By Alex Emslie
Immigrant rights activists gathered in San Francisco and across the country Wednesday to protest a proposed $46 billion surge in border security spending in the immigration overhaul bill currently before Congress.
Protesters fear the massive border enforcement expansion will cause more migrants to die along a treacherous route through the Sonora Desert, and they charge the real beneficiaries of the “border surge” are private national defense contractors.
“This event is about protesting proposals, plans for further border militarization, increasing the spending by 1,000 percent, and benefiting and enriching military and border contractors,” said Deborah Lee, director of the Bay Area’s Interfaith Immigrant Rights Project.
The amendment, authored by two Republican senators and passed in the final days of debate over immigration overhaul in the Senate, boosted border security spending from $4.5 billion to $46 billion. Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker, one of the amendment’s authors, said anyone who is serious about border security would support the amendment.
It calls for 20,000 additional border agents, doubling the current number, and also adds 350 miles of fence. The amendment expands citizenship verification for employment through E-Verify, provides billions for new border security technology and calls for the implementation of a new entry and exit tracking system.
Deaths on the U.S.-Mexico border totaled 477 in 2012, according to data collected by the National Foundation for American Policy. Researchers believe border security is pushing migrants onto more dangerous routes.
Oakland resident Cristal Gallegos agrees. Originally from Tucson, Gallegos said she travels back to the U.S. Mexico border often and has seen it change to look more and more militarized.
“People are funneled specifically through the Sonoran Desert, because it has the most treacherous conditions,” Gallegos said.