Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Border Security Ten Years After

Policy on the Edge: Problems with Border Security and New Directions for Border Control is a new policy report from the Center for International Policy that is online at:  The report's conclusion is excerpted below.

Ten years after our rush to secure our borders, it is time to review, evaluate and change course.

A border security juggernaut swept across the Southwest borderland, leaving in its wake new fears, insecurities and alarm. As billions of dollars are spent to increase security at the border, fear and alarm about the insecurity of the border have deepened since 9/11, along with strident demands that the government do still more. 

Continuing down the same course of border security buildups, drug wars and immigration crackdowns will do nothing to increase security or safety. It will only keep border policy on the edge—teetering without direction or strategy. 

Without addressing border policy in conjunction with drug policy, the drugs we consume will continue to be the product of transborder organized crime and bloodletting south of the border. Without addressing immigration reform, we face a future of immigrant bashing, divided communities, stalled economies and more immigrant prisons rising up on the edges of our towns.

Alarm about the rising federal budget deficit threatens to end to the customary large annual increases for border security and immigration enforcement, even as the failures and waste accompanying those increases become more apparent. We should welcome the new constraints on border security funding as an opportunity to allow reason and pragmatism to direct border policy instead of fear, politics and money.

Like the ill-considered occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and the “global war against terrorism,” the post-9/11 border-security buildup has drained our treasury while doing little to increase our security. The standard of success for our border policy should not be how completely sealed and secured our border is, but rather, how well it is regulated. New regulatory frameworks for immigration and drug consumption are fundamental prerequisites for a more cost-effective border policy. 

Just as the Bush administration launched the “global war against terrorism” and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in a burst of misguided patriotism, the administration also thrust us into a new era of homeland security and border security with little reflection about costs and consequences. Without a clear and steady focus on the actual security threats, homeland security and border security have devolved into wars against immigrants and drugs. Instead of prioritizing intelligence and inter-agency communication—whose failures made 9/11 possible—the Bush administration and now the Obama administration have mounted security-rationalized crackdowns on the border and in the interior of the “homeland.” 

As a result, the criminal justice system is overwhelmed, our prisons are crowded with immigrants and the flagging “war on drugs” has been given new life at home and abroad. Absent necessary strategic reflection and reform, the rush to achieve border security has bred dangerous insecurities about immigration and the integrity of our border. 

It is time to rein in the border security bandwagon and to establish new regulatory frameworks for U.S. border policy.

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