Discounting the Value of Federal Fencing and Minutemen Watching Illegal Immigrants Crossing the U. S.-Mexican Border

By Villanueva, A. B. | Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table, Summer 2008 | Go to article overview

Discounting the Value of Federal Fencing and Minutemen Watching Illegal Immigrants Crossing the U. S.-Mexican Border


Villanueva, A. B., Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table


Introduction

Just as President George W. Bush, Jr. proclaimed "Mission Accomplished" in a large banner displayed behind him as he stood aboard a warship and announced that the Iraq war was over, so did he declare the success of border fencing and militarizing as he spoke in Yuma, Arizona in 2007 with stadium lights illuminating the fence constructed along the U.S.-Mexico border. The President said that tougher border enforcement including a fence with electronic sensing devices and militarization with the deployment of the National Guard had sharply reduced the flow of illegal immigrants. A reduction of apprehension of illegal immigrants in the Yuma sector by 65% from the previous year and 30% in the last six months in the same period last year were cited to support his declaration (1). With these figures, the President assured the nation that the border is under control. The validity and significance of these figures confirmed a recent report of the Center of Immigration Studies attributing the decline of the illegal alien population as a result of tougher border enforcement measures.

Some immigration observers have challenged the veracity of these figures. Douglas Massey said it is all "smoke and mirrors" because it overlooks those who come legally and remain in the country after their visas expire. (2) Along the same line, Wayne Cornelius pointed out that in 1993, when stricter border enforcement was launched, there was a increase in the size of the illegal alien population. Joining the chorus of criticism, a reporter from the Arizona Daily Star wrote that the President's press conference in Yuma is a "dog and pony" show and doubted if the people will believe him (3).

Border Fence, Native Americans, and Private Property

The border fence required by Congress to be built by the end of 2008 will be in specific sections of the boundary between the United States and Mexico. It does not cover the entire length of the border . (See map on Figure I). The proposed fence will have a negative effect on four Native American lands: Tohono O'odham in southern Arizona, the Kickapoo in southern Texas, the Kumeyaay in southern California, and the Cocopah in the delta of the lower Colorado river. The Tohono O'odhams live on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border--an area of 2.8 million acres of desert land, 75 miles of which lies in southern Arizona in the U.S. southwest and Sonora in northern Mexico. Most of the 25,000 Tohonos live in the American side and the rest in the Mexican side of the borderland. Members of the Tohono Nation on both sides cross the border to visit relatives. The Tohonos from Sonora, Mexico cross the border to go to their capital in Sells, Arizona for health services or participate religious ceremonies like the Saguaro Wine Feast, while those in the American side cross the border when they make a pilgrimage to celebrate the feast of St. Francis in Magdalena, Mexico. A border fence on their land will have a negative effect on their cultural, social and religious activities (4).

Similarly, the Kickapoo Tribe in the Eagle Pass area in southern Texas will be affected by the fence. The border fence between Del Rio and Eagle Pass will divide the land where they live. It will separate their members and threaten their culture (5). So does the border fence in the area of San Diego, California where the Kumeyaay Nation live in their land stretching from the San Diego and Imperial counties to 60 miles south of the border into Baja California. (6) So, too, will the Cocopah Tribe have their land divided by the fence. Their land is located in the southwestern end of Arizona along the Colorado river extending 13 miles south of Yuma, Arizona and 15 miles north of San Luis, Mexico. A fence between Calexico, California from the west and Douglas, Arizona to the east will divide their land which the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo sliced in 1848. They resent the presence of civilian patrols like the Yuma Patriots when they tread on their land in search for unauthorized migrants (7). …

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