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Calling attention to the U.S.-Mexico border

Author and journalist Todd Miller discussed rising numbers of patrol agents and security equipment along the U.S. border during a Fairhaven College’s World Issues Forum.

Miller’s Wednesday, April 15, presentation highlighted that in the past decade alone, there has been a large increase in equipment and people to secure the border. In the 1990s, the U.S. employed 4,000 border patrol agents, compared to 23,000 in the post-9/11 era, Miller said.

“The U.S.-Mexico border has the most massive apparatus system in history,” Miller said in reference to the amount of equipment used to patrol and enforce U.S. borders.

The federal budget for Border Patrol and immigration is about $18 billion, which is more than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined, Miller said.

Miller showed images of the border city Nogales, Arizona, where an 18-foot fence, along with a tower, create what he calls a “virtual wall” of security for the area.

“The strategy of the U.S. border is to enforce with layers,” Miller said. “There are night vision cameras, radars and drones.”

The market for border security equipment and technology is one of the fastest growing markets in the world, Miller said. Companies that originally sold equipment to the military are now selling similar equipment for the border at expos like the Border Security Expo in Phoenix, Arizona.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, border enforcement zones are a 100-mile border zone where a citizen’s fourth amendment right is not completely recognized.

Miller recounted individuals who told him stories of being tailgated, spotlighted, pulled over and beaten by Border Control.

“You hear about these incidents. Border Patrol often operates in very isolated areas where there is no one out there to see what happens,” Miller said. “Accountability is a big debate.”

Miller, who is originally from Tucson, Arizona, did most of his research along the Arizona-Mexico border, but also spent time on the northern border in New York.

In the last ten years, the U.S.-Canada border has also gone from 300 to 3,000 agents, Miller said.

Junior Clarissa Lewis attended the lecture and said she did not realize how much border security there was.

“It was really interesting to learn about how much Border Control is on the Canadian border here, I didn’t realize there was that much,” Lewis said.

Junior Eve Maher said she was fascinated by what Miller described about the agents and what they do.

“That seems so ludicrous to me that so much of our freedom is stripped away [near the border] just because of this fear mongering,” Maher said.

Miller finished his talk by addressing the idea that the border is portrayed and handled like a battlefield among nations that are mostly cooperating.

“You have a kind of militarization at country you’re not at war with,” Miller said.

Miller has written articles for multiple news outlets, as well as the “Border Wars” blog for the North American Congress on Latin America, according to Miller’s blog. His presentation also included excerpts from his new book, “Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security.”

Todd Miller describes his experiences and his work on the U.S. borders on Wednesday, April 15, in Haggard Hall. // Photo by Christina Becker
Todd Miller describes his experiences and his work on the U.S. borders on Wednesday, April 15, in Haggard Hall. // Photo by Christina Becker


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