The militarization of southern border communities is a decades long project.
Over the past several decades, the United States’ Southern border region has undergone significant military escalations. The influence of military strategies, culture, technologies, hardware, and combat veterans in the policing of borders has led to what we recognize today as a militarized border region.
The United States’ Southern borderlands have been transformed by military technologies for decades. After the Vietnam War in the 1970s, the U.S. brought military electronic surveillance technology back home to the Southern border. Since then, and especially after 9/11, border militarization has turbocharged. The budget for immigration and border enforcement, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), has multiplied more than 11 times as much from $2.1 billion in 1976 to $24.2 billion in 2019. The ballooning budget helps the agencies acquire more military-grade equipment.
Transforming the border region into an imagined war zone, a bloated border enforcement budget funds increasing numbers of armed border patrol agents and surveillance technologies from drones, aircrafts, and sensors to facial recognition and human detection technologies. Military suppliers repurpose weapons, surveillance technologies, and vehicles for use by ICE and CBP inside the United States. In fact, CBP has the largest U.S. drone fleet of its kind outside the Department of Defense, including Predator B drones that were built for military use but have been used by CBP since 2006. The companies that profit from the border security enforcement business are often the same corporations that benefit from lucrative military contracts.
The language of war is used to help justify the militarization of borders and immigration enforcement. A “threat narrative,” where migration is conflated with an “invasion” and migrants are characterized as “criminal” or “terrorists,” is often used to paint immigration and border communities as dangerous. But the push to militarize the border region and villainize immigrants ignores the real reasons that people choose to leave their homes and cross borders. In fact, U.S. foreign and immigration policy are actually responsible for a considerable amount of migration towards the United States. A number of the “push factors” that drive people in Central America to leave their homes, including political corruption and repression, violence and the power of cartels, and climate change, can be traced back to policy and actions of the United States.
This is the context in which we see the United States militarizing borders in an attempt to repress migration. Border and immigration enforcement in the U.S. today blurs distinctions between security, policing, militarization, and war-making. This extends far beyond the borderlands. A DHS program known as Operation Stonegarden, for example, provides money for local and state police to do border enforcement, which includes funds for police agencies to buy equipment for border-enforcement purposes. And under the 287g program local law enforcement officers are able to act as ICE agents in certain functions.
Dissenters is leading a new generation of young people to reclaim our resources from the war industry, reinvest in life-giving services, and repair collaborative relationships with the earth and people around the world. This October, Dissenters is calling on young people across the country to join a weekend of training of building community and honing organizing skills. Together, we will be the generation to force our elected officials and institutions to divest from war and militarism, and reinvest in what our communities actually need.
To apply to Dissenters’ October Radical Online Training Camp (Dissenters ROTC) visit http://wearedissenters.org/training/.
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