Border Bills, Border Shenanigans & Our Border Reality

It didn’t always used to be this way. I am of an age where I have vivid memories of life before a border wall.

A life before concertina wires, drones, cameras, and X-rays. There was law and order without the intensity of a militarized response.

While times have changed, the humans who move across borders are still just that — human.

Since the dawn of the Department of Homeland Security after 9/11, our nation’s response to border security has ballooned, and we’ve spent over 333 billion dollars in the last 20+ years. Funds allocated to DHS support a mix of border security and interior enforcement through agencies, including the Border Patrol, Customs, and ICE.

This outsized investment and a focus on deterrence tactics — the old “do not come” adage hasn’t stemmed global migration. It only funnels people through more dangerous conditions, regularly resulting in grave harm and even death.

We’ve criminalized the right to migrate and have gone to extreme measures to maintain a hard-on-crime posture, even if it runs roughshod over human rights and US law. Separating children from their families, forcing people to remain in Mexico while they seek protection, and deporting people en masse without a modicum of due process exemplify this point.

If you’re a fronterizo, you can practically time out when it will be politically convenient to project strength and leadership by cracking down on the southern border — my home.

People often fail to recognize that this liminal borderland region is a chosen home that produces some of our nation’s best and brightest. It’s a vibrant place of art, culture, and community.

It’s not a political football or plaything to be bandied about. It’s not the stick to whatever carrot was dangled before the immigrant rights movement. This framing leaves the agency and wisdom of our region far outside a debate about us for the service of others.

Here’s what our region needs.

We need economic investment beyond militarization, not labor models designed to serve outside interests.

We need access to work authorizations for newcomers and long-standing neighbors, not a funnel pushing people toward exploitation and employer abuse.

We need a person-centered response to the unique human needs of migration, not more law enforcement to do the job of trained social workers and medical professionals.

We need robust and flexible resources for our humanitarian reception, not fickle financial models.

We need money for Texas school teachers and students, not high-speed DPS chases that recklessly cost our neighbors their lives.

We need creativity and innovation grounded in the unique perspective fronterizos maintain, not piecemeal solutions that extract our best for the consumption of others.

We need an immigrant rights movement with such a strong core that it can weather attacks designed to divide and conquer, not one that demands that we cannibalize ourselves to the gods of political pragmatism.

So when votes are cast, and more money and performative might are heaped upon us again, please know that we will not be more secure.

The Senate won’t meaningfully address global migration.

We won’t be more safe.

It will be one more scar on the land and the people.

Marisa Limón Garza is the Executive Director of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, Texas.

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Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center

Bi-national nonprofit organization providing legal advocacy to the most vulnerable immigrants and refugees since 1987.