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TransBorder Project Policy Report

September 2011

U.S. Drug War Turns to Transnational Combat

·         No Strategic Planning in Obama’s New Security/Crime Strategy

·         Policies Driving Transnational Crime Remain Unquestioned

·         Combating TOC Latest Phase in U.S. Drug War

·         Prioritizing American Power

The Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime, released in late July by the White House, offers the strategic context for the increasing rhetorical focus of the Obama administration on “transnational crime,” “transnational threats,” and “transnational criminal organizations.” Over the past two years, administration and military officials have increasingly referred to the security threat of transnational organized crime – at home, along the border, and in Mexico and Central America.

The transnational rhetoric is a bit of a throwback to the mid-1990s.  In the wake of the Cold War and at the onset of the era of economic globalization, the Clinton administration, the U.S. military, and the nongovernmental policy community joined a new chorus in Washington warning about the rise of nontraditional security threats.

Not since 1995 has the U.S. government undertaken a comprehensive assessment of the threat of transnational organized crime.

Transition from War to Transnational Combat

The Obama administration, in its National Security Strategy (2010), began reframing security to include such nontraditional transnational threats and challenges as climate change, pandemics, and organized crime. Its new Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime expands this policy thinking about transnational threats.

Read the entire report at: 


TransBorder Policy Report

July, 1, 2011

** Region is less secure after nearly four years of regional security cooperation.

** Claims that U.S. national security threatened by drug trafficking remain unsubstantiated.

** Obama administration’s professions of “shared responsibility” don’t acknowledge the U.S. government’s fundamental responsibility.

Mexico’s drug-trafficking organizations constitute a threat to regional security and to U.S. national security, says the U.S. government. Yet the region is becoming less secure and less safe as the result of the security emphasis of U.S. counternarcotics initiatives.  

The Merida Initiative, signed by President George W. Bush and Felipe Calderón in October 2007, officially launched new U.S. efforts to improve “regional security” through counternarcotics aid programs in Mexico, and to a lesser degree in Central America and the Caribbean. 

Administered by the State Department, the Merida Initiative has since 2008 allocated U.S. military and criminal-justice assistance to combat the drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) in the region.

Paralleling this State Dept. foreign aid program, the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice have launched their own security initiatives along the southwestern border. These border security programs -- including the Secure Border Initiative, Southwest Border Initiative, Project Gunrunner and Alliance to Combat Transnational Crime – complement regional security initiatives by targeting drug flows and DTO smuggling operations at the border.

The accomplishments of these various security initiatives, both at home and across the border, are mixed at best.

 Read entire report at: 

Policy on the Edge:  

Problems with Border Security and New Directions for Border Control

By Tom Barry
June 2011


Ten years after America’s rush to secure our borders, we must review, evaluate and change course. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 set off a multibillion-dollar border security bandwagon and distinctly altered the way the Border Patrol operates. Yet, despite massive expenditures and the new commitment to “border security,” our border policy remains unfocused and buffeted by political forces. In the absence of a sharp strategic focus, the management of the U.S.-Mexico border continues to be the victim of the problems and pressures created by our failed immigration and drug policies. Over the past decade, the old politics of immigration enforcement and drug control—not counterterrorism or homeland security—are still the main drivers of border policy.

“Policy on the Edge” is an International Policy Report published by the Center for International Policy. The report examines the failures, waste and misdirection of the border security operations of the Department of Homeland Security. “Policy on the Edge” concludes that there has been more continuity than change in U.S. border policy. The final section of the report describes a policy path that charts the way forward to regulatory solutions—for immigration, drugs, gun sales, border management—that are more pragmatic, effective and cost-efficient than current policies. Specific recommendations to improve border policy are included.

April 2011

Following the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Border Patrol adapted their rhetoric to reflect its newly acquired homeland security mission.  In the past, the Border Patrol only occasionally referred to its mission as “securing the border.”

The use of the term “border security” has gained prevalence over the past decade and now commonly substitutes for “border control.” References to border security – and border insecurity -- shape current discourse not only about the border but also about immigration, drug policy, U.S.-Mexico relations, and homeland security.

Border control operations and Border Patrol strategy prior to 9/11 facilitated the transition to the new border security framework, while also presaging the failures of this new paradigm of border management.


Fallacies of High-Tech Fixes for Border Security

International Policy Report: 
Fallacies of High-Tech Fixes for Border Security
by Tom Barry, TransBorder Project, April 2010

Fallacies of High-Tech Fixes for Border Security

The Center for International Policy announces the release of its new report, Fallacies of High-Tech Fixes for Border Security, which examines the promises and impact of remote surveillance technologies in the drive by the Department of Homeland Security to secure the border.

Lately, public calls for more “border security” are rising as drug-related killings intensify in Mexico’s northern borderlands and fears escalate on the U.S. side of the border that this violence will spill over. Observers of immigration policy say that a secure border is fundamental to passing comprehensive immigration reform.

This report is a cautionary note about the high costs and dubious results of two high-tech fixes for border security: the attempts to construct a “virtual fence” through the Secure Border Initiative and the new enthusiasm for unmanned aerial vehicles to patrol the border.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) professes a commitment to protecting the homeland against the entry of “dangerous people and goods.” Yet it lacks a strategy that prioritizes actual threats, and its high-tech initiatives are shockingly unfocused and nonstrategic. Despite the vast sums being spent, DHS, through its Secure Border Initiative, points to illegal border crossers and pounds of marijuana captured as its main indicators of success in protecting the homeland.

With little or no in-house technological expertise and with seemingly unlimited funds, DHS has recklessly pursued border security strategies that are not tied to threat assessments and cost-benefit evaluations.

Fallacies of High-Tech Fixes for Border Security was written by Tom Barry, director of the TransBorder Project of the Center for International Policy.

The Shadow Prison Industry and Government Enablers

(Note: This is an excerpt from a policy report by CIP's Americas Program that was prepared for a Jan. 25 congressional briefing hosted by Rep. Sheila Jackson.)

Outsourcing governmental responsibilities to private contractors is routine and alarming. 

The Blackwater, Wackenhut, CACI, and Halliburton scandals have highlighted the damage to our foreign affairs resulting from the reliance on private contractors to perform essential foreign policy missions. However, it is at home—in our domestic system of crime and punishment—where government outsourcing and private contracting may be causing the most damage to our system of democratic governance.

Elements of our criminal justice and immigration enforcement systems are spinning dangerously out of public control. Increasingly, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are outsourcing their imprisonment and detention responsibilities to hundreds of contractors and subcontractors—with scant oversight, little transparency, and often tragic consequences. As a result, human rights abuses, squandering of public revenues, and unscrupulous profiteering pervade and pervert the U.S. system of crime and punishment.

A shadow prison industry has spread to all parts of the federal detention and prison system. It is, with a few exceptions, in complete charge of all immigrant imprisonment and detention at both DOJ and DHS. Because the shadow industry has evolved without a plan or strategy, it has become a bizarre, labyrinthine complex of public and private players that is little understood and frighteningly out of control.

Immigration Policy Reports
New Directions and Wrong Directions
in U.S. Immigration Policy
The TransBorder Project examines the intersection of immigration, drug, and crime policy in three policy reports.

Immigrant Crackdown Joins Failed
Crime and Drug Wars

Restoring Integrity to the Immigration System 

Secure Communities:
"Community Security" Mission Creep at Homeland Security
Also see new critical report on planned Homeland Security reforms
in immigrant detention:
ICE Detention Reforms Hide Abusive Practices
Tom Barry directs the TransBorder Project at the Center for International Policy in Washington, DC. Barry is a senior analyst with CIP's Americas Program. He blogs at http://borderlinesblog.blogspot.com.

November 2, 2009

Pecos Prison Series

The TransBorder Project's Series of Essays, Reports, and Posts on
Immigrant Prison in Pecos, Texas
Poor Pecos, Poor Prisoners—Criminal Justice for Immigrants in Texas' Reeves County
Immigrants who rioted to protest medical malpractice at a privately run prison in Texas get more time in prison, while tensions, conflicts of interest, and high finance roil the prison town of Pecos.

A Death in Texas:

Profits, Poverty, and Immigration Converge


As the immigrant crackdown continues, hundreds of thousands of immigrants like Jesus Manuel Galindo will be caught in the profit-driven public-private prison complex. In the end though, the human cost of the system is unlikely to bring it down. It may only be when citizens and politicians start questioning the financial cost of incarcerating immigrants that these public-private prisons will go bust.

Medical Claims and Malpractice

in Correctional Healthcare


The medical gulag of immigrant detention has underscored the increasing privatization of America's prison system and the consequent problems.

April 17, 2009

New Report on Immigrants, Crime, and Drugs

President Bush's "war on terror" established the ideological rationale for the immigrant crackdown. But the campaign to detain and deport immigrants got its policy legs from two previous (and continuing) wars: the "war on crime" and the "war on drugs," both launched by President Richard Nixon in the early 1970s.

The new emphasis by the Obama administration on tracking down and removing "criminal aliens" indicates that the ongoing immigrant crackdown will be driven more by the imperatives of the crime and drug wars than by the ideological fears and fervor of the war on terror.

Removing "criminal aliens" from America's streets will be a new priority for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), says DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. President Obama's requested 2010 budget includes $1.4 billion for collaborative programs to deport "criminal aliens.”

The increasing DHS emphasis has met little opposition. Indeed, Democrats in Congress have consistently called for more DHS funding for criminal alien programs, and immigrant advocacy groups in Washington have given the issue a pass in the interest of building broad support for comprehensive immigration reform. Understandably, few immigrant advocates want to be seen as defending "criminal aliens"—a stance that would ostensibly undermine the credibility of their own oft-repeated argument that immigration reform would enhance the "rule of law."

The recent alarm about the possibility that horrific violence associated with the U.S.-supported drug war in Mexico will spill over the border has been met by administration assurances that DHS and the Justice Department (DOJ) will deploy more law enforcement personnel to the region. Secretary Napolitano has promised to put more "boots on the ground" to secure the border against the compound threat of illegal immigrants and drug trafficking.

Part One of this policy report examines the increasing criminalization of immigrants and immigration law. Part Two examines the links between the immigrant crackdown and the drug war. Part Three is a conclusion with recommendations for policy reform.

The report can be found at:


November 19, 2008

Latino Identity Politics and Immigration Payback

Over the past several years, pro-immigrant groups, Latino organizations, and Democratic Party-linked institutes in Washington have been on the same page about immigration and politics. Basically, it's been a politics of numbers—bringing the growing number of Latinos and immigrants into the Democratic Party.

As best articulated by NDN, the successor to the New Democratic Movement, the future of politics in America is closely tied to the new demographics that put a new premium on winning the political loyalty of the rapidly rising Latino population. In its Hispanics Rising II report, NDN makes the case that the future of the Democratic Party depends on capturing the Latino electorate.

In Hispanics Rising, NDN argues that Latinos are the country's most important swing voting bloc:

"Fueled by huge waves of recent immigration from throughout the Americas, the rapid growth of the Hispanic community is one of the great American demographic stories of the 21st century. At 15% of the U.S. population today, Hispanics are now America's largest 'minority' group, and are projected to be 29% of all those living in the United States by 2050. A majority of Hispanic adults in the United States today are immigrants.

"Recognizing that it will be hard to build a 21st century political majority without this fast-growing electorate, Hispanics have become one of the most volatile and contested swing voting blocs in American politics."

See Entire Border Dispatch

November 15, 2008

Old Identity Politics and Post-Election Immigration Reform

What’s missing is a post-election strategy that goes beyond ethnicity and immigration status to appeal not just to Latinos and immigrants but to all Americans.

If immigration reform is to go beyond instituting new enforcement mechanisms to providing a pathway to citizenship, advocates will need to start explaining how it will serve the common good. Whenever they call for reform, they must tell us how immigrants boost the economy, don’t lower the net number of jobs available to citizens, and will increase their contributions to economy and society once legalized.

The economic bottom line of immigration reform can’t be ignored, as immigrant advocates tend to do. But neither should values be left out of the case for liberal immigration reform. Both the restrictionist FAIR and the pro-immigration America’s Value claim in their slogans that seek “common sense” immigration reform. But this issue is not just about common sense, it’s about common values in America – “justice for all,” “inalienable right,” and being your brother’s keeper.

Values played a major role in the Obama victory, and they also belong in the immigration debate.

November 14, 2008

Both Sides Reframe Immigration Debate


The two sides of the immigration debate—immigration restrictionists and immigrant advocates—are reframing their messages in the wake of the Democrats' sweeping electoral victory. Restrictionists argue that legalization cannot take place during an economic crisis when U.S. citizens need jobs.

Advocates argue that the new administration owes the Latino community that helped elect him a comprehensive immigration reform.

Immigration was a nonissue in the presidential race. Its earlier prominence in the primary campaign faded after it became clear that both candidates and both parties had more to lose than to gain when discussing immigration reform. But now the issue is resurfacing, as pro-immigration and anti-immigration groups position themselves to advance their causes with the new Congress and new administration.

One side demands liberal immigration reform that includes legalization and family reunification visas, while the other side calls for conservative immigration reform that enforces the "rule of law" and dramatically lowers immigration flows.


November 6, 2008

The Emanuel and Obama Immigration Test of Fire

With the nation facing rapidly rising unemployment, immigration reform may be pushed back deep into a second term.

Obama warned supporters at Grant Park in Chicago that has the nation faced the challenge of two wars and an economic downturn, his decisions wouldn’t be popular with everyone. “The road ahead will be long,'' he said. "Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.''

With respect to immigration, immigrant advocates are expressing hope that immigration reform will be possible and that the nation will get there soon – in the first term or even in the first year.

What’s particularly worrying, though, is that the stasis that now defines immigration policy will allow the enforcement-only regimen instituted so forcefully and thoroughly by the Bush administration and his homeland security department will remain the order not just for the next few months but for the next four years or more. Even worse, given that Obama has supported the building of the border fence and a strong employee verification policy, immigration enforcement may actually deepen.

What’s certain the road ahead for the pro-immigration camp and immigrant advocates will be long, and the climb to immigration reform very steep indeed.

Chertoff Throws Down Immigration Gauntlet


During his tenure as homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff has overseen a dramatic buildup in border security and immigration enforcement. As part of this crackdown on illegal immigrants, Chertoff has launched such new programs as Operation Community Shield (going after immigrant gang members), Operation Streamline (arresting and detaining illegal border crossers), and the Secure Border Initiative (which includes the 670-mile fence and the virtual fence).

Today, DHS deploys nearly 18,000 border patrol agents and has 30,000 prison beds dedicated to immigrants. In pursuing the immigrant crackdown, Chertoff has won broad bipartisan support for large annual increases in ICE and CBP budgets and for his initiatives that merge federal enforcement with local and state policing. What is more, many local and state governments have passed new laws aimed at driving unauthorized immigrants out of their communities.

Chertoff has set a well-coordinated and unremitting immigrant dragnet in motion. The law-and-order immigration apparatus directed by DHS is certainly demonstrating results. But with its emphasis on law enforcement and its disregard for justice, it is destroying millions of lives while splitting communities and families.

"Whether you like what we are doing or not," said Chertoff, "it would be hard to argue we were conducting business as usual in the last year and 18 months (since his appointment)."

Now that the infrastructure, funding, rationale, and strategy for a wide-ranging enforcement regime are in place, a new "business as usual" immigration policy is being passed on to the Obama administration. Despite declarations as a candidate that he would pursue comprehensive immigration reform in his first term, Obama will be hard put to back away from Chertoff's strategy to enforce immigration law "as it currently exists."

Any retreat from Chertoff's hard-line position on enforcement will be met with an upsurge of angry anti-immigration organizing. And any Chertoff-like proposal for an expanded temporary workers program will likely be opposed, as FAIR signals, as a de facto legalization initiative. As the economy stagnates, active support for immigrant rights and legalization is likely to decline, making yet more difficult for the Obama administration to summon the political will to fight back against the enforcement-first measures that Chertoff and the restrictionists have set in motion.

The Obama administration and the new Democratic Congress will soon face the challenge of addressing the immigration crisis. The path of least resistance may be to accept the "State of Immigration" as shaped and defined by Chertoff and the Republicans. But the bolder path is to stand on reason and principle in backing a new comprehensive reform bill, which meets valid citizen concerns about effective border control and sustainable immigration flows while also ensuring that immigrant workers and their families are treated with justice and fairness.

November 4, 2008

FAIR's "Common Sense" Immigration Reform

Whatever one’s view on immigration or immigrants, given the influence of FAIR in the immigration debate, both in Washington and in the heartland, understanding FAIR’s position on immigration reform and its work both in Washington and at the state and local level is essential to any understanding of the immigration debate in the United States today.

FAIR’s slogan is “Restoring Common Sense to America’s Immigration System.”

In FAIR’s view, such a common sense immigration reform means “a temporary moratorium on all immigration except spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens and a limited number of refugees.” Such a moratorium “would allow us to hold a national debate and devise a comprehensive immigration reform strategy. A workable immigration policy is one that would allow us time to regain control of our borders and reduce overall levels of immigration to more traditional levels of about 300,000 a year.”
In an apparent effort to contrast its own efforts with those of immigrant advocacy organizations, FAIR identifies itself as an organization that responds to the interests of U.S. citizens, rather than immigrants. “True immigration reform — the kind that places the interests of the American people first — is a subject that many in the Washington power elite would prefer not to discuss,” says FAIR

Its two goals are: ending illegal immigration through enforcement of existing immigration laws as well as the application of new technology, and setting legal immigration as the lowest feasible levels consistent with the nation’s present and future interests.


To accomplish these goals, FAIR has set out three objectives or thrusts of its work: public education, informing leaders in government, universities, and media of the costs of uncontrolled immigration, and influencing policy by lobbying and court cases.

Pro-immigration and anti-immigration groups both say that they are the true reformers. On the extreme, immigration advocates say the groups like FAIR are not interested in reform but only in restriction and removal, while FAIR and other groups say that immigration advocates don’t want true reform but rather support open borders.

In outlining is seven principles for “true comprehensive immigration reform,” FAIR says the “evidence that illegal immigration and mass immigration are harming our country is overwhelming and irrefutable.”


October 10, 2008

Restrictionists Target Legal Immigrants


The leading anti-immigration groups don’t target illegal immigrants. For the restrictionist groups Federation for American Immigration Reform, Center for Immigration Studies, and NumbersUSA , the country’s 11-12 million illegal immigrants are simply low-hanging fruit. Their long-range goal is to rid the nation of most all immigrants – both illegal and legal.


While many of the grassroots restrictionist groups that have sprung up in the last decade say upfront that they aren’t against all immigrants, just the illegal ones, the country’s most influential restrictionist institutes have long advocated shutting out all immigrants. For restrictionists, it’s the sheer number of immigrants, most of them coming from


Illegal immigrants are particularly threatening in their view since, as the restrictionist routinely assert, they undermine the “rule of law” in the United States by the illegal presence. But all immigrants, whether legal or illegal, immigrants, are a threat to the country’s economic, cultural, and social stability, they charge.


After having suffered major setbacks at the hands of restrictionists, immigration advocates are attempting to regroup and plot new strategies to advance liberal immigration reform in the next administration.


Read entire Border Dispatch.

September 30, 2008

Return of the Good Neighbor

Franklin D. Roosevelt launched the Good Neighbor Policy at his inauguration in 1933 to reverse the aggressive, imperialistic foreign policy of the previous three decades and to chart a new course of international cooperation. After the Bush years of unilaterlism, it's time for a revived Good Neighbor Policy in conjunction with a new commitment by the federal government to deal with the economic crisis at home, just as FDR's New Deal was a response to the Great Depression that started with the market crash in 1929.
The Americas Policy Program of the Center for International Policy is promoting the Global Good Neighbor Initiative in attempt to spark interest and support for an updated Good Neighbor Policy for our era. More information about the Global Good Neighbor Initiative, including a report titled A Global Good Neighbor Ethic for International Relations, can be found at: www.ggn.irc-online.org

U.S. relations with Cuba would be a good place to start with a global good neighbor ethic of international relations. Wayne Smith of the Center for International Policy makes a compelling argument for a return of the U.S. as a good neighbor in his recent report.

Smith concludes his Return of the Good Neighbor report, writing:

"The United States was as good as its word and there then followed the most harmonious, productive relationship between the United States and Latin America that we have seen, essentially, we can say, from 1932 until 1954. During those years, and especially from 1936 on, the United States respected the sovereignty of the other states, refrained from intervening in their internal affairs, respected international treaties and agreements, and worked closely within, first, the Pan American Union and then the Organization of American States. This was the high point in U.S.-Latin American relations, something seen clearly during World War II, when with the exception of Peron's Argentina, all the states of this hemisphere were our loyal allies, providing raw materials, naval and air bases for U.S. forces, and even, in the cases of Brazil and Mexico, armed forces of their own who fought alongside ours. The Good Neighbor Policy, however, came to an end and the Cold War came bloodily to Latin America with the CIA's overthrow of the Arbenz regime in Guatemala in 1954.

"There is no reason now not to return to something resembling the Good Neighbor Policy, no reason certainly not to commit ourselves to respect international laws and treaties, and to fully respect the sovereignty of the other states. The Cold War is over. International terrorism is not entrenched in Latin America. The United States, in short, faces no serious security threats in this hemisphere. And to prevent any from emerging, its best option is to work closely with the other governments, as we did during the era of the Good Neighbor Policy."

 See the complete Border Dispatch: Return of the Good Neighbor

September, 29, 2008

Hispanic Alliance Shill for McCain and Corporate America



The Hispanic Alliance for Prosperity Institute (HAPI), sponsor of the Hispanic Alliance for Prosperity, is a self-identified conservative public policy and advocacy organization “focusing on issues of importance to the Hispanic Community.”


The stated mission of this Texas-based organization is to “promote policy and legislation to advance traditional Hispanic values, economic prosperity, and entrepreneurship.” HAPI claims that it “fills a significant void by advocating the voice of the conservative Hispanic Community.”


HAPI gained national attention in September 2008 with the release of a statement that criticized Senator Barack Obama over his role in the immigration policy debate while complimenting Senator John McCain.  The Sept. 16 release,  “Setting the Record Straight on the Candidates’ Immigration Positions,” asserted that, “amid countercharges” about the candidates’ positions, HAPI would “recite the FACTS.”


HAPI echoed earlier charges by the McCain campaign in a Spanish-language television ad (titled “Hicieron Fracasar La Reforma”) that Obama helped kill the comprehensive immigration reform bill in June 2007. According to HAPI, “Barack Obama, despite his promises of support, was absent from much of the debate on the compromise, then turned his back on the proposal, siding instead with organized labor on a series of ‘poison pill’ amendments that even his supporter, Sen. Edward Kennedy, opposed. Among the proposals Obama supported were amendments that would have cut the number of Guest Worker Visas in half, and would ultimately have killed the program after just five years.”


To guide it toward its goal of creating an "ownership society," HAPI counts on its corporate board, whose members are: Bank of America, BellSouth, Ford, AT&T, AIG (American International Group), Information Technology Industry Council, Goldman, Sachs & Co., Altria Group, Inc., American Petroleum Institute, IBC Bank, Case New Holland, DCI Group, Coca-Cola Companies, R.J. Reynolds, National Association of Manufacturers, and National Association of Realtors.


(As the financial sector crumbles and the U.S. Treasury intervenes, HAPI may find it still more difficult in convincing Latinos of the virtues of the “ownership society,” especially with the likes of the now largely government-owned AIG on board.)


See Transborder Profile - Hispanic Alliance for Prosperity


September 4, 2008

New Required Language in Immigration Debate


Central to the new Democratic Party framing evident in their platform is the concept of requiring immigrants to “get right with the law” rather than offering them a “pathway to citizenship.”


Instead of offering an “earned path to citizenship,” as it has in the past, the party is now proclaiming that illegal immigrants will be required to obey the law-- with the emphasis on the verb “require.”


“For the millions living here illegally but otherwise playing by the rules, we must require them to come out of the shadows and get right with the law,” states the party’s platform. “We support a system that requires undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, pay taxes, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens.”


Where did this new language come from?

September 3, 2008

Immigration Explains Everything!

Tom Barry

At the heart of Center for Immigration Studies analysis is a belief that the United States cannot sustain further population increases and that immigration is the main driving force of population gains. As such, CIS argues that illegal immigration must end, that the undocumented population should be pressured to leave through an “enforcement through attrition” immigration policy, and that legal immigration should be minimal.


The success of CIS in moving its anti-immigration agenda forward and of getting a hearing in the mainstream media can be largely attributible to its ability to present its case for a major downsizing in immigration flows using this cold logic that population increases are unsustainable and therefore so is immigration. But its one-argument-fits-all approach leads to simplistic explanations that work well as soundbites but not as policy.


See TransBorder Profile of CIS

August 28, 2008

Democratic Party Immigration Platform
Instead of offering an “earned path to citizenship,” as it has in the past, the party is now proclaiming that illegal immigrants will be required to obey the law-- with the emphasis on the verb “require.”

“For the millions living here illegally but otherwise playing by the rules, we must require them to come out of the shadows and get right with the law,” states the party’s platform. “We support a system that requires undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, pay taxes, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens.”

Several of the planks will surely please the pro-immigration forces, including:

“We must work together to pass immigration reform in a way that unites this country, not in a way that divides us by playing on our worst instincts and fears.”

“We need to crack down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants, especially those who pay their workers less than the minimum wage.”

We also need to do more to promote economic development in migrant-sending nations, to reduce incentives to come to the United States illegally.”

But there is also new enforcement language not seen in previous platforms. The platform states,” We need to secure our borders, and support additional personnel, infrastructure and technology on the border and at our ports of entry.” Similarly, “We need additional Customs and Border Protection agents equipped with better technology and real-time intelligence.”

August 22, 2008

Obama, Latin America, and FDR
To frame his proposed Latin America policy, Barack Obama is using the “Four Freedoms” vision of Franklin Delano Roosevelt., which he referred to in his “Renewing U.S. Leadership in the Americas” speech to the Cuban American National Foundation in Miami on May 23, 2008.

As World War II overtook Europe and was about to engulf the United States, President Roosevelt delivered a speech on Jan. 6, 1941 in which he envisioned a post-war world “founded upon four essential freedoms” – political freedom, religious freedom, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

Obama’s reference to FDR is a welcome way to begin revamping Latin American-U.S. relations. Under his leadership, hemispheric relations improved considerably in the 1930s as the U.S. brought to a close an era characterized since the 1890s by direct military intervention and occupation in Caribbean Basin nations.

It was unfortunate, however, that Obama chose to highlight an FDR speech delivered on the eve of U.S. entrance into World War II instead of invoking his 1933 inaugural speech when he launched his good neighbor policy. The good neighbor principles of “mutual respect,” “a spirit of cooperation,” and “self-determination” would offer a much-needed antidote to the Bush foreign policy of arrogance and power. These principles are especially relevant to U.S. relations with Latin America.

To a large extent, the responsibility for ensuring the four freedoms in Latin America falls not on the United States but on Latin American and Caribbean countries themselves. Too often in the past, U.S. promises of supporting “freedom” and development in the region have proved self-serving and have obstructed the region’s own development.

There’s no doubt that there were major shortcomings and inconsistencies in FDR’s good neighbor policy. But the ethics that defined the policy – respecting one’s neighbor and oneself, cooperating to solve common problems, and letting neighbors determine their own development – should once again be embraced by the U.S. government. A renewed and updated good neighbor policy would go a long way toward fostering political and economic development in the region.

In its founding document, Progressives for Obama stated: “We need to return to the Good Neighbor policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s, which rejected Yankee military intervention and accepted Mexico's right to nationalize its oil in the face of industry opposition.”

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Language and Immigration Networked

John Tanton -- In These Times
A close relative of immigration restrictionism is the campaign to make English the only language that can be used in government or at the worksite. While most citizen efforts against immigrants at a local level aim to increase immigration enforcement, there is also backlash organizing to promote English.

On November 4, voters in Nashville will consider a measure to make English the official language in the greater Nashville area – a measure the city’s mayor has called unnecessary, unconstitutional, and mean-spirited. Like other similar local efforts around the nation, Nashville English First is receiving support from a national organization called ProEnglish that is dedicated to promoting English as the only language for government and work.

ProEnglish is part of a closely linked network of “official English” and anti-immigration organizations that are based in the Washington, DC area and are involved in local and national campaigns to restrict immigration and to institute English as the official and only language for government business. 

A central figure of these groups is John Tanton, who was a founding director of ProEnglish and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). Among the other groups in which Tanton, a former president in the 1970s of Zero Population Growth, are English First, Immigration Reform Law Institute, and Numbers USA.  As the principals of these groups readily acknowledge, the movements to restrict immigration and to restrict the use of languages other than English are closely connected organizationally and ideologically.

ProEnglish shares a suite in an Arlington, Virginia office building with NumbersUSA, one of the three leading anti-immigration organizations.

See TransBorder Profile: ProEnglish


Friday, August 15, 2008

Caucusing in the House


Given how closely the policy agenda of the immigration restrictionists in Congress reflect the demands of restrictionist policy institutes in Washington, it’s no surprise that the restrictionist caucuses in the House and the Senate have close relations with groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform and NumbersUSA.

Cong. Brian Bilbray (R-CA), who took over the chairmanship of the House Immigration Reform Caucus from Cong. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) in February 2007, is a good case in point. Bilbray serves as co-chair of FAIR’s National Advisory Board.

Like Tancredo, Bilbray has made immigration restrictionism central to his political career. After first representing California’s 49th district from 1995 to 2001, Bilbray stayed in Washington, where he worked as a lobbyist and immigration consultant for four years.


During this interim in his political career, Bilbray received $300,000 from the Federation for American Immigration Reform, one of the country’s leading restrictionist institutes, for his lobbying and public relations work. According to Bilbray he was an “immigration consultant” with FAIR. Taking issue with those who described him as an immigration lobbyist, Bilbray said, “Less than 20 percent of my activities for FAIR involved lobbying, the other 80 percent involved community outreach, public relations, issues development and research.”


In 2006 Bilbray campaigned to represent California’s 50th district, winning the wealthy district north of San Diego on a hard-line restrictionist platform. According to OpenSecrets, Bilbray in 2006 received nearly $10,000 in campaign contributions from members of FAIR's board of directors: Nancy Anthony, Sharon Barnes, General Douglas E. Caton, Sarah Epstein, Stephen Swensrud and Alan Weeden. Bilbray, a member of the conservative Republican Study Committee, serves as co-chair of FAIR’s national advisory committee.


According to one lobbyist, Bilbray’s “incredible access” to the House of Representatives has helped FAIR in its work on immigration reform.  On its website, FAIR noted its close association with the caucus:  The House and Senate have returned to Washington to start the second session of the 107th Congress. FAIR has been working with the Immigration Reform Caucus to cultivate more members and to help them pass immigration reduction measures.”


See Transborder Profile - Immigration Reform Caucus

Friday, July 18, 2008

Welcome Home Raymundo Pacheco
Tom Barry

As the immigration crackdown steps up and the U.S. economy sinks, Mexicans are having a harder times crossing into the U.S., are being deported in record numbers, and are heading back across the border themselves as life here becomes increasingly difficult.

Despite protestations about border security and the conditions faced by immigrants in the United States, Mexico shows little concern for immigrants themselves. When they are dumped back in Mexico with no money and nowhere to go, the Mexican government is nowhere to be found. It does nothing to help Raymundo Pachecos – who are suddenly ripped away from their jobs, homes, and family in the United States and sent back to what is often regarded as a more hostile land.
Up and down the border, the care of these returned immigrants falls on the shoulders of nongovernmental organizations, churches, and volunteer groups. In Nogales, Sonora, a U.S. volunteer group maintains a tent at the border to help immigrants dumped there by the Border Patrol and the Wackenhut Corporation.
The red, white, and blue is left behind, while the red, white, and green of the Mexican flag greets the deported immigrants. But the Mexican government isn’t there with a “Welcome Back Home” greeting. It’s up to immigrants like Raymundo Pacheco to fend for themselves – finding a place to bed down, finding money for transportation back home to their families, finding food to eat.
Mexican immigrants deserve much better from their government. They left their own country to find jobs in a foreign land, and boost the Mexican economy with their wire transfers to loved ones back home – now the second largest source of foreign exchange after oil exports.
The Mexican government has a responsibility to its citizens to oversee an economy that supports its people. That may be asking too much of a government so narrowly focused on tending to the demands of its economic elite.
But it shouldn’t be too much to expect that the Mexican government agencies be there at  the border with food, transportation, and medical attention for all the hundreds of thousands of Raymundos who are unwillingly coming back home.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Anti-Immigrant Environmentalism of NumbersUSA
Tom Barry
From its beginning, NumbersUSA, a restrictionist policy institute founded in 1996, has stressed the links between immigration, population growth, and environmental loss. The banner of its website features the high peaks of a Rocky Mountain range, implying that increased numbers threaten that pristine environment.

In 2008, however, NumbersUSA has stepped up its educational efforts around immigration and environment themes. It is a member of the new restrictionist coalition called America’s Leadership Team for Long Range Population-Immigration-Resource Planning, which in June 2008 placed large ads in such national publications as the New York Times and The Nation.

One ad shows an eight-lane highway clogged with stalled traffic with the caption: “One of America’s Most Popular Pastimes.” Another ad shows a bulldozer plowing through a forest with the provocative caption: “One of America’s Best Selling Vehicles.”

In the traffic congestion ad, the member groups – Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), NumbersUSA, Social Contract Press, and American Immigration Control Foundation – state: “We’re the nation’s leading experts on population and immigration trends and growth.”

Read Entire Border Dispatch

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Southerners Lead Senate's Anti-Immigrant Drive

The U.S. House of Representatives has its restrictionist Immigration Reform Caucus. It recently created Senate counterpart is the Border Security and Enforcement First Caucus.

Formed in March 2008, the new restrictionist caucus doesn’t include senators from states along the southwestern border with
Mexico or other states with large immigrant populations. Instead, all but one of its members represent southern states with relatively small numbers of immigrants but with large anti-immigrant constituencies. The lone exception is Sen. Inofe, who represents Oklahoma. All members are Republicans.


The Border Security and Enforcement First Caucus has adopted the "attrition through enforcement" strategy advocated by restrictionionist groups such as Numbers USA, Center for Immigration Studies, and Federation for American Immigration Reform.


Copying the language found on NumbersUSA website, the caucus says: “The principal mission of the Caucus is to promote a true, achievable alternative: attrition through enforcement. Living illegally in the United States will become more difficult and less satisfying over time when the government – at ALL LEVELS – enforces all of the laws already on the books.”


Read entire Border Dispatch.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Anti-Immigration Groups Keep Pushing and Winning

 Tom Barry
The immigration debate in the United States is a function of two main factors: activist constituences and astute messaging. The success of the restrictionists in mobiliizing citizen constituencies and in framing messages help explain why they have controlled the direction of the immigration debate.
It’s clear, however, that an anti-immigration stance is not a sure-fire strategy to win elections. Just ask any of Sen. John McCain’s Republican opponents. Despite his pro-immigration record in the Senate, McCain – labeled “McAmnesty” by the anti-immigration forces – easily bested the gaggle of Republicans who tried to immigrant bash their way to the White House.
But it’s just as certain that restrictionists have the upperhand in immigration policy. Although they haven’t succeeded in making an anti-immigration platform a guarantee of electoral viability, the anti-immigration lobby has set the course of immigration reform in recent years.

Monday, July 14, 2008

 Losing Money and Jobs in Mexico




Tom Barry

The United States is shutting its doors to immigrants. It’s not alone. The European Union recently announced a stiff immigration regime that like the immigration crackdown in the United States is blocking new flows of immigrants and detaining and deporting those without the proper documents.

Throughout the country, deportations have sharply increased this year -- up 40-50% in most sectors. At the same, the combination of more Border Patrol, fences, and criminalizing illegal border crossers are dramatically slowing down northbound migrant flows.


A slowing U.S. economy and the intensifying immigration crackdown are starting to shake the Mexican economy. One of the first warning signs that Mexico may soon face economic and social turbulence is the slide in remittances.


Mexico’s central bank recently released figures showing that remittances from Mexicans working abroad fell 2.6% during the first five months of 2008. While not a dramatic downturn, the decrease in remittances – which constitute the country’s second largest source of foreign exchange (after oil) – is worrisome because these funds from emigrants have since the mid-1990s become a pillar of Mexico’s economy.


Read entire border dispatch


Friday, July 11, 2008

FAIR's Dan Stein
Transborder News Profile
Immigration Reform Law Institute
The Immigration Reform Law Institute made national news last month with its anti-racketeering lawsuit filed against a property-management company that leases apartments to illegal immigrants. Also recently a story in the Los Angeles Times took note of the institute’s role in shaping anti-immigrant bills that are being passed by a bevy of state legislatures. This week the Federation for American Immigration reform took credit for its role in the adoption of an anti-immigrant law in Missouri.
The Immigration Reform Law Institute is the legal branch of the Federation of American Immigration Reform. FAIR, founded in 1979, is a leading immigration restrictionist organization.


IRLI says it is “America's only public interest law organization working exclusively to protect the legal rights, privileges, and property of U.S. citizens and their communities from injuries and damages caused by unlawful immigration.”


It describes itself as “a nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated to controlling illegal immigration and reducing legal immigration to levels consistent with the national interest of the United States.” In other words, FAIR’s ILRI works not just against illegal immigration but also against most instances of legal immigration.


Typical of well-funded, well-established right-wing policy institutes, IRLI benefits from clear messaging. Central to its anti-immigrant messaging is its focus on U.S. citizens and its claim to be defending the “rule of law.” The “rule of law” framework for its activities routinely appears in statements by its principals and is regularly echoed by the state and local governments that work with the institute to design anti-immigrant laws.


On its homepage, ILRI warns: “The injuries caused by illegal aliens in your community have become a growing crisis in communities nationwide.”  


Read entire news dispatch

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Lawyers Behind the Immigration Crackdown
Tom Barry

The signing this week of the anti-immigrant law in Missouri by Gov. Roy Blunt is not only a sign of the continuing strength of the backlash against immigration, especially in heartland states, but also another indicator of the strength, depth, and sophistication of the leading restrictionist institutes -- in this case the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).


Upon signing the bill, which puts the state in the vanguard of the immigration crackdown, Governor Blunt stressed that his aim was to enforce the rule of law. Echoing the rhetoric of the restrictionist groups, the governor contended that the new law – which instructs the state police to enforce immigration law and denies unauthorized immigrants all state social services – was not anti-immigrant but was only seeking to uniformly apply the rule of law. In other words, illegal immigrants are now considered outlaws in Missouri.


Blunt and the state legislators behind the initiative counted on the assistance of Immigration Reform Law Institute, the legal branch of FAIR.


FAIR’s president Dan Stein greeted the new law, saying: “Kudos to FAIR activists in Missouri for this important victory!” He boasted, “FAIR's legal affiliate IRLI, the Immigration Reform Law Institute as well as FAIR activists were involved in making sure that this measure was crafted as well as instrumental in keeping the pressure on to pass it. Kudos to FAIR activists in Missouri for this important victory!”

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Immigration To Blame for Sprawl, Say Restrictionists


Tom Barry



Immigration restrictionists, having succeeded in pressuring the Bush administration to mount the most widespread immigration crackdown in recent history, are now focusing on tapping increased environmental sentiment. A new coalition of anti-immigration groups, called America’s Leadership Team for Long-Range Population-Immigration-Resource Planning, has recently placed two provocative ads in national papers and magazines that aim to win new adherents among Americans increasingly concerned about urban sprawl and rural destruction.


According to Diana Hull, president of the Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), “Loss of open space, increased traffic congestion, never-ending sprawl—these are all consequences of a growing population. Habitat loss due to population growth is, by far, the greatest threat to wildlife.” CAPS and the other coalition members, Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), American Immigration Control Foundation, and NumbersUSA, contend that liberal immigration policies are primarily responsible for the declining quality of life in the United States.


Leading anti-immigrant policy institutes, including NumbersUSA. FAIR, and Center for Immigration Studies, wield arguments about the impact of immigrants on urban sprawl and resource depletion. The environmental wing of the anti-immigrant forces emerged from the zero-population movement of the 1960s and 1970s.


Included in this wing of the immigration restrictionists are such organizations as Environment-Population Balance, Carrying Capacity Network, and Negative Population Growth. These organizations base their restrictionism on the fact that immigration is the most significant factor in U.S. population growth.


Carrying Capacity Network distributes a bumper-sticker bearing the slogan: “Mass Immigration = Lifeboat USA Sinking.” Negative Population Growth regards even the granting of political asylum as a threat to U.S. sustainable development, and in the mid-1990s it called the government’s purportedly liberal refugee policy the “Achilles Heel of Immigration Reform.”

Within the anti-immigration camp, there are major differences. The paleoconservatives, for example, together with associated traditionalists and social conservatives, criticize the leading restrictionist policy institutes such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform and Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). They believe that these groups espouse essentially secular and liberal ideas about population control, environmentalism, and labor issues, rather than standing firmly behind the country’s core Judeo-Christian culture and values.


In most cases, the leaders of the national restrictionist groups are reactionary nationalists who fundamentally believe that immigrants are undermining the U.S. economy and society, while also posing an increasing threat to U.S. national security. But many restrictionist groups, including NumbersUSA and the Center for Immigration Studies, frame their views in the policy language of environmental protection, access to jobs, anti-corporate sentiment, and population control. Their rhetoric often sounds closer to liberal groups than to the citizen militias, white supremacists, and more nationalist institutes such as Americans for Immigration Control, which is explicitly dedicated to “preserving our common heritage as Americans.”

Rethinking Politics -- Ingrid Betancourt and the FARC

Tom Barry


The movie-script liberation of Ingrid Betancourt and 14 other hostages by a Colombian military team last week not only boosted the popularity of conservative President Uribe to stratospheric levels – 91% by the last survey.

But the rescue also highlighted the moral bankruptcy of the region’s leading leftist leaders: Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega – all of whom have expressed solidarity with the “leftist” FARC guerrillas. In late May, Ortega expressed his condolences over the death of FARC leader Manuel “Tirofijo” (Sureshot) Marulanda at a gathering of Latin American leftist leaders and parties, calling him “our brother.”

In the wake of the rescue, Castro and Chávez backed away from previous support of the FARC and called for the Colombian guerrillas to release all hostages. While their newly critical positions are welcome, it did little to improve their reputation. FARC’s terrorist tactics, involvement in narcotics trafficking, and cruel treatment of hostages are nothing new, yet Latin America’s leading leftists at best remained silent. FARC was part of the dwindling band of socialist revolutionaries – “brothers” all – and public criticism was reserved for the Right and the United States.

Ingrid Betancourt continues to define herself as part of Latin America’s left. “I always will be of the left,” she said in a BBC interview, “But not the left of fools and the naïve.”

What are the politics of the left?

Read entire dispatch

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Bush administration drug czar John Walters is a conservative ideologue and loyal Republican. Appointed in December 2001 to direct the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, Walters came to the Bush administration from the Philanthropy Roundtable, the consortium of mainly conservative foundations, where he served as president from 1996 to 2001.

Known for his brash statements and dogmatic politics, Walters in July 2007 called northern California marijuana growers “violent criminal terrorists.” Reacting to rising public sentiment in favor of using marijuana as a medical treatment for cancer and other patients, Walters in 2003 aid that medical marijuana – now permitted in 12 states – made no more sense than “medical crack.”

According to ONDCP, “As the Nation’s “Drug Czar,” Director Walters coordinates all aspects of Federal drug control programs and spending.”

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Drug Czar Delusions


Drug Czar Walters and President Bush


John Walters, chief of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, says that Mexico will win its drug war, especially now that the U.S. is pitching in $400 million this year. Not only will it win, but Mexico’s army and police will transform the drug cartels from “daytime wolves into cockroaches.”


In a follow-up press conference to the signing of the Merida Initiative drug control package, Walters warned the drug lords: “From now on, you need to understand that you have only two ways out: be captured and go to jail, or you will die in confrontations with government forces or at the hands of your rivals.”


The United States launched its drug war in 1972, when President Richard Nixon first declared the “war on drugs.” But after more than four decades and scores of billions of dollars, the U.S. government continues to lose the war.


Read entire news report