Friday, April 13, 2007

Militarizing The Border

Militarizing The Border By Frida Berrigan 14 April, 2007

The sun was strong and so was the rhetoric, as President George W. Bush headed to Yuma, Arizona on April 9 to tackle the problem of illegal immigration. Flanked by uniformed border agents, national guardsmen and members of local law enforcement whose stiff formality emphasized his bare-armed enthusiasm, the president asserted that “securing the border is a critical part of a strategy for comprehensive immigration reform… Congress is going to take up the legislation on immigration. It is a matter of national interest and it's a matter of deep conviction for me.” The president rolled up his shirt sleeves and blamed a host of problems on illegal immigration: it “puts pressure on the public schools and the hospitals… drains the state and local budgets… brings crime to our communities.” He also urged Congress to get behind a tangle of proposals ranging from more border patrols and a guest worker program to stiffer penalties for illegal immigrants and the people who employ them. But the heart of President Bush’s effort against illegal immigration is the multi-billion dollar Secure Border Initiative (SBI).

As with so many other pressing issues -- from terrorism to oil dependency -- the White House is turning to the military industrial complex for a solution. SBI is the plan of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to erect a "virtual fence" of monitors, sensors, unmanned planes, and communications to help border agents catch illegal immigrants crossing the southern border. In September 2006, DHS awarded initial contracts -- worth upwards of $2 billion -- for the high-tech surveillance technology along border region to weapons giant Boeing.

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