Military Collaboration with the Border Patrol in the U.S.-Mexico Border Region: Inter-Organizational Relations and Human Rights Implications
Dunn, Timothy, Political and Military Sociology
This paper focuses on the inter-organizational relationship and collaboration between the Border Patrol and the US. military in the US.Mexico border region. This relationship has built up steadily over the past decade due to both parties' growing involvement in drug enforcement and has carried over into immigration enforcement. This paper examines and describes some of the details of this collaboration and casts it in light of concepts about complex organizations and human rights. The data sources drawn upon are military documents, military journals, border region press, congressional documents, qualitative interviews, and observations derived from four years of field work in the El Paso, Texas. The main findings are that the military and the Border Patrol have collaborated on a wide scale, including the deployment of military ground troops and Border Patrol construction and training, This paper also evaluates some of the dangers of the use of military for domestic law enforcement tasks by examining a tragic May 1997 episode in which a Marine shot and killed a US citizen
The U.S. Border Patrol is the main enforcement arm of the Immigration and Naturalization 'Service. Its chief mission is the apprehension, and prevention of entry, of undocumented immigrants. Its mission has gradually expanded, however, to include drug enforcement as a secondary concern (Dunn, 1996). Prior to this, the Border Patrol operated largely on its own in isolation from other organizations, as it was virtually the sole federal police force (along with several smaller parts of the INS) focused on immigration enforcement. However, with the advent of the "war on drugs" in the mid-1980s and the sharing of drug enforcement duties among a plethora of federal, state, and local organizations, the Border Patrol began to work with a wide range of other police bodies and the military as well. Much of this inter-organizational collaboration was institutionalized through the establishment of multi-agency task forces and coordinating bodies in the Southwest border region.
While the Border Patrol now works with a broad range of other police agencies and organizations to varying degrees, it is the collaboration with the military's that raises the most concern. The U.S. military has had been largely removed from U.S. domestic law enforcement duties for over a century and its entrance into that arena raises the prospect of the militarization of law enforcement at the border. Moreover, a recent tragic encounter between Marines on a mission for the Border Patrol and a teen-age U.S. citizen portend ominous human rights hazards. However, academics still know relatively little about the topic of Border Patrol-military collaboration as it has been largely ignored in contemporary studies of immigration and drug issues. Immigration scholars have focused relatively little on enforcement issues (e.g., see Bean et al., 1990; Durrand and Massey, 1992, Portes and Rumaut, 1995), and of those who have, they have not focused on inter-organizational relations (e.g., Bean et al., 1994; Calavita, 1992; Heyman, 1995; Singer and Massey, 1998; Dunn. 1999). Meanwhile, the drug enforcement studies that discuss the role of the military tend to focus on overseas not domestic activity (e.g., Bagley, 1992; Mabry, 1994). The few exceptions to these trends (e.g., Kraska, 1993; Lemus, 1994; Palafox, 1996; Andreas, 1996; Dunn, 1996) have not focused on the Border Patrol-military collaboration in great detail.
There is a small but growing body of literature that focuses on the militarization of U.S. law enforcement in a variety of senses: the police taking on military and paramilitary characteristics (Kraska and Kappeler, 1997: Kraska and Cubellis, 1997); the police being guided by a military model (Davis, 1990-, Skolnick and Fyfe, 1993); the history of the direct use of the military in domestic policing (Adams, 1995; Wolfe, 1978); and, the blurring of institutional lines between the police and military (Kraska, 1993 and 1994). …