Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Border Security Boom in New Mexico

Training exercise in Playas 
(The following brief overview of border security operations in New Mexico is excerpted from Border Warriors, an article in the Silver City-based Desert Exposure monthly.)

As a border state, New Mexico has been blessedly free of the anti-immigrant vigilantism and the ranting of border hawks that have agitated Texas and Arizona. 

Over the past year, however, Governor Susana Martinez has deviated from this tradition with fearmongering about border security and new scapegoating of immigrants for crime and traffic accidents. This plays to her conservative base but has met staunch popular and policy-community resistance.

Like its neighbors, New Mexico has benefited from an infusion of border security funding and infrastructure projects. Since 2005, when the Bush administration launched its Secure Border Initiative and the immigrant crackdown began in earnest, the New Mexico border has had a security makeover. 

A stark 18-foot-high steel fence rises for five miles on either side of the Columbus-Palomas port-of-entry, picking up again west of the Santa Teresa POE and continuing east past El Paso and beyond Ft. Hancock. A vehicle barrier now protects most of the Bootheel's border with Mexico. The tiny, scarcely used Antelope Wells POE received a $1.5 million upgrade with federal stimulus funding.

Training exercise in Playas, New Mexico

Hidden in the remote Bootheel is one of the nation's chief homeland security, border security and counterterrorism training centers. 

The Playas Training and Research Center brings together most branches of the expanding post-9/11 homeland security apparatus, including the various agencies of the Department of Homeland Security, the military and the drug war agencies of the Justice Department, as well as the state's own local and state law enforcement agencies — all under the auspices of New Mexico Tech in Socorro, which now promotes its expertise in the "science of security."

Eager to cash in on the homeland security/border security boom with its multibillion surge in DOD, DHS and DOJ grants, New Mexico Tech established the Border Security Center (BORSEC) for Research, Education, Training and Technical Assistance "to aid in countering border violence." Meanwhile, border area crime continues to fall, and state and federal officials are hard put to document where all this US border violence is.

The Grant County Sheriff's Office is one of the most unlikely beneficiaries of border security funding, through the DHS Stonegarden Program that funds overtime pay and equipment purchases for border law enforcement. 

While Grant County doesn't touch the border, it qualifies for annual grants approaching $1 million, which has enabled the county to purchase new vehicles, including a barely used state-of-the-art mobile crime lab, and ply the department with overtime pay for deputies who make the two-hour trip to the Bootheel to patrol the road that passes through Hachita. The result has been a major uptick in traffic tickets, as well as an occasional apprehension of an illegal immigrant or two.

Undoubtedly, the border security boom has been good for Grant County and other parts of the greater borderlands. But there is little evidence that, as the sheriff's department attests in its quarterly reports to DHS, the department "has been successful in counteracting the ravages and terror of human smuggling, drug smuggling, destruction of property and associated criminal activities." 

There are few questions and no evaluation about the border security program in Grant County, or anywhere else, because border security is one of the few federal programs that enjoys bipartisan political support, particularly from border politicians eager to see more federal dollars flow into their region.

Join Border Wars Policy Group to follow/discuss border security, immigrant imprisonment, and drug policy issues at: 

No comments: