9/11 changed life along US-Mexico border


Arizona : The terror attack of Sep 11, 2001, forever changed the dynamics of life along the US-Mexico border with increased militarisation, use of technology and sanctions against undocumented immigrants.

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Though the attacks occurred thousands of miles away from the southwest, this was the region most drastically changed as a result of them.

Over the next 10 years, the number of Border Patrol agents was gradually increased, the border fence was extended and for the first time the National Guard was deployed to defend the southern border.

“The first enormous, fundamental change we saw after the Sep 11 attacks was the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, which included the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, whose functions were previously under the Department of Justice,” said Jennifer Allen, director of the Border Action Network in Arizona.

“We saw an enormous investment in militarising the border, though no real threat to national security has ever come across the border from Mexico,” Allen said.

The increase in security along the border with Mexico, particularly in the Arizona desert, has been justified by the government as a fundamental part of its plan in the war on drugs, arms trafficking, undocumented immigration and the violence of Mexican drug cartels.

During her recent visit to Arizona, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that the state’s border with Mexico has been provided with unprecedented resources, since between 2004 and 2011 the number of Border Patrol agents had been increased from 10,000 to 20,700.

The secretary also said that drones keep watch on the border from California to Texas.

In the last two years the confiscation of undeclared cash has shot up by 75 percent along the Mexican border, while the seizure of drugs has risen by 31 percent and of firearms by 64 percent.

“The increase in border security created a funnel effect that has led undocumented migrants to try and cross the Arizona desert because the California and Texas borders were closed,” said attorney Isabel Garcia, director of the Arizona Human Rights Coalition.

One of the most indelible effects of the 9/11 attacks, she said, was the generalised association of the word “undocumented” with the word “terrorist”.

“For the first time we saw the criminalisation of the undocumented immigrant justified, and it continues to be justified,” she said.