Thursday, October 1, 2009

Immigration reform is the way

2009-10-01 | La Opinión

Operation Guardian was the beginning of security reinforcement on the US side of our shared border with Mexico. Fifteen years later, the fear of terrorist infiltration was added to the anti-immigrant clamor for border control, extending the concept of a physical and virtual wall. Nevertheless, immigrants continue crossing and many more of them die in the attempt today than in 1994.

A joint study by Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of San Diego and Imperial counties indicates that deaths on the border are rising, despite a drop in crossings. It is estimated that at least one person dies every day in the desert. The death toll is on the up-swing, indicating a humanitarian crisis. It is ironic that those who wanted to prevent these deaths by leaving water bottles on paths used by migrants were recently found guilty of littering by Arizona authorities.

From the outset, the wall was a mammoth project given its construction and maintenance costs, as clearly explained in a recent study by the Government Accountability Office. It is interesting that at the same time, the recent reduction in crossings is not attributed to effective border control, but to the economic downturn in the United States.

In short, the issue of undocumented immigration will not be resolved on the border with walls. That should be the lesson learned from the 15 years of Operation Guardian. Yet it is also inhumane to leave a status quo in place where more people die when crossing and end up as victims of criminals who take advantage of them, like the "coyotes."

Comprehensive immigration reform is the only logical response from this side to regulate and control the flow of workers needed by this economy. On Mexico's side, economic stability is urgently needed so that sufficient jobs are created that the journey north is less attractive.

Operation Guardian marked the beginning of an extremely expensive and ineffective border strategy that has led to more deaths without resolving the basic factors underlying undocumented immigration.

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