Thursday, August 17, 2006

More deaths at the border while Congress dithers

Last week, ten more people died at the border with Mexico.

Meanwhile Congress is gearing up for the next electoral fight in November. Immigration reform, namely border security, is at the forefront of their minds but little attention has been paid to how present border protection already causes hundreds of deaths each year.

Last week nine people died and thirteen were injured in Yuma, Arizona when the van they were traveling in flipped over trying to avoid pursuing Border Patrol agents. The passengers were apparently undocumented people trying to enter the U.S. The incident seemed to illustrate how increasingly desperate would-be undocumented immigrants are getting. This could be possibly to enter the U.S. before the much touted border wall is erected or it could be an indication of the what the future might soon look like if the House gets its way.

Also last week Spc. Kristen Fike, a 36 year old National Guard member died on her first day of being stationed at the border. Her unit was the first detachment from Pennsylvania National Guard who came to the border as part of Operation Jump Start. In May President Bush announced the operation to free up Border Patrol officers for active patrols while the guard members build fences, conduct routine surveillance and take care of administrative duties.

In a related note, two Border Patrol agents were convicted last week in the shooting of an undocumented agent in February 2006. They were convicted of "assault with a dangerous weapon, assault with serious bodily injury, discharge of a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence and willfully violating [the udocumented man's] Constitutional, Fourth Amendment right to be free from illegal seizure, as well as obstructing justice by intentionally defacing the crime scene, lying about the incident, and failing to report the truth."

This issue was discussed with outrage at the Congressional hearing in El Paso earlier this week and on Lou Dobbs' CNN show. Apparently they think these officers were doing their duty when they shot an unarmed man in the back.

ACTION STEP: Send an e-mail to your senators or representatives in the House and tell them that the recent deaths at the border should not be forgotten in the current debate. More border security is not the answer. The example of the Border Patrol officers' convictions demonstrate the danger inherent in more enforcement at the border.

Contact Lou Dobbs and tell him that he has gone too far this time in decrying the Border Patrol officers' convictions. Tell him that a jury in a court of law found these officers guilty and that if shooting people, violating the Constitution and lying are his idea "border security", you are definitely against it.