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security, complete authority to waive these 36 laws if the agency deemed it necessary for border control activities. These laws include the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Superfund Law, and the Clean Water Act (see full list here).
Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), who sponsored the bill, defended it by claiming that “apparently we cannot have security with the present environmental laws.”
This bill simply removes the impediments, the prohibitions, and the restrictions. If Homeland Security needed to waive 36 laws to build the fence, those same 36 laws need to be waived for the border so they can do their job, and I defy anybody to tell me which of those laws has a higher priority than border security. You can have a good environment with security but apparently we cannot have security with the present environmental laws and the cavalier attitude in which they are being administered.
Democrats on the committee questioned why only environmental laws were included in the list, rather than bills regulating industrial development on public lands such as mining, energy development, and timber. They pointed out that if Rep. Bishop’s claim is true — that “unacceptable restrictions…prevent Border Security experts from doing their jobs” — then other laws dictating the use of federal lands should be included on the list. An amendment from Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) added two statutes governing mineral development and oil and gas extraction to the bill, and yet even after the amendment process, the bill remained almost entirely focused on rolling back environmental and health laws.
H.R. 1505 would also give Customs and Border Protection decision-making authority over federal land management agencies to conduct activities that “assist in securing” the U.S. border. This means that any recreational or industrial use of federal lands, such as hunting, fishing, hiking, grazing, mining, and many others, could be ended at a moment’s notice if Customs and Border Patrol demanded access to and control of a specific area.
For example, a hunting trip in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico or a fishing trip in Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota could be suddenly interrupted by new roads and fences. All of this could occur without any public notice or comment, or even judicial review. As ThinkProgress reported this summer, these authorities are “czarlike powers” for a single agency and could compromise our country’s critical checks and balances system.
Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) said yesterday that this bill should be thought of as “undocumented legislation,” in that Republicans are attempting to “sneak it into law” by claiming that border security and environmental protections cannot go hand in hand.
Report Says Border Patrol Agents Abused Thousands Of Illegal Immigrants |
The Arizona nonprofit No More Deaths surveyed more than 12,000 undocumented immigrants from 2008 to 2011. According to their report “A Culture of Cruelty,” 2,981 of the returned migrants said “they were denied food during Border Patrol Detention, 863 reported being denied water, and of the 433 people who says the needed medical attention, 86 percent reported they were denied care.” Others, the report says, were “threatened with death, deprived of sleep and forced to hold painful or strenuous positions for no apparent reason.” Altogether, the report declares the abuses “plainly meet the definition of torture under international law.” The Border Patrol responded, insisting that “agents make every effort to ensure that people in our custody are given food, water and medical attention as needed” and, if found to be doing otherwise, “will be identified and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.”
During his time as the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry has staked out one of the most reasonable and moderate positions on immigration reform in the entire Republican Party. He signed the Texas version of the DREAM Act, guaranteeing graduates of Texas high schools in-state tuition at Texas universities regardless of their immigration status. He has indicated support for a path to citizenship and criticized the idea of building a border fence.
Perry even criticized Senate Bill 1070, the radical Arizona immigration bill that incensed immigration advocates and is currently facing legal challenges from the Justice Dept. “That’s not the right direction for Texas,” Perry said at the time. But yesterday, the bill’s biggest proponent, Maricopa Co. (AZ) Sheriff Joe Arpaio, tweeted that Perry had personally called him to talk immigration, a move that highlights Perry’s slow and steady lurch right on immigration issues since he launched his presidential campaign:
Since joining the race, Perry has walked back the elements of his immigration platform that are most controversial on the right in an apparent effort to dampen or avoid criticism from right-wing anti-immigration hawks like Arpaio.
Perry has long stood by his support for the Texas DREAM Act and continued to do so early in his presidential campaign, making arguments that sounded similar to President Obama’s. But on The Mark Levin Show last week, Perry said he thought the federal DREAM Act was “nothing more than amnesty,” saying he was “absolutely against” the federal version, couching his support for the Texas bill by saying, as is his wont on controversial topics, “It ought to be a state by state issue.”
Earlier this year, Perry indicated that if the U.S. achieved border security, he could envision a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who are already here. But at an August event in New Hampshire, Perry changed his mind, saying, “You gotta come up with a way that clearly stays away from this issue of making individuals legal citizens of the United States if they haven’t gone through the proper process.”
Perry isn’t the first Republican to move right on immigration in an effort to appeal to anti-immigration conservatives. In 2010, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who had been the party’s foremost supporter of immigration reform during the Bush administration, ran to the right to support completing the “danged fence” in order to appeal to conservative primary voters. Perry’s stance on immigration was perhaps the only moderate stance he holds, and it appears to be fading fast.
As ThinkProgress has documented this week, Herman Cain is a man of many unusual ideas. The GOP presidential candidate and conservative favorite had several big applause lines during his address to the Iowa Family Leader audience on Monday. But the crowd’s most enthusiastic response was inspired by Cain’s novel ideas about how to secure the border.
Cain dismissed naysayers who think it’s impractical to build a tall fence along the entire length of the U.S.–Mexico border, which is nearly 2,000 miles long. He compared the effort to the Great Wall of China and called for the U.S. to build its own Great Wall, saying, “I think we can build one if we want to!” Cain also endorsed an idea President Obama made jokingly during a recent trip to Texas — building a moat along the border. Echoing Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), Cain added, “And I would put those alligators in that moat”:
CAIN: I just got back from China. Ever heard of the Great Wall of China? It looks pretty sturdy. And that sucker is real high. I think we can build one if we want to! We have put a man on the moon, we can build a fence! Now, my fence might be part Great Wall and part electrical technology…It will be a twenty foot wall, barbed wire, electrified on the top, and on this side of the fence, I’ll have that moat that President Obama talked about. And I would put those alligators in that moat!
The idea of erecting a massive fence along the U.S.–Mexico border has long been a favorite of conservatives, despite the fact that several experts have condemned the notion as foolhardy and ineffective. As Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano once said, “You show me a 50-foot wall and I’ll show you a 51-foot ladder.” It’s perhaps surprising that Iowa voters would be so moved by the issue of illegal immigration in a state that’s so distant from the heart of the problem. But Cain took his cues from the audience early on when they cheered any brief mention of cracking down on immigrants. Cain expanded on border security as one of at least seven “crises” he laid out during his speech.
Earlier this year, I reported that a bill was moving around the Arizona legislature what would allow Arizona to build its own border fence without the help of the federal government. Last last month, Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) signed the bill into law. Now, it’s sponsor “is counting on the generosity of Americans” to pay for it. Reuters reports:
“Unfortunately, the state is broke and quite frankly we can’t take on this massive project by ourselves,” says the senator who sponsored the legislation. His initial goal is to raise $50 million in donations. “That would be a good, healthy start.”
If the federal government won’t finish its fence along Arizona’s roughly 370 miles of border then the state will, the Republican says. He and his allies are still trying to figure out the cost of the fence and what it might look like.The senator’s goal is to build a contiguous, solid fence “and have the entire border completely and properly secured.”
Federal estimates put the cost of building a mile of solid border fence at $3 million but Smith says the state will rely on inmate labor and donated supplies to keep costs down
Yet, there’s a reason why the federal government hasn’t finished the border wall. A 2009 GAO report found that the U.S. spent $2.4 billion since 2005 to erect the unfinished 600 miles of new fence along the US-Mexico border. It’ll cost $6.5 billion to maintain over the next 20 years and push most border crossers to more remote and dangerous areas which makes the human smuggling business even more lucrative. Meanwhile, the border wall has served more as a speed bump than a roadblock as migrants and smugglers have always found new and creative ways to get over, through, and around it.
At a Senate hearing on border security in April, El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar warned that “vilifying immigrants, building expensive, ugly walls, and encouraging hysteria and xenophobia only hurts our border communities, our commerce and the economy of the nation.” Rather than spending money on what Escobar describes as “a rusting monument that makes my community look like a junkyard,” she is hoping for money from the Merida Initiative, comprehensive immigration reform, and better technology and equipment for the international ports of entry.
People are free to waste their money on whatever they want, but Arizona probably won’t be able to turn around and use those donations to build its own fence. The Constitution gives the federal government supreme authority “in the general field of foreign affairs, including power over immigration, naturalization and deportation.”
By Andrea Nill Sanchez on Feb 13, 2011 at 12:25 pm
For past several years, Republicans have repeatedly argued that they will not support comprehensive immigration reform until the border is secured. In 2006, current Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) stated that putting millions of undocumented immigrants on a path to legalization without meeting certain border security benchmarks would place “the cart before the horse.” “We spent a lot of time, effort and money getting more security on the border. But we’re nowhere close to having the kind of secure borders that Americans want,” said Boehner.
So, it comes as a surprise that Republicans are rallying behind a bundle of sharp spending cuts that include slashing $600 million from border security and immigration enforcement funds. Today, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chairman of the House Budget Committee, told Fox News’ Chris Wallace that he’s willing to defend each and every one of the spending cuts Republicans are proposing:
WALLACE: Let’s get specific, because the Democrats say, “look, it’s very easy to talk about a big number, it’s very easy to talk about a specific percentage.” But let’s get into some specific programs of what what Republicans are going to be offering this week.
Let’s look at the cuts: $3 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency; $2 billion for job training, $600 million for border security and immigration enforcement; and $1.6 billion for the National Institutes of Health; $500 million for the COPS program which puts more police on the streets.
Congressmen, when it gets down to those specifics, are you willing to defend all those cuts?
RYAN: Yes, because last year, these agencies got double and triple digit spending increases. [...] We cannot continue down this path of having double and triple digit spending increases on government agencies. No matter how popular sounding these programs are, they mortgage our children’s future and they compromise our economic growth today.
Spending on immigration enforcement has soared since 2002 from $7.5 billion to over $17 billion in fiscal year 2010. Yet Republicans have continued to demand more resources be directed at the border and enforcing immigration laws as a prerequisite to giving comprehensive reform the slightest consideration.
It’s true that throwing more money at the border without fixing the nation’s broken immigration system is a waste of limited resources and money. The border is already supposedly “safer than its ever been” and it won’t get much safer without providing economic migrants with the legal channels to enter the U.S. so border patrol can focus more on actual threats to public safety. If Republicans weren’t so intent on rejecting these well-supported facts as part of a broader effort to block comprehensive immigration reform, they might have an easier time justifying at least one of their proposed spending cuts.
Yesterday, around the same time Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) announced that the state of Arizona is countersuing the federal government due to its “failure to protect Arizona from invasion,” amongst other things, a state senate panel approved a bill to let the governor start taking donations to build a border fence. The East Valley Tribune reports:
The proposal by Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, allows for construction of a new barrier on private property, with the consent of the landowners. Estimates are that would cover about a third of the approximately 370 mile long border, with the balance either on the Tohono O’odham reservation or federal land. [...]
Smith said he has no firm idea of what it might cost to build a suitable fence. But he said that the costs to the state could be minimal if the state is able to get private donations.
Smith also suggested that it’s not incompetence that’s preventing the federal government from building a border wall. He suggests that the government is actually trying to protect the drug cartels’ lucrative drug trade. According to him, it’s a “little secret” that the feds “don’t want to shut the border and the flow of drugs that are coming in here because of how powerful and how wealthy these cartels are.”
If Brewer signs off on Smith’s proposal (which I’m assuming she will), it represents a pretty major contradiction to sue the federal government for failing to deliver on its duty to secure the border and protect Arizona from an “invasion” and then think it’s somehow constitutional to turn around and build a border wall on its own. For the sake of consistency, Republicans running the state of Arizona can’t have it both ways. In legal terms, the Supreme Court has held that “the supremacy of the national power in the general field of foreign affairs, including power over immigration, naturalization and deportation, is made clear by the Constitution.” And in practical terms the Department of Homeland Security has prioritized border security initiatives that have proven to be far more effective than constructing a costly border wall.
The government has shifted its focus away from expanding the border wall because it’s expensive and inefficient. According to a 2009 GAO report, so far, the U.S. has spent $2.4 billion since 2005 to erect the unfinished 600 miles of new fence along the US-Mexico border. It’ll cost $6.5 billion to maintain over the next 20 years because rather than preventing people from crossing into the U.S. because some border crossers simply seek a way to go over, under, or through it. The border wall has also pushed most border crossers to more remote and dangerous areas which makes the human smuggling business even more lucrative.
Meanwhile, it doesn’t appear the border has put a huge dent in drug smuggling or illegal immigration. “The existing border fortifications do not keep undocumented migrants out of the US. Not even half are being apprehended on any given trip to the border, and of those who are apprehended, the success rate on the second or third try is upwards of 95 percent,” stated Wayne Cornelius, director emeritus of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California in San Diego. “There is no reason to believe that additional investments in the fence project – both physical fencing and the new “virtual fence” – will create an effective deterrent.”