When Misery Means Profit: Immigration Enforcement, the Prison Industry and ALEC

In 2000, the U.S. Border Patrol apprehended 1,676,000 people attempting to enter the country without authorization, the highest number in nearly 15 years.  By 2010, a complex constellation of factors resulted in the number of apprehensions dropping to 463,382, a reduction of 72 percent in just a decade.  Despite the claims of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (Border Patrol’s parent agency), this reduction in apprehensions does not simply indicate that border enforcement is now more “effective,” nor does it translate perfectly into a reduction in the number of people successfully entering the U.S.  Nonetheless, it is safe to assume that fewer people enter the country without documentation now than at most points in the past ten years.

Despite the decline in authorized entries, the militarization of the border and the criminalization of immigrant communities have continued to escalate dramatically since 2000.  The U.S.-Mexico borderlands, which could be accurately described a decade ago as a “low-intensity warzone,” are more militarized than at any point in history, now resembling more a full-fledged war than anything else.  The war’s antagonists are some 18,000 Border Patrol agents armed with tasers, M4 assault rifles and submachine guns.  The array of advanced technology available to Border Patrol now includes electronic surveillance equipment, unattended ground sensors, remotely-controlled drone aircraft, and Blackhawk helicopters.  Away from the border, the criminalization of immigrant communities results in hundreds of thousands of deportations every year.  Continue reading

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