Mexico turned 200 this week but celebrations in the country's border cities were marred with the buzzing of U.S. military drones overhead.
As Mexicans celebrate the 200th anniversary of their independence from Spain, evoking a history of resistance against colonialism, a disturbing development unfolds on the country's northern border: a fleet of U.S. Predator B drones has been deployed on constant patrol.
The drones were deployed to the U.S.-Mexico in early September after congress hastily passed a bill to fund border enforcement. The package included funding for 1,500 additional border agents, communications technology and unmanned aerial surveillance equipment.
And this was piled on top of unprecedented levels of border security spending. As Julianne Hing writes:
[W]e already spend billions every year on interior immigration enforcement and border security. Under President Obama's watch, the country now employs a record number of Customs and Border Protection officers, and before this recent spate of funding increases, immigration enforcement spending already stood at $11 billion for 2010. It was $8 billion in 2008. This summer, President Obama deployed 1,200 National Guard to patrol the border, and requested another $500 million for ramped up militarization.
The border buildup purports to respond to growing border violence. In truth, violent crime in the region is actually down significantly.
The result off all these dollars, troops and ariel drones? Hing writes:
A record number of migrants are dying as they try to cross through the treacherous border regions to get into the United States. The Los Angeles Times reports that at least 170 people have died along the border in 2010, far surpassing previous years' death tolls.
In July, the New York Times reported that the coroner's office in Pima County had dealt with 1,050 migrant deaths since 2000.
It's a statistic that U.S. politicians are directly responsible for. The Clinton-administration-initiated Operation Gatekeeper funneled Border Patrol agents and enforcement dollars to the most-trafficked urban entry points like San Diego in California and El Paso in Texas. Miles of walls were built, thousands of guards were stationed closely along the border and these cities became impassable, which forced migrants to harsher conditions in the Arizona desert to try to enter the country. Today, most of the border deaths occur in the remote Arizona deserts of Pima County, where migrants face the risk of flash floods and heatstroke and endure 100-degree daytime temperatures and freezing nights.