Blockading the Border and Human Rights

Blockading the Border and Human Rights

TIMOTHY J. DUNN
Copyright Date: 2009
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/719019
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  • Book Info
    Blockading the Border and Human Rights
    Book Description:

    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 neighboring 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79359-0
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-19)

    “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 II 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...

  5. CHAPTER 2 The Bowie Lawsuit Challenge to the El Paso Border Patrol
    (pp. 20-50)

    The federal lawsuit brought by students and staff at El Paso’s Bowie High School against the El Paso Border Patrol in 1992 was a historic event, for it is the most successful, formal, and large-scale challenge to Border Patrol enforcement excesses and rights abuses in local history, and arguably along the entire border. It is a vivid instance of a “subject population” standing up to a bureaucratic power structure and its negative impact on their community, thereby putting some limits on the previously almost untouchable power and discretionary authority of the El Paso Border Patrol. It marked the establishment of...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Operation Blockade/Hold-the-Line: The Border Patrol Reasserts Control
    (pp. 51-96)

    The implementation of Operation Blockade on September 19, 1993, with four hundred agents posted round-the-clock in high-visibility fashion directly along the Rio Grande international boundary between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez for miles, was a historic turn in Border Patrol enforcement efforts. It sparked a series of new Southwest border region operations to discourage undocumented border crossers in the main long-standing, unauthorized border-crossing areas (in and around several border urban centers) and to divert or displace them to more remote and hostile terrain. It also was the foundation for a rewriting of the Border Patrol’s national strategy based on this...

  7. CHAPTER 4 The Border Wall Campaign
    (pp. 97-124)

    Just over two months after successfully implementing Operation Blockade, Chief Reyes sought to expand the operation in early December 1993 by proposing a 1.3-mile-long, ten-foot-high, solid, thin steel fence (or wall) immediately to the west of El Paso. It was to be placed near the start of the riverless, land-based section of the border in between two small poor communities, Sunland Park, New Mexico, and Colonia Anapra, Chihuahua. This measure proved to be a very controversial escalation that sparked vigorous debate and formidable opposition for most of the ensuing two years until the matter was finally settled largely (but not...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Human Rights Issues and the El Paso Border Patrol
    (pp. 125-163)

    Previous chapters focused on the El Paso Border Patrol’s enforcement activities and its excesses, particularly in relationship to its “subject population,” with some attention to human rights problems, but without close examination. Here I undertake a detailed examination of known human rights abuses committed by the El Paso Border Patrol over time, particularly before and after Operation Blockade—which we will see changed, but did not resolve, such problems. In this we will see the long-overlooked effects of a particular bureaucratic power structure on the surrounding social environment (Perrow 1986, 2000), on its “subject population,” in graphic detail. As we...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Into the New Century: Continuity, Change, and the Return of Old Problems
    (pp. 164-186)

    My previous chapters take the immigration and human rights story through roughly 1996—1997, and here I update developments in the latter 1990s and into 2005. After the first several years of Operation Blockade/Hold-the-Line in the mid-1990s, things were pretty stable and fairly low-key for the El Paso Border Patrol for the rest of the 1990s. But after 1999 and through 2005 a few changes in enforcement efforts led to troubling human rights patterns—some new and some resembling old problems little seen for years, since before the operation began. Surprisingly, post—September 11 antiterrorism concerns in the several years...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Conclusion
    (pp. 187-214)

    My purpose here is twofold: to summarize my main findings in light of the key concepts I have used to frame my study, and to then discuss the findings and their implications in broader terms with an eye toward policy changes. Operation Blockade/Hold-the-Line marked a profound change in U.S. Border Patrol enforcement efforts along the U.S.-Mexico border, and though its origins lay in a reaction to civil rights abuse claims (largely rooted in a citizenship-nationalistic view of rights), profound human rights problems ensued once it became the model for border enforcement—most glaringly, more than 4,600 recorded deaths of unauthorized...

  11. Epilogue
    (pp. 215-228)

    Several themes regarding border enforcement and immigration have emerged at the local and national levels in 2006 and through mid-2007, which I can briefly sketch out here with an eye toward the future. Overall, the fetishization of border enforcement finds ever more expression, while larger, underlying issues fueling undocumented immigration remain mostly unaddressed. At the local level, these themes include the problematic and growing role of the county sheriff’s office in immigration enforcement, the growing role of human rights groups in challenging abuses and advocating for policy changes, and the introduction of National Guard troops to aid the Border Patrol...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 229-260)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 261-286)
  14. Index
    (pp. 287-298)