AT THE ARIZONA-MEXICO BORDER -- Rancher Jim Chilton wrestles his brush-scarred Ford F-350 pickup truck down the rutted dirt road that leads to the Mexican border. He spots a youth ahead, walking south, stooped with exhaustion. The boy, dusty, his ragged pants tied at the waist with rope, looks back as the truck jounces towards him, but he doesn’t run. “Notice the carpet shoes?” Chilton asks a passenger. Drug smugglers tie on carpet-soled overshoes to disguise their tracks, he observes, as he rolls down his window.
“Do you need water?” Chilton asks the boy in Spanish. “Sí, gracias,” he says. He eagerly guzzles from the two-liter bottle Chilton passes him. The boy says he’s Ivan, 15, and that he ran out of food and water two days earlier.
This encounter between a rancher and a migrant — or, possibly, a smuggler — on a remote stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona’s Altar Valley might seem happenstance. But in an important sense, it is not: The more than $106 billion the United States has spent on securing and militarizing its Southwest border over the last five years has created this situation, bringing them together here on this day, the armed rancher guarding his land, the boy using it as a travel route.
The U.S.-Mexico border is violent
It certainly is in some places, but those don't tend to be on the U.S. side. In fact, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/08/2-us-mexico-border-cities_n_2647897.html">El Paso, Texas and San Diego, California are the two safest cities in the country</a>, according to Congressional Quarterly. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/13/jan-brewer-border-enforcement_n_2677777.html">While Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has repeatedly said the border in her state is dangerous</a>, crime statistics reported by USA Today and The Huffington Post show that violent crime has dropped along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona, as well as California, New Mexico and Texas.
The porous U.S.-Mexico border is vulnerable to terrorists
That’s not the assessment of the U.S. government. The Mexico section of the most recent <a href="http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/195768.pdf">State Department's Country Reports on Terrorism reads</a>: <blockquote>No known international terrorist organization had an operational presence in Mexico and no terrorist group targeted U.S. citizens in or from Mexican territory. There was no evidence of ties between Mexican criminal organizations and terrorist groups, nor that the criminal organizations had political or territorial control, aside from seeking to protect and expand the impunity with which they conduct their criminal activity.</blockquote> H/T: <a href="http://borderfactcheck.com/">Washington Office on Latin America</a>.
The border is insecure
Depends on how you define "secure." By practically all measurements, the border is at its most secure point in recent history. There's more than <a href="http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2011/may/10/barack-obama/obama-says-border-patrol-has-doubled-number-agents/">20,000 Border Patrol agents stationed along the border now</a> -- about double the number since 2004. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/Politics/border-funding-needed-immigration-apprehensions/story?id=18465102">Apprehensions along the border, one of the most reliable measures of illegal entry</a>, are at their lowest level in 40 years. But <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/23/what-does-a-secure-border_n_2749419.html?utm_hp_ref=world&ir=World">politicians have yet to agree on how to define what "secure" will mean</a> for legal purposes.
Obama has been soft on enforcement
Not so. In fact, it's one of the biggest gripes immigration activists have with him. While Obama has exempted many people who came to the United States as children from deportation, he has also set records, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/23/us/advocates-push-obama-to-halt-aggressive-deportation-efforts.html?_r=0">deporting over 400,000 people last fiscal year and removing more migrants</a> in one term than George W. Bush did in two.
The U.S. hasn't committed enough resources to securing the border
Again, depends on who you ask. The $18 billion the federal government spent on border enforcement in the 2012 fiscal year was more than it spent on than on other law enforcement agencies combined, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/07/immigration-enforcement-cost_n_2425647.html">according to the Migration Policy Institute</a> -- about 15 times more than it did in the mid-1980s. Is that enough, especially in a context in which illegal immigration stands at net zero? If, not, what is?
Illegal immigration continues to skyrocket
Nope. For all the talk from outraged politicians, you'd think that immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border remains at historically high levels. In fact, <a href="http://www.pewhispanic.org/2012/04/23/net-migration-from-mexico-falls-to-zero-and-perhaps-less/">illegal immigration from Mexico has dropped to net zero or less</a>, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.