The Southwest Border Security Bill allocates $600 million to beef up border policing. It adds 1,500 cops to the U.S.-Mexico border, bringing the total number there to more than 18,200. In May Obama ordered 1,200 National Guardsmen to the border.
The bill includes funding for more sensors to detect those trying to cross into the United States and $32 million to increase the number of drone airplanes to patrol the border. The U.S. government currently uses seven drones there.
As part of the governments efforts to label many immigrant workers as criminals, one-third of the money will go to the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to target drug dealers and human traffickers.
Sen. Charles Schumer, Obamas point man for so-called immigration reform, said money to fund the plan would come mostly by increasing the fees by $2,000 each for companies that employ more than 50 guest workers.
Two days before Obama signed the border bill, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) completed a three-day sweep in Arizona against alleged convicted criminal aliens. ICE director John Morton boasted it was the largest operation of its kind ever carried out in the state, arresting 63 immigrants.
In a statement detailing its operations in Arizona over the last two years, ICE said that it deports 1,500 immigrants from that state every week, some two-thirds of whom are not accused of anything except lack of proper papers.
The increased cop and military action at the border, along with campaigns to scapegoat immigrants for crimes and drug smuggling, are taking place when the number of immigrants attempting to cross is at its lowest level since 1970. The Border Patrol detained 556,000 immigrants in 2009 compared to nearly 724,000 in 2008. The decrease is due to the combined impact of high U.S. unemployment and stepped-up enforcement of anti-immigrant laws.
ICE deported almost 300,000 immigrant workers using removal orders in 2009. Figures for total deportations last year, including voluntary departures, have not yet been released.
U.S. capitalists depend on immigrant labor to push down wages, boost profits, and more effectively compete with their rivals around the world, but during economic crises they seek to more tightly control the labor flow. They couple this with blaming immigrants for rising unemployment to deepen divisions in the working class.
Many anti-immigrant programs begun under previous administrations have been intensified since Obama took office. Among those measures are E-verify, which allows bosses to check the status of current or potential employees through the Internet; a five-fold increase in immigration audits, which lead to the firing of thousands of workers without papers; and the expansion of Secure Communities, a program to check the fingerprints of anyone who is in jail against a Department of Homeland Securities immigration database.
While the number of workers without papers crossing the border has declined, the Obama administration has increased the penalties for those who have been deported once and caught returning to the United States. According to the Washington Post, most of those detained by the Border Patrol a second time now serve an average of 60 days in jail, before they are deported again.
At the same time the Obama administration has suspended or canceled deportation proceedings against many undocumented students who came to the United States as children.
Students and others have organized numerous protests demanding the Dream Act, which would give legal status to undocumented youth who have graduated high school and have a clean criminal record. Those who qualify under the bill, if passed, would have to enroll in a university or the military to obtain permanent residency.
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