A new federal report released yesterday says the border wall is costing taxpayers $6.5 million a mile. The zinger is after all the lawsuits and the billions we’ve spent, the Department of Homeland Security still doesn’t know whether the border wall is keeping people from illegally entering the United States.As of June, 633 miles of fence had been built with 28 miles remaining. It comes as no surprise to me that Homeland Security has no idea whether the fence is reducing the number of illegal crossers. They put the fence up without any hard numbers or data to prove that it would be effective where they built it in the first place. In fact, in many cases it was downright suspicious that they avoided building fence through country clubs and rich people’s properties as I detailed in my “Holes in the Wall” story last year. Now the U.S. General Accountability Office reports that while Border Patrol can report whether apprehensions are up or down in different areas of the border, they can’t determine whether the border wall has anything to do with it. According to Border Patrol’s own data, apprehension along the entire southwest border except San Diego had already declined between 2006-2007 before the majority of fencing was built. Less migrants are also crossing because of a slumping economy, according to the GAO.The only measure Customs and Border Patrol has for success on the border wall is the number of miles that have been built, said the GAO. In other words who cares if it doesn’t work and screws up border residents’ lives and the environment just get it done because Congress says so!But wait apparently CBP has done some analysis to determine where fencing should be built and whether it is effective. Oh wait, no actually they just spoke with senior border patrol agents and they gave Washington D.C. officials their opinions on where the fence should be placed. Thanks guys.The GAO has a novel idea. What about some statistical analyses to show whether a sector of the border even needs fencing. And if it has a fence already how about some hard data showing us whether it works? After all we’re paying $6.5 million a mile for it. And the U.S. government is seizing people’s properties and destroying national parks. DHS could at least show landowners some hard data as to why they’ve been pinpointed for destruction. All landowners have gotten from the U.S. government so far is “give us your land to build a border fence because we said so.”Also, while the border wall may be tall and ugly it is not invincible. The GAO reports that the wall has already been cut open 3,363 times and it costs taxpayers on an average of $1,300 a pop to repair the damage. Really we all owe former Congressman Duncan Hunter a big thanks for this fine wall he helped build. It worked so well in his district (which is why apprehensions are going up in San Diego instead of down like the rest of the border, go figure) he just couldn’t wait to apply it to the rest of the southern border. It’d be a big joke if it didn’t cost taxpayers several billions of dollars and cause so much heartache for so many Americans living along the southern border.
It’s back to the caliche hauling business for Kino. State Rep. Kino Flores, D-Mission, announced today he won’t run for re-election in 2010. Not particularly shocking considering that he was indicted in July by a Travis County grand jury for failing to reveal sources of income, gifts received, real estate holdings and real estate sales in documents required for public office holders.Of course, Kino’s not leaving until his term has run its course. Like Rocky he can fight the indictment and represent the people of Hidalgo County with one arm tied behind his back. We’ll miss the gold jewelry and the bullying on the House floor (not!).Steve Taylor and Joey Gomez from the Rio Grande Guardian have more on Kino’s decision to release his iron grasp on District 36.
In August, the Mexican government decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, cocaine and other drugs. Several other Latin American countries have also done the same recently.
Some people argue that Latin America’s move to emphasize treating drug addiction as a medical condition rather than a criminal act will force the United States to change its own policies towards drugs. This is why we should pay attention to what is happening south of the border.
That and the mounting death toll that is accumulating along our southern border because of the U.S.’ insatiable desire for drugs.
Oh, and don’t forget the gazillion people who are in jail for drug use.
I’ll admit I haven’t read Mexico’s decriminalization legislation. I’ve only had time to read media reports on the new law. I’ve heard different takes on the decriminalization: one is that the new law will emphasize treatment over incarceration, which sounds like a progressive and good thing. The other take is that the term decriminalization is actually a misnomer. Instead, Mexico’s new law is a step toward mandatory sentencing.
Eric Sterling, from the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, pointed this out in an email the other day. He wrote:
“Actually Mexico’s “decriminalization” bill contains mandatory minimum sentences of four years for “small dealers;” a mandatory three years to possess with intent to distribute; and a mandatory seven years for other offenses. The reforms provide that anyone in possession of the small amounts will be arrested and presented to the local prosecutor who will determine if the possession was for personal consumption, or trafficking. The abuse of process potential is substantial. “
The New York Times has a forum posted on its Web site debating Mexico’s decriminalization law and what impact it might have on the United States. It’s a good read for anyone interested in our own country doing something about our dysfunctional drug policies.
There’s a Texan in the mix too. Dr. Tony Payan, a professor at the University of Texas at El Paso is a participant in the forum. Payan is one of the organizers of the upcoming global forum on U.S. Drug War policy happening at UTEP this month. We need to do something about our failed drug policies. Until we do, the violence in Mexico and along the border won’t stop.
Governor Rick Perry announced in Houston yesterday that he sent the Texas Rangers down to the border to fight the “spillover violence.” You can tell we are hot in the middle of election season when it’s time again for His Hairness to get tough on crime. The only problem is he forgot to tell local law enforcment and border officials that he was sending the Rangers, according to a Houston Chronicle story. He probably neglected to do so because they would have told him it wasn’t necessary and that would have screwed up a perfectly good press release (and video).
Brownsville Mayor Pat Ahumada annoyed by Perry’s tough on border crime grandstanding sent out a flurry of emails last night taking issue with the Ranger Recon mission. Ahumada had a few suggestions on what might really make a difference if Perry wanted to fight drug cartel crime:
“What is needed is to continue supporting Mexico’s Mérida Plan to fight the drug trade and work closely with Mexico to combat the drug trafficking, money laundering, and other illegal activity associated with the drug cartels like kidnappings, human smuggling, along with enforcing our laws in the U.S.,” he said. This means weeding out corrupt law enforcement officials, securing the nation’s deep water ports of entry to stop the shipment of drugs in containers, and providing local law enforcement with added resources to assist federal agencies combating drug smuggling.
“To continue to promote a plan that calls for the National Guard or Rangers to secure our border is wasteful and unnecessary spending that in my opinion could be put to better use without hurting local economies along the southwest border region.”
But then this isn’t really abut border communities or Mexico. If it were, Perry would have given his press conference in Brownsville or Laredo instead of Houston. Why waste a media event on a bunch of Democrats on the border when you can get tough on crime in front of a room full of Republican voters.
Immigrant rights activists rejoiced last month when the Obama Administration announced August 6 that it was ready to start fixing the nation’s ailing immigration detention system. Right now we have a crazy quilt of county and privately run prisons. The government very desperately needs to centralize its management and oversight of these far flung detention centers so that immigrants don’t languish in jail for years, or die from maltreatment or lack of medical care in poorly run facilities.The nonprofit Migration Policy Institute released a very interesting report today questioning whether Immigration and Customs Enforcement which oversees the detention facilities is up to the task of overhauling the system. The number of detainees has nearly doubled since 2001 from 209,000 detainees per year to 378,582 in 2008. Their findings indicate that ICE doesn’t even have enough information about its own day to day operations to put its house in order.ICE’s startling revelation last month that 10 people had died in its detention facilities between 2004 and 2007 which the agency was not aware of illustrates the Institute’s point. The unaccounted for deaths only became apparent to ICE after agency officials combed through their files in response to an open records request made by the American Civil Liberties Union.Now the announcement this week that Dr. Dora Schriro, who had been tasked with overseeing the overhaul for the Department of Homeland Security, is leaving the Obama Administration seems like another warning sign that a remedy won’t come anytime soon. According to a New York Times story she will be taking a job as the Commissioner of Corrections for New York City to be closer to a sick family member.Schriro, 59, who formerly ran the Arizona Department of Corrections under then Governor Janet Napolitano (now Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano) was appointed just 8 months ago as Special Advisor on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Detention & Removal. On August 6, Schriro was picked by Napolitano to become the director of the Office of Detention Policy and Planning. Her task was a 6-month review of the nation’s immigrant detention facilities and recommendations on how to fix the burgeoning immigrant detention crisis.At the moment there doesn’t seem to be anyone at hand to take Schriro’s place. Matt Chandler, spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security said in an email that DHS and ICE will “begin a national search to identify Dr. Schriro’s permanent replacement as head of the ICE Office of Detention Policy and Planning immediately.”At least before Schriro heads to New York she will deliver her 6-month review to Napolitano and ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton. My guess is they’ll have to double the salary of whoever takes Schriro’s place, because it’s going to take a Herculean effort to overhaul this system.