Todd Miller’s Border Patrol Nation and the Emerging Immigration Crisis

toddMillerFor the last fifteen years, Todd Miller has researched, written about, and worked on immigration and border issues as both an acclaimed journalist and as an activist with organizations such as BorderLinks, Witness for Peace, and the NACLA. You can read his latest essay on the border crisis here.

This past March, City Lights Publishers released Miller’s Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security, a culmination of his efforts to raise awareness of the increasingly militaristic and anti-humanitarian tactics of the U.S. Border Patrol.

“The Border Patrol can do a warrentless search on anyone who is within one hundred miles of U.S. coastlines and land borders.” Miller writes. “These Homeland Security officers have federal, extra-constitutional powers that are well above and beyond those of local law enforcement.” The excoriating and revealing report that Miller delivers has earned him acclaim and sparked discussion across the world.

Recent news stories prove the relevance of Miller’s argument and highlight the enduring challenge that immigration poses today. The Obama administration is requesting 3.7 billion dollars in order to confront the emerging crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, where tens of thousands of undocumented children, many of them unaccompanied, have arrived in the past several months. Meanwhile, amid mounting criticism of his immigration policies, President Obama just visited Texas to discuss the issue with Governor Rick Perry and other officials, but did not visit the border to inspect any of the holding cells.

Currently, there is much debate in Congress over how that nearly four billion dollars would best be spent. The questions become even more daunting as the statistics continue to add up. In 2014 alone, 57,000 unaccompanied children have so far been apprehended at the border, while only between 1,300 and 1,500 have been repatriated. To top all this off, the ACLU has announced that they have filed a lawsuit challenging “the federal government’s failure to provide [children] with legal representation as it carries out deportation hearings against them.” Their plaintiffs include several young boys and girls, ages ten to seventeen.

There is still much discussion that needs to be done before this crisis can be solved. In a recent statement, though, pulling directly from what he has witnessed for the past decade and a half, Todd Miller reminds us how we got here in the first place and why we should not be so quick to spend:

“The border enforcement regime that is in place on the U.S. border with Mexico is anything but lax. It is the most massive concentration of agents and resources that we have ever seen in the history of the United States. Never before have there been so many walls, high-powered cameras and radar, implanted motion sensors, and drones. And never before has there been an incarceration and deportation apparatus attached to this that can imprison up to 34,000 people every day, and forcibly expel an average of 400,000 people a year from the country. This does not need another cent dedicated to it. The crisis of 52,000 unaccompanied Central American children arriving to our border is correctly a ‘humanitarian’ one, and they need to be treated like refugees, not criminals. A more long-term answer to this crisis requires a much more holistic debate–which includes an honest discussion of free trade and neoliberal economic policies in Central America, and the impacts of the U.S. sponsored drug war in the region.”–Todd Miller

miller_borderpatrolnationFor much more on this complicated, diverse, and important topic, CSPAN Book TV will be broadcasting on July 19th and 20th the talk Todd Miller gave at Changing Hands Bookstore last May in Arizona. And for the most thorough coverage that you can get, check out what the Los Angeles Times has called “the right book at the right time.” Border Patrol Nation is available now.

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