Border coalition pans wall proposal

Noe Labrado stands at the border fence in Sunland Park looking into Anapra Mexico during the Keep Our Dreams Alive rally Dec. 10. He is among 800,000 young people who were protected by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals but face deportation unless Congress takes action to protect them. (Angela Kocherga/Albuquerque Journal)

A coalition of border organizations is urging Congress to address the concerns of people living on the border as they consider ramping up border security as a condition to protecting DACA recipients.

“We want to ensure border enforcement is driven by data analysis, not rhetoric and hyperbole, that we put measures to strengthen accountability, oversight and transparency of Customs and Border Protection front and center,” said Christian Ramirez, director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition.

During a conference call with media Thursday, the coalition outlined “the good, the bad and the ugly” contained in various bills.

Among the good initiatives: increased oversight of Customs and Border Protection.

“We’re also supportive of hiring 550 Office of Professional Responsibility agents, investigative agents, so they can conduct solid investigations of complaints and other abuses that come up,” said Vicki Gaubeca, policy strategist for the Southern Border Community Coalition.

Among the “bad” provisions, according to the coalition, is adding more surveillance technology – including drones without privacy protections – and the border wall.

“Absolutely the ugliest part of initiatives is adding any number of miles of border fencing or wall,” Gaubeca said.

The organization said border residents bear the brunt of increased enforcement policies but are often left out of the debate when Congress considers ramping up security.

Coalition members also questioned the Trump administration’s plan to hire 5,000 new Border Patrol agents at a time, since the number of illegal crossings has fallen to a historic low.

The coalition supports initiatives that direct Border Patrol agents to conduct enforcement activities as close to the border as possible to avoid “profiling” in border towns or at highway checkpoints.

“Our border communities don’t need more border security,” said Astrid Dominguez, director of the ACLU Regional Center for Border Rights.

“Border apprehensions have hit a 17-year low. Nevertheless, our legislators keep holding the Dream Act hostage in exchange for more border enforcement,” she said.

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