President Obama made an early 2012 campaign stop in El Paso to make the case for comprehensive immigration reform. The time was right, he claimed, because he kept his promise and secured the U.S.-Mexico border. This includes doubling the number of Border Patrol agents since 2004, nearly completing the border fence, tripling the number of intelligence analysts, and setting unmanned aerial vehicles on the border. His policies have resulted in more drugs, currency, and weapons being seized than ever before.
The president’s words deserve a grain of salt, since this blog has previously discussed the holes in border security. Even so, border security advocates’ embrace of more and bigger barriers is baffling on several levels. Their most often-cited reason is to stop illegal immigrants – the regular economic kind, and the could-be-a-terrorist kind – from entering the country. Yet illegal crossings have actually declined over the years, to less than half of what they were in 2005. To listen to some, you would think that they had doubled. As for terrorists illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, no conclusive evidence has ever been established.
There are some real border problems. Drug smugglers still find their way into the U.S. Conversely, Guns from the U.S. flow into Mexico. Both have led to violence and the destruction of lives. Yet you don’t hear border security advocates discuss that very much. In fact, this beefed-up border security has become part of the problem. When the Border Patrol is not looking the other way, its members may be overzealously stopping and searching vehicles belonging to otherwise law-abiding Americans. These people then must find a criminal defense attorney to help fight the federal crimes they have been charged with.
Why shouldn’t these practices matter to border security advocates, who claim to care about individual rights and the American way of life? In fact, Citizens are being harmed by these practices. Their rights are being ignored at so-called border stops in Texas. People are spending time in jail and are charged with felony drug possession for small amounts of drugs or marijuana as a result of border patrol agents and local law enforcement abusing their authority. This should be a big deal, but it’s not.
Immigration is an important issue. But the worst fears of border security advocates do not seem to equal what is happening to American citizens every single day. Perhaps they will be satisfied by President Obama’s security measures and finally turn their attention to abuses at the border. More likely, though, border security advocates will just demand more security, and the issue of Americans’ rights at the border will continue to fall by the wayside.