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The Trump administration has heightened its demands for congressional funding of a border wall and other intensified border security measures with a total projected cost of over $33 billion dollars, as its prerequisites for urgently needed legislation that would extend protection to over 700,000 immigrant youth pursuant to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA was terminated by the administration last September and its remaining protections will expire on March 5, 2018.  The administration’s continued insistence on approval of this package could precipitate a partial government shutdown amid a January 19 deadline to increase statutory limits on military and domestic spending due to the expiration of current stopgap spending legislation.


The proposed package includes $18 billion to cover the cost of 316 miles in new barriers and 407 miles for the enhancement of existing barriers and fencing, in addition to the approximately 650 miles of man-made measures that already blight our region and include sensors, cameras, drones, patrols, plus natural barriers such as rivers and deserts (id.). Prototypes for the proposed new wall are being tested meanwhile in San Diego.


Another $15 billion would be added that includes $5.7 billion for towers, surveillance equipment and other technical means, $1 billion over 5 years for road construction and maintenance, and $8.5 billion over 7 years for 5,000 new Border Patrol agents (in addition to its current staffing of some 19,437 as of FY 2017 data issued by CBP, up from 12,349 in FY 2006, an increase of more than 50%), as well as 2,500 more border inspectors and other personnel (id.).


Hope Border Institute continues to oppose measures of this kind which physically embody and further reinforce the kinds of ongoing measures of criminalization, deterrence and exclusion against migrants and their families and communities which we have highlighted in previous issues of Frontera Facts and in Discretion to Deny, and which will be examined in detail in our forthcoming report, Sealing the Border: The Criminalization of Asylum Seekers in the Trump Era, which will be released on January 18th. Our region is tired of being continuously scapegoated and stigmatized as in need of further security measures when it has in fact been continuously battered by such initiatives as part of an overall process of border militarization since the early 1990’s.


The Trump administration’s proposed package contrasts painfully with the unmet needs of those living in conditions of precariousness, poverty and inequality throughout the country, which have been underlined by the findings of the recent visit by the UN’s Special Rapporteur for Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Philip Alston, in his visit to the U.S in December 2017, and the continued persistence of such violations in our region. The proposed spending also contrasts sharply with the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) estimate that an investment of over 2 trillion dollars is urgently needed to repair the nation’s own failing infrastructure.


The administration’s outrageous proposals regarding the border wall and border security also reflect broader global trends that have been denounced by Pope Francis in his most recent statements reaffirming our faith-based commitment to the defense of human rights and dignity of all migrants. Such approaches also characterize prevailing policies elsewhere in the Americas (through their externalization to Mexican territory and beyond), and in other regions such as the African and Middle Eastern periphery of the European Union, and that of Australia and the Pacific rim.


It is clear throughout the world, wherever such measures have been adopted, that migrant journeys towards the dignified lives they are entitled to have become increasingly dangerous as their paths are deviated due to increased security measures towards the deserts and oceans, and that this is reflected in increased deaths (over 25,000 globally since 2015) and the intensification of already serious patterns of human rights violations, violence, sexual abuse, and increased exploitation by traffickers.


Hope Border Institute is committed to work with our counterparts and partners throughout the world to ensure that these issues are effectively addressed within the framework of the UN’s ongoing process toward the adoption of Global Compacts on migration and refuge between now and September 2018, and beyond. The U.S’ recent decision to withdraw from this process only heightens our concerns and engagement.

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