Paying for a Militarized Border

November 21st, 2014 - by admin

Quaker Action Magazine / American Friends Service Committee – 2014-11-21 21:37:18

Paying for a Militarized Border
Quaker Action Magazine / American Friends Service Committee

(September 4, 2014) — In 2013, the US public was expecting humane and fair immigration reform — not increased border militarism and guaranteed profits for defense contractors.

Protecting families and human rights — while creating a clear path to legal status — topped the list of demands of immigrant rights activists, including the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), in early 2013, when both political parties ardently promised better immigration policies.

But S.744, the “immigration bill” passed by the Senate in June, fell far short of humane reform, with no pathway to citizenship for the majority of undocumented immigrants and with increased border security as its centerpiece.

“Security” on the ground
The realities of excessive Border Patrol force are impossible to ignore in San Diego, where the militarized US/Mexico border flanks the city.

An active immigrant-rights coalition keeps migrants and the border community informed of their rights and involved in changing local, regional, and national laws. As part of that work, AFSC’s Adriana Jasso accompanies people who have experienced Border Patrol violence, including some who have lost family members. (Since 2010, 28 people have died as a result of documented excessive force by Border Patrol officers — and there are very likely others that went undetected.)

When the Senate passed S.744, Adriana said that the astounding investments in the “border militarization industrial complex” would mean “billions for defense contractors and continuing crisis for people on both sides of the border.”

The bill was packed with references to specific manufacturers’ electronic surveillance equipment and aircraft and called for pumping $46 million more into such purchases.

Adriana expressed great concern that the Senate doubled down on border militarization, “despite hearing directly from [border] communities about the impacts of living in an area dominated by militarization.”

It was clear that Senators were responding to some voices lobbying for change — but not to the people most vulnerable to the violence.

Following the Money
Looking at lobbyists’ activities as reported under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, AFSC zeroed in on the influence of cash-carrying corporations during Senate immigration debates.

“During the 91 most important dates in which S. 744 was being deliberated and during its actual passage in the Senate, three companies — Northrop Grumman, United Technologies, and EADS North America — spent a total of approximately $74,000 per day on lobbying activities,” says Lia Lindsey, policy impact coordinator with AFSC. “And there are other activities that aren’t required to be disclosed to the public.”

Conversation Shifts
During those three months of intense corporate lobbying, the national conversation shifted. The emphasis on humane reform took a back seat to controlling the border, and community activists felt pressure to take whatever small improvements they could get.

“Often there’s a cycle in Washington of responding to what the pundits say has to happen in order to move something,” says Aura Kanegis, AFSC’s director of advocacy and public policy. “The boon in the immigration reform bill for private prison companies and for military contractors was billed as something that had to happen in order to get the measure passed in the House.”

Despite the compromises to increase border security proposals and reduce provisions providing relief to immigrants, the bill died in the House, and the US public is still waiting for immigration policy reform.

AFSC’s approach is not to compromise on human rights for short-term measures. Instead, we create avenues for lawmakers and policy advisers to hear from people who are directly affected by the legislation.

AFSC-organized delegations from San Diego and Newark have visited Washington in recent months to lobby federal lawmakers — telling stories of detention, deportation, family separation, and the harmful impacts of increased border security. As the presidential primary campaigns get underway in Iowa and New Hampshire, AFSC is challenging candidates to take a stance on corporate influence on border policies.

The drive for profits generates time and money to influence public policy — but surely it’s not stronger than the moral imperative to protect human rights.

AFSC is a Quaker organization devoted to service, development, and peace programs throughout the world. Our work is based on the belief in the worth of every person, and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.

Border Security
• In the two months the Senate was debating the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” defense contractor Northrop Grumman spent $3.5 million on lobbying. Source: Matea Gold, “Immigration deal would boost defense manufacturers,” Washington Post, July 1, 2013, accessed July 15, 2014,

• During the same two-month period in 2013, United Technologies spent $2.29 million on lobbying. Source: Matea Gold, “Immigration deal would boost defense manufacturers,” Washington Post, July 1, 2013, accessed July 15, 2014,

• The Senate passed the 2013 bill, but only after $46 billion for “border security” was added to the legislation. Source: “Senate Amendment 1183 to S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” Congressional Budget Office, June 24, 2013, accessed July 15, 2014,

• The federal government spent almost $18 billion on immigration enforcement agencies in 2012 alone. Source: Christie Thompson, “Billions Proposed for New border Security. Where would the Money Go?” ProPublica, April 26, 2013, accessed July 24, 2014,

• The bill specifically orders the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to purchase six Northrop Grumman manufactured radar systems totaling over $55 million. The bill specifically orders DHS to purchase Blackhawk Helicopters from United Technologies at a cost of $250 million. Source: Matea Gold, “Immigration deal would boost defense manufacturers,” Washington Post, July 1, 2013, accessed July 15, 2014,

• Since the 1993 establishment of border control policies, at least 7,000 immigrants have lost their lives attempting to cross the US/Mexico border. Source: “A New Path: Towards a Humane Immigration Policy,” American Friends Service Committee, accessed July 15, 2014,

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