A decision by the U.S. Senate is expected today on the latest version of Comprehensive Immigration Reform. In response to the CIR's increase in Border Patrol spending and additional surveillance — what some consider another tactic to further militarize the border — activists and organizers are holding an anti-militarization rally today, 4 p.m. at the DeConcini Federal Courthouse, corner of Congress Street and Granada Avenue.
With the U.S. Senate on the cusp of passing its version of Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR), Tucson migrant rights groups and their allies are rallying downtown to denounce the bill’s unprecedented militarization of the southern border. Speakers and street performers will call attention to some of the dramatic consequences and likely human costs of the bill’s passage for migrants and border communities.
Luz Argueta-Vogel, an event organizer, said that the bill’s extreme measures are pure politics. “This has nothing to do with improving border security. This is about getting votes for a deeply flawed bill,” she said. “As Southern Arizonans we know that more drones and agents do not make anyone more secure, least of all those living on the border or those trying to cross into the United States.”
Arizona Senator John McCain, one of the members of the Gang-of-Eight senators that have been the bill’s primary backers, has said that the changes will make the frontier with Mexico “the most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall.” The bill represents, in short, a doubling down on decades of failed enforcement policies on the border, policies which have been principal culprits in the deaths of more than 6,000 migrants trying to cross the desert since 1995. The price-tag for this unconscionable expansion of the militarization of our communities is about $40 billion.
The bill calls for a near doubling of Border Patrol agents, a massive increase in surveillance and detection technology on the border, and a tripling of the number of apprehended migrants criminally prosecuted through Operation Streamline. Immigration enforcement agencies are under increasing scrutiny for the systematic abuse of migrants; internal corruption; the impunity of agents who shoot migrants and Mexican nationals; and the lack of meaningful performance metrics. Local organizers are calling on the national groups advocating for reforms to make policies that rein-in Border Patrol their top priority.
Stephanie Quintana, an organizer with the Southside Worker Center, said that immigration reform is extraordinarily important, but that it can’t come at the expense of migrants and border communities. “Border militarization is not immigration reform,” she said. “If this bill means more migrants dying in the desert, more people being killed by agents and millions of people under constant government surveillance along the border, then we need to go back to the drawing board. Tying much-needed pathways to citizenship to profoundly inhumane border policies is politics at its most cynical.”