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Marc Cooper has reported on international and domestic American politics for dozens of publications, and is Senior Fellow for Border Justice at USC Annenberg?s Institute for Justice and Journalism. He is the author of several books, including a memoir about his time as translator for Chile's...
The Great Immigration Debate: Getting Beyond Denial
A Dig led by Marc Cooper
START OF ORIGINAL REPORT
Just as the real history of the war in Vietnam remains shrouded in layers of self-deceptive mythology and historical denial, so does the situation along our border, leaving the American population unprepared to understand the whys and wherefores of what is currently the greatest wave of immigration in our history.
You know the drill when it comes to Vietnam. We lost that war, we’re told, because we fought with one hand behind our back. No matter, it seems, that more than 2 million U.S. troops were cycled through the Indo-Chinese jungles, that entire forests were defoliated, that we dropped more bombs than all sides combined in World War II and that more than 3 million died in the conflict. We just didn’t fight hard enough.
Now we hear the same sort of “logic” when it comes to our border/immigration policy. We’re just too soft, we’re told. We don’t enforce the law. Every day on CNN, program host Lou Dobbs sets the national tone by ranting against our “broken borders.” As he wrote in The Arizona Republic:
But let’s calmly look at some very revealing statistics that tell us a very different story. Between 1986 and 2002 the number of Border Patrol officers tripled and the number of hours they spent patrolling the border increased by a factor of eight. In the past handful of years, billions have been spent fortifying the border with heat- and motion-detection sensors, 10-foot walls, stadium-strength lighting, infrared scopes, remote-controlled surveillance cameras, the IDENT biometric scanning system, a fleet of Blackhawk helicopters and even aerial drones. Billions more are currently being earmarked to further fortify the border and keep out illegal aliens. Indeed, there are few places in America that are as militarized as the U.S.-Mexican border.
Now to a second set of statistics. This ongoing buildup along the border has, by any honest measure, completely failed. There is no evidence whatsoever—not even from official U.S. government sources—that suggests any stemming of the immigrant flow by the border enforcement buildup.
In 1992, about 1.2 million “deportable aliens” were “apprehended” along the southwestern border by the Border Patrol, according to the official statistics published by the Department of Homeland Security. A dozen years and billions of dollars later, in 2004 a virtually identical number of illegal aliens were nabbed along the same border. In the intervening years, the number fluctuated from about 1.6 million to just under a million.
Deterrence by Death
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