|Entering Arizona from New Mexico/Photo by Tom Barry|
(This is the first of three articles on the Alliance To Combat Transnational Threats – ACTT.)
From the beginning the Obama administration had a border problem, and two and a half years later the problem remains.
In 2009 President Obama and the new Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano aimed to prove their border security credentials for two political reasons: one, to meet as a perceived precondition for immigration reform; and two, to head off the rising demands, spearheaded mainly by Republican politicians, for the federal government to “secure the border.”
Since early 2009 the administration has put in motion an array of new border security initiatives, including the Southwest Border Initiative announced by Napolitano in March 2009, the deployment of the National Guard along the border, and more than $2 billion in budget increases in border security. Secretary Napolitano can accurately say, as she repeatedly has, that the “border is more security than ever before.”
Yet the administration has failed to advance immigration reform, and anxiety about the perceived lack of border security remains widespread. Well into its third year, the Obama administration’s border problem hasn’t gone away.
At least part of the administration’s border problem has been its ready acceptance of the inherited policy framework for border control – border security.
Rather than shed the security framework that was superimposed on border control policy after 9/11, Obama and Napolitano have aimed to show that this administration has what it takes to be tough in its commitment to border security.
Rather to create a new policy framework for border control – one that would acknowledge that the vast border could never be truly “secured” against all illegal crossings, and one based on efficient control rather than on alarmist national-security and homeland-security threat assessments – the Obama administration has chosen to double down on border security.
What is more, the Obama administration has adapted the failed instruments of drug enforcement at home and drug wars abroad to its own border security policy.
The failures of the Obama administration’s approach to border control are clearly evident in one of its new border security operations – the Alliance to Combat Transnational Threats (ACTT), launched along the Arizona border in September 2009 as part of the Southwest Border Initiative.
Like the National Guard deployment and the new border initiative, ACTT was launched largely in response to the rising outcry of border politicians about alleged increases in spillover violence from Mexico. In keeping with escalated threat assessments made by mostly Republican politicians and border sheriffs in Arizona and Texas, the Obama administration itself raised the border security rhetoric a notch by stating its intention to combat “transnational threats” and “transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) on the U.S. side of the border.
Yet after two years ACTT has little to show in the way of achievements in countering the transnational threats and TCOs that DHS says are endangering homeland security.
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