Jun 1, 2018

Trump's 'Zero Tolerance' Bluff on the Border Will Hurt Security, Not Help

The Washington Post published this op-ed today by former Border Patrol directors on the completely absurd and non-viable proposal of the Trump administration to prosecute all illegal border crossings. The article is mixed in its policy recommendations, favoring other measures that continue to criminalize migrants, and hailing Mexico's terrible southern border crackdown in Central American migrants, but it's worth a read. 

This is a debate we must be having. If the Democrats don't stand up to the whole "border security" farce going on to enrich the few and make political hay for the racists, we will never get our of this vicious policy cycle. 

Alan Bersin, Nate Bruggeman and Ben Rohrbaugh worked together at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, where Bersin served as commissioner. He earlier was the U.S. attorney in San Diego.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen recently announced a “zero tolerance” policy on border security. Though its contours have not been described in great detail, at its core, it is a commitment to criminally prosecute every person who illegally crosses the border. 

This strategy may provide sound bites, and harsh rhetoric may generate some short-term deterrent effect, but it is impossible for this policy to actually be implemented over any reasonable time period. By announcing a threat that is effectively a bluff, the Trump administration likely will harm border security rather than enhance it.

The federal criminal-justice system is not equipped to handle the flood of cases that would result from referring every single illegal border crosser for prosecution. There is a limited number of federal judges, magistrate judges, federal prosecutors, public defenders and U.S. marshals in the judicial districts along the border. Prosecuting more than 300,000 people (the number apprehended for illegally crossing our southwestern border in fiscal 2017) would overwhelm their resources. And this is to say nothing of inadequate detention capacity; each of the illegal crossers would have to be processed, housed, guarded and fed before trial — and after, if convicted.

The core of effective border security is risk management — focusing law-enforcement resources on the greatest threats. This is why the Border Patrol developed the Consequence Delivery System, a program that matches different types of crossers to different categories of processes or penalties. For example, a known human smuggler receives harsher treatment than a first-time crosser. Referring every illegal crosser for prosecution removes the ability of the Border Patrol to manage risk effectively.

The opportunity cost associated with this prosecution strategy will be even more acutely felt by the U.S. Attorney’s Offices along the border. Already handling a massive workload, including drug- and human-trafficking cases, these prosecutors focus their time and effort on cases that have the greatest impact on public safety. The administration’s new “mission impossible” will force prosecutors to misallocate resources to economic migrants; but even then, there will not be enough resources to get the job done. In the meantime, organized crime, drug smuggling and financial crimes will receive short shrift.

Meanwhile, the new policy is likely to have little deterrent effect. We know this from experience. For example, in San Diego during the 1980s and early 1990s, enormous numbers of illegal crossers were subject to misdemeanor prosecution. That effort consumed huge amounts of resources simply to create a revolving door in area jails. It was only when the enforcement strategy changed to focus on prevention and deterrence at the border — supported with targeted felony prosecutions and strategically situated walls — did the situation change.

The administration is looking for quick fixes to illegal immigration, but action is instead needed on the difficult policy questions and trade-offs that are inherent in this arena.

For example, the administration needs to strengthen its security partnership with Mexico. Demonizing Mexico may score political points, but it is directly contrary to our border-security interests. All irregular southwest border crossers transit Mexico, and since 2015, Mexico has stopped more than 500,000 Central Americans at its southern border with Guatemala. If these efforts are halted, the effect on the southwestern U.S. border is clear.

One area of focus should be entering a “first safe country” agreement — which the United States has with Canada — providing that migrants from third countries claiming asylum here would be returned to Mexico to pursue their claims. This arrangement would be a powerful deterrent to economic migrants making false asylum claims, while leaving open a refuge for those fleeing extreme violence directed against them. The United States could provide assistance to Mexico to help implement the system.

Rather than focusing on criminal prosecutions, the administration should be reforming the overloaded immigration court system, where backlogged cases wait years for final disposition. That means adding resources and streamlining procedures so that asylum and other cases can be adjudicated efficiently. This would yield the dividends the attorney general’s recent token offer of 35 prosecutors and 18 immigration judges cannot.

“Zero tolerance” looks like an easy way to increase deterrence, but there are no easy solutions or silver bullets for a broken immigration system. While we wait for comprehensive immigration reform and a strategy for tackling the drivers of Central American migration, the administration needs to devise a deterrence scheme that is effective and sustainable. Criminal prosecution will certainly be a part of such a strategy, but if it is the only part, it will fail.

Read: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trumps-zero-tolerance-bluff-on-the-border-will-hurt-security-not-help/2018/05/31/fafbe316-642a-11e8-99d2-0d678ec08c2f_story.html?utm_term=.d4856cec1b7c&wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

May 29, 2018

Mexico is siding with President Trump on migrants

By James Fredrick - May 25

MEXICO CITY — I heard a familiar story on a recent trip to the southern border.

“There’s been harassment against my fellow Guatemalans, asking them if they’re citizens, demanding their papers, it’s an all-out persecution,” Hector Sipac, a Guatemalan consul, told me.

But we weren’t in the United States. We were in Tapachula, on Mexico’s southern border, where Sipac is based. In the age of President Trump’s xenophobia, Mexico has quietly aligned itself with the American president against migrants.

May 17, 2018

EEUU: ¡Justicia, no impunidad! Agente de la Patrulla Fronteriza enfrentará nuevo juicio por el asesinato de José Antonio

Revista Documentos El Derecho de Vivir en Paz - 16 mayo 2018

En la mañana del 11 de mayo, fiscales federales de Tucsón anunciaron su decisión de volver a juzgar al agente de la Patrulla Fronteriza Lonnie Swartz por cargos de homicidio voluntario e involuntario por el asesinato, el 10 de octubre de 2012, de José Antonio Elena Rodríguez. Aunque el 23 de abril, un jurado en un tribunal federal en Arizona absolvió a Swartz de asesinato en segundo grado, la decisión de hacer un nuevo juicio le da a José Antonio, a su familia y a todas las víctimas de la Patrulla Fronteriza una oportunidad más para lograr justicia y detener la impunidad de la Patrulla Fronteriza. El nuevo juicio comenzará el 23 de octubre de 2018. Leer más.

May 15, 2018

Trump’s DHS is using an extremely dubious statistic to justify splitting up families at the border

By Dara Linddara - May 8, 2018

The government says its new policy reduced border crossings 64 percent. They actually increased 64 percent.

The separation of families who cross into the US from Mexico illegally is now official US government policy.

On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Thomas Homan announced that the Trump administration would adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward anyone caught crossing into the US by Border Patrol. All border crossers would be referred to the Department of Justice, and everyone referred would be prosecuted for the misdemeanor of illegal entry. Read More.

May 8, 2018

Killings in Mexico: Collateral damage or the result of a failed security policy?

By Erika Guevara Rosas, Director for the Americas at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International - 19 April 2018

Early in the morning on 25 March, a young couple were driving with their three daughters and niece to the border town of Nuevo Laredo when a Mexican naval helicopter opened fire on them. Caught in the middle of the hail of bullets unleashed by personnel from the Mexican Secretariat of the Navy (SEMAR), the mother and two of her daughters were killed instantly.

The authorities have deemed these deaths to be “collateral damage” resulting from a conflict that has coincided with more than 200,000 deaths in Mexico since the end of 2006. The connotation of this phrase is that there is logic to armed conflict and that frontal assault is acceptable. To mainstream the notion of collateral damage is to implicitly accept the standpoint that the armed forces play a role in public security. Read More.

Apr 25, 2018

Colombia's Santos Latest to Cite Failure of War on Drugs Model, So Why Does the US Keep Pushing It?


It couldn't be clearer.  Latin America's staunchest drug warriors, the leaders of nations that have invested billions of dollars and thousands of lives into this, are calling for a new approach. 

This time it was Juan Manuel Santos, president of the country that pioneered the drug war in Latin America at the behest and with the support of a succession of US governments.  Despite that it has been his nation's policy for decades, he didn't mince words when he spoke to the UN General Assembly on April 24:
“The war that the world declared on drugs more than 40 years ago has not been won. The strategy based exclusively on prohibition and repression has only created more deaths, more prisoners, more dangerous criminal organizations.”
He echoes something victims have known for years. In Mexico every grassroots victims' organization has called for an end to the war, calling it instead of the war on drugs, "the war on us".

Yet the governments and their allied NGOs continue to support Calderon's drug war, now Peña's drug war, and the US component the Merida Initiative. They say it will win if we just give it more time. They say the "soft side" is really a new approach that will soon produce different results. They say if we´ll just be patient...

Mexico, and especially Mexican youth, are in no mood to be patient. The latest brutal murder of three film students, who were first announced as disappeared and later identified as remains dissolved in vats of acid, has once again mobilized the outrage that is always latent in a nation where disappearances and executions by cartels and security forces are an every day occurrence.

The soft side--police and judicial reform, "building resilient communites"-- is the way the State Department and others justify the drug war model these days, when faith in the model is waning. These bogus programs, ineffectual at best and profoundly interventionist at worst, keep the war on drugs alive when almost no one believes in it any more. The defense of the millions of dollars spent to enforce the model is justified by those who receive the juicy government contracts and the Pentagon, also a major player in its own right, that gets to operate freely in Mexico.

Where are the millions of dollars alloted to build forensic capacity in Mexico as part of the Merida Initaitive over the past ten years? I know a mother who carries bone fragments carefully wrapped in a rag and asks anyone who will listen when, when? When will someone confirm that they are what's left of her son, or someone else's son.

Mexico still sends fragments to Houston or Austria for testing. And that's an example that could be just the beginning of the list. Millions of dollars through the public policy pipeline: Why is the justice system not getting better? Why are police still corrupt and crimes not solved?

The answer to these questions is obvious--the idea was never to solve crimes or find the disappeared.  The problem is not technical and everyone knows it. It's political, it's a lack of political will.  So the arrogant explanation of the U.S. government that they are training Mexicans to be better is not only racist but false.

Before Santos' speech, it was Peña Nieto who declared the war a failure and the security policy basically a trainwreck.  As if it weren't his fault.

The campaigns are raising the debate. But the interests involved seem to assure that no matter how much consensus there is on its failure, the drug war will continue because it serves important interests. Politicians on both sides of the borders and their think tank and NGO echo chambers will say e too want a change in order to avoid a change.

We're the ones who have to call them on it. We're the ones who will have to make the change, by doing exactly what the students are doing now: Standing up and saying ¡Ya Basta!

Mar 29, 2018

AP Story on New US-Mexico Drug War Cooperation at Sea Raises Questions

This article describes the stubbron refusal of the govenments to recognize that the war on drugs is a total disaster. 

The renewed focus on the drug war is no surprise, given Trump's cozy relationship with the war industry. But it comes at a time when on the grassroots level, people are more sick of it than ever. The March for our Lives' call for controls on firearms is a strike to the heart of that industry. Reaction, including insulting kids whoses friends were just murdered, has come publicly from fanatical gun owners and rightwing ideologues, but not far behind them are the real forces behind the refusal to regulate lethal arms that kill students, the money-makers--the arms manufacturers and sellers and smugglers and hit men. 

South of the border, the Colombian situation is characerized by a very complex effort to implement the historic peace accords. Calling for a return to drug war militarization and fumigation (like this unfortunate article in Foreign Policy does) is the last thing they need now. Peace is a dirty word to the war industry and to the Pentagon with its $700 billion budget, which is why the rest of us have to fight for it so hard. 

Mexico just had the most violent year on record thanks to the binational drug war. The leading presidential candidate's promise to change course partly explains his overwhelming popularity. Concerns over national sovereignty are legitimate--you can easily understand why if you turn the tables. Why instead of US forces coming into Mexico to stop production and transit, don't we have Mexican secuity forces fanning out to U.S. cities to stop retail sales, which is where the vast amount of profits come from that fuel the trade? Both are terribel ideas, of course. Mexico has every reason in the world to ask the United States to mind its own bisness, literally, working on the part of transnational crime that takes place within its own borders. Less intervention and more domestic problem-solving is what "America First" should mean.

I've had several debates with Jorge Chabat and find the quote at the end of this article especially disturbing because they imply that there is no other way to confront the cartels than the war model that has killed more than 160,000 since it was implemented. We can be more creative--and more empathetic--than that. Shirk's comment that the wall impedes drug trafficking, forcing it into the sea, is utterly absurd. Even the DEA, which is heavily invested in continuing the drug war, admits that the vast majority is smuggled over the border in vehicles that cross international bridges and sail right by US Customs agents. LC

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The U.S. and Mexican governments are sparring over immigration and trade, but the two countries are joining forces on the high seas like never before to go after drug smugglers.
The United States, Mexico and Colombia will target drug smugglers off South America’s Pacific coast in an operation that is scheduled to begin Sunday and last for the foreseeable future, Coast Guard officials told The Associated Press.

U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Paul F. Zukunft teased the idea during a recent defense conference in San Diego, saying the United States “can’t do it alone.”

“It’s no secret we are besieged with the flow of drugs from Latin America to the United States,” he said.

U.S. and Mexican forces have routinely worked together at sea, but the latest effort “marks a significant step in terms of information sharing, collaboration and cooperation between the United States, Mexico and other partner nations,” according to the Coast Guard.

The Americans and Mexicans will exchange intelligence more freely than in the past, which could mean sharing information on well-traveled routes for drug smugglers or preferred paths for specific smuggling organizations, Coast Guard spokeswoman Alana Miller said.

They will also board the other country’s vessels to view operations and gain expertise, Miller said. In 2015, three members of the Mexican navy boarded a Coast Guard vessel during a port call in Huatulco, Mexico, but this operation calls for more frequent exchanges, and they will be at sea.
The operation will last “for the foreseeable future as long as it’s working for everyone,” Miller said. “It’s sort of open-ended.”

Traffickers over the years have increasingly turned to the sea to move their illegal goods, traversing an area off South America that is so big, the continental United States could be dropped inside. Smugglers routinely move cocaine out of countries like Colombia to Central America and Mexico via fishing boats, skiffs, commercial cargo ships — even homemade submarines.

The operation comes after five years of record seizures by the Coast Guard. But U.S. officials say because of limited resources, the U.S. military’s smallest service still catches only about 25 percent of illegal shipments in the Pacific.

Even so, the Coast Guard annually seizes three times the amount of cocaine confiscated at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Yet ocean smuggling has not grabbed lawmakers’ attention like the flow of drugs across the nearly 2,000-mile-long (3,200-kilometer-long) land border, where the Trump administration wants to spend billions to build a continuous wall.

As much as 20 percent of the cocaine moving through South America ends up in the United States,  
and most of it lands first in Mexico from seafaring smugglers. The hope is boats will be stopped before their shipments are loaded onto Mexican trucks that fan out on various routes bound for the U.S. border, authorities said. Large boats can cart 20 tons (18 metric tons) of cocaine or more.

Mexico has historically been among the Latin American countries that are most reluctant to join operations with the U.S., which can be traced back to the Mexican-American War that was fought 170 years ago. The United States cannot open military bases in Mexico, and U.S. officials, for instance, cannot venture into Mexican waters without prior permission, even if they are chasing drug vessels.

The Coast Guard now stops its pursuit and alerts Mexican authorities if suspicious boats cross into their territorial waters.

It’s unclear whether this new cooperation will affect those restrictions.

Treaties with nations such as Colombia have allowed U.S. authorities more latitude, such as permitting Coast Guard officers to board Colombian-flagged ships. U.S. officials have touted Colombia’s joint anti-drug efforts as a model for the region.

The U.S. and Mexican military relationship has strengthened since the two nations signed the 2008 Merida Initiative to work together in the drug war. There have been more cross-border trainings, especially with the Mexican Navy, which is considered less corrupt than the Mexican Army and has raised its profile with the captures and killings of drug bosses.

The combined operation was planned in a series of meetings over the past year. The maritime services signed letters of intent to work together to fight organized crime while respecting each country’s sovereignty and territorial waters.

David Shirk, associate professor of political science at the University of San Diego, said the operation falls in line with Trump’s vow to go after the “bad hombres,” while President Enrique Pena Nieto has recognized organized crime is so severe that Mexico needs help.

“With more walled-off sections of the border, we’ve seen drug trafficking organizations literally go underground or offshore,” he said.

Last year, the Coast Guard seized more than 455,000 pounds (206,000 kilograms) of cocaine worth more than $6 billion and brought more than 600 suspected traffickers back to the United States for prosecution. The Coast Guard has been criticized for holding suspects on ships where they cannot easily access lawyers. Shirk said joint operations could lead “to serious violations of suspects’ rights at sea and possible human rights violations in the process.”

Coast Guard officials say they respect suspects’ rights. Where suspects will be sent with the three countries participating in the operation will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
U.S. military officials have been reluctant to openly discuss details of the cooperation with their Mexican counterparts, sensitive to the Mexican public’s historical view and recent barbs between the two presidents.

Jorge Chabat, a political scientist at the Center for Economic Research and Teaching in Mexico City, said he doubts the combined operation will get much negative reaction from a Mexican public tired of drug violence.

“The more insecurity we have, the less nationalism we have in Mexico,” he said.
Ultimately, he doubts the joint operation will make much difference.

“This is something they have to do to maintain drug trafficking at the same level, and not allow it to grow,” he said. “That’s the most you can do. You can’t just surrender.”