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Border Patrol International

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Posted on Nov 21, 2013
visualpanic (CC BY 2.0)

By Todd Miller, TomDispatch

(Page 2)

New World Border

Washington’s response to the 2010 Haitian earthquake provides one example of how quickly a mobile U.S. border and associated fears of massive immigration or unrest can be brought into play.

In the first days after that disaster, a U.S. Air Force cargo plane circled parts of the island for five hours repeatedly broadcasting in Creole the prerecorded voice of Raymond Joseph, Haiti’s ambassador to the United States.

“Listen, don’t rush [to the United States] on boats to leave the country,” he said. “If you do that, we’ll all have even worse problems. Because I’ll be honest with you: if you think you will reach the U.S. and all the doors will be wide open to you, that’s not at all the case. And they will intercept you right on the water and send you back home where you came from.”

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That disembodied voice from the heavens was addressing Haitians still stunned in the wake of an earthquake that had killed up to 316,000 people and left an additional one million homeless. State Department Deputy Spokesman Gordon Duguid explained the daily flights to CNN this way: “We are sending public service messages… to save lives.” Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) quickly dispatched 16 Coast Guard cutters to patrol Haitian waters, blocking people from leaving their devastated island. DHS authorities also cleared space in a 600-bed immigration detention center in Miami, and at the for-profit Guantanamo Bay Migrations Operation Center (run by the GEO Group) at the infamous U.S. base in Cuba.

In other words, the U.S. border is no longer static and “homeland security” no longer stays in the homeland: it’s mobile, it’s rapid, and it’s international.

Maybe this is why, last March, when I asked the young salesmen from L-3 Communications, a surveillance technology company, at the Border Security Expo in Phoenix if they were worried about the sequester—Congress’s across-the-board budget cuts that have taken dollars away from the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security—one of them simply shrugged. “There’s the international market,” he said as if this were almost too obvious to mention.

He was standing in front of a black globular glass eye of a camera they were peddling to security types.  It was draped with desert camouflage, as if we were out in the Arizona borderlands, while all around us you could feel the energy, the synergy, of an emerging border-industrial complex.  Everywhere you looked government officials, Border Patrol types, and the representatives of private industry were meeting and dealing in front of hundreds of booths under the high ceilings of the convention center.

On the internationalization of border security, he wasn’t exaggerating. At least 14 other countries ranging from Israel to Russia were present, their representatives browsing products ranging from miniature drones to Glock handguns. And behind the bustle of that event lay estimates that the global market for homeland security and emergency management will reach $544 billion annually by 2018. “The threat of cross-border terrorism, cyber-crime, piracy, drug trade, human trafficking, internal dissent, separatist movements has been a driving factor for the homeland security market,” the market research company MarketsandMarkets reported, based on a study of high-profit security markets in North America, Europe, and Asia.

This booming business thrives off the creation of new border patrols globally. The Dominican Republic’s CESFRONT, for instance, did not exist before 2006. That year, according to Dominican Today, a group of “U.S. experts” reported that there were “a series of weaknesses that will lead to all kinds of illicit activities” on the Haitian-Dominican border. The U.S. team recommended that “there should be helicopters deployed in the region and [that] there be a creation of a Border Guard.” A month after their report appeared, that country, by Dominican presidential decree, had its own border patrol.

By 2009, the new force had already received training, funding, and resources from a number of U.S. agencies, including the Border Patrol itself. Somehow, it seems that what the U.S. consulate calls “strong borders” between the Dominican Republic and the hemisphere’s poorest country has become an integral part of a terror-obsessed world.

When I met with Colonel Orlando Jerez, a CESFRONT commander, in the border guard agency’s headquarters in the Dominican capital Santo Domingo, I noticed that on his desk he had a U.S. Border Patrol model car, a replica of the one that agency sponsored on the NASCAR circuit from 2006 to 2008 in an attempt to recruit new agents. Along the side of the shiny box that held it was this mission statement: “We are the guardians of the nation’s borders, we are America’s frontlines.”

When I asked Jerez whether CESFRONT had a relationship with our Border Patrol, he replied without a second’s hesitation, “Of course, they have an office in the U.S. embassy.”

Jerez is not alone. Washington’s global boundary-building, its promotion of those strong borders, and its urge to preempt “terrorism against American interests ‘over there,’” as the 9/11 commission report put it, are spreading fast. For example, the Central American Regional Security Initiative, a $496 million U.S. counter-drug plan launched in 2008, identifies “border security deficiencies” among Central American countries as a key problem to be dealt with ASAP. So the U.S. Border Patrol has gone to Guatemala and Honduras to help train new units of border guards.

As in Central America, border patrolling’s most vibrant markets are in places that Washington sees as far too chaotic, yet where its economic and political interests reside. For six years now, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has sent its agents, clad in brown jumpsuits, to Iraq’s borderlands to assist that government in the creation of a force to police its “porous” borders (where chaos has indeed been endemic since the 2003 U.S. invasion and subsequent occupation of the country). U.S. boundary-building efforts began there in 2004 with an operation labeled “Phantom Linebacker” in which 15,000 border guards were trained to patrol in—as the name of the operation indicates—the spirit of American football.


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