Blockading the Border and Human Rights: The El Paso Operation That Remade Immigration Enforcement

Blockading the Border and Human Rights: The El Paso Operation That Remade Immigration Enforcement

Blockading the Border and Human Rights: The El Paso Operation That Remade Immigration Enforcement

Blockading the Border and Human Rights: The El Paso Operation That Remade Immigration Enforcement

Synopsis

To understand border enforcement and the shape it has taken, it is imperative to examine a groundbreaking Border Patrol operation begun in 1993 in El Paso, Texas, "Operation Blockade." The El Paso Border Patrol designed and implemented this radical new strategy, posting 400 agents directly on the banks of the Rio Grande in highly visible positions to deter unauthorized border crossings into the urban areas of El Paso from neighbouring Ciudad Juárez-a marked departure from the traditional strategy of apprehending unauthorized crossers after entry. This approach, of "prevention through deterrence," became the foundation of the 1994 and 2004 National Border Patrol Strategies for the Southern Border. Politically popular overall, it has rendered unauthorized border crossing far less visible in many key urban areas. However, the real effectiveness of the strategy is debatable, at best. Its implementation has also led to a sharp rise in the number of deaths of unauthorized border crossers. Here, Dunn examines the paradigm-changing Operation Blockade and related border enforcement efforts in the El Paso region in great detail, as well as the local social and political situation that spawned the approach and has shaped it since. Dunn particularly spotlights the human rights abuses and enforcement excesses inflicted on local Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants as well as the challenges to those abuses. Throughout the book, Dunn filters his research and fieldwork through two competing lenses, human rights versus the rights of national sovereignty and citizenship.

Excerpt

“Securing the border” has become a dominant refrain heard across the political spectrum during recent years as a part of the growing concern (again) over unauthorized (illegal) immigration. While U.S.-Mexico border enforcement has been central to U.S. immigration policy and debates for decades (e.g., see García 1980; Dunn 1996), it has been propelled forward more recently by not only further immigration anxiety but also the post-September 11 preoccupation with terrorism (e.g., see Jehl 2005). Yet to understand border enforcement and the shape it has taken, it is imperative to examine a groundbreaking Border Patrol operation begun in 1993 in El Paso, “Operation Blockade,” later renamed “Operation Hold-the-Line.” This operation changed Border Patrol enforcement efforts regionwide along the U.S.-Mexico border in the 1990s and remains the foundation of the unit’s post-9/11 strategy. Indeed, the Border Patrol’s national strategy document for 1994 and beyond declared, “The national strategy builds on El Paso’s success” (U.S. Border Patrol 1994, 7), and outlined a series of measures to adopt many of its basic premises in other key southwest Border Patrol sectors (ibid., 8–12)—which it has done with “Operation Gatekeeper” in the San Diego area (1994), “Operation Safeguard” in Arizona (1994, 1999), and “Operation Rio Grande” in South Texas (1997). the El Paso Border Patrol began it all by designing and implementing a radical new strategy in Operation Blockade in September of 1993, posting some four hundred agents directly on the banks of the Rio Grande in a highvisibility fashion to deter unauthorized (or illegal) border crossings in the urban area of El Paso and neighboring Ciudad Juárez—a marked departure from the traditional strategy of apprehending unauthorized crossers after entry.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.