Monday, July 20, 2015

The Fiscal Cost of Protecting the Border

As Chapters 10 and 13 discuss, the US has spent literally billions of dollars protecting the US border. On the southern US border, we witnessed several different variations of the ‘fence’, which are pictured below.  Some of them are very tall and nearly impassible (which are located near large urban centers), while others (in more remote areas) represent only a marker of the border and would be extremely easy to cross.  Our ride-along with the US Border Patrol highlighted how the fence is mostly symbolic- that if people (migrants, drug smugglers, human traffickers) really want to get across it, they can.  In fact, we saw a section of the fence that was cut and then patched up by border patrol, indicating just how easy it is to get through much of the fencing.  However, technology is doing most of the work in protecting the US-Mexico border.  The Department of Homeland Security is employing video surveillance, drones, and motion sensors as their primary line of defense, along with 21,000 border patrol agents in 2014 (up from 4,000 in 1992, according to the US Customs and Border Protection website). The cost of this protection is $3.6 billion in recent years.  The technology exists along the border, but also in the interior with border checkpoints sometimes several miles away from the actual border.  A recent book entitled Border Patrol Nation  by Todd Miller discusses recent trends in border militarization. 

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