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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Gov. Ducey is seeking funding to create a new border law enforcement force: the Border Strike Force Bureau

Gov. Doug Ducey has recently unveiled a new plan to create a Border Strike Force Bureau that works with local and federal law enforcement agencies to target drug cartels at the Arizona-Mexico border. The strike force has been working at the border since September, according to Ducey’s Nov. 23 testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

In his testimony, Ducey states that the program is working to combat drug smuggling, particularly emphasizing the danger of heroin that is being smuggled over the border. The goal of governor’s plan is to fix this problem “by aggressively targeting the supply,” through the combined efforts of federal and local forces.

However, this increase in law enforcement could have negative effects on border communities, according to Michael Polakowski, an associate professor in the School of Government and Public Policy.

“Usually when we inundate any area with more law enforcement, we get an increase in fear, because people respond to the visual of many more officers and interpret as there being more crime and less safety,” he said. “If this isn’t communicated well and people aren’t advised that these troops are coming in to ensure their safety and work in cooperation with the communities, it could create a lot of panic out there.”

James Lyall, a border litigation attorney at ACLU Arizona, believes that the combination of local and federal law enforcement can create problems like racial profiling in the community, such as pulling over drivers “with minor pretext in order to hand them over to Border Patrol” based on race. Lyall said that communities in Southern Arizona have already experienced this kind of racial profiling.

“By empowering state law enforcement to enforce border related crimes, that risks involving state police in federal border policy, and we’ve seen what that has done with SB1070,” Lyall said. “There are real concerns that [the governor’s plan] will lead to the further entanglement of state and federal law enforcement. We’ve seen the harms that can result from that.”

This fear of increased racial profiling is echoed by Monica Contreras, a Mexican American studies senior, who is an active member of the organization UA MEChA. She cited the passing of bills such as SB1070 for creating fear in undocumented communities.

“There’s been plenty of cases of families being stopped and questioned about their immigration status. It creates a lot of fear. There’s just intense militarization and that leads to a lot of xenophobia and intimidation of a lot of undocumented people,” she said. “It’s this pattern that we keep seeing with racially charged comments towards Latino communities and undocumented communities.”

While Contreras sees no benefits to the plan, the strike force has seized some of the drugs it set out to stop. Since its start, the governor’s new strike force has seized 73 pounds of methamphetamine, almost 4,000 pounds of marijuana and almost 19 pounds of heroin, according to Ducey’s testimony. Despite these numbers, Polakowski thinks the plan can give a false impression of stopping the problem completely.

“You’d like to think that more boots on the ground are going to reduce crime, but the reality is we’ve got a very porous border and even as we increase our anti-addiction efforts, we grab more loads of marijuana or heroin or we intercept guns and other drugs, we are still going to miss the vast majority of what’s being smuggled across,” Polakowski said.

Lyall also sees problems with the effectiveness of the plan. He believes that the government should take a more public-health-focused approach to the heroin epidemic and that the government has failed to “recognize the demonstrated failures of the war on drugs.” Lyall believes it is more important to focus on drug treatment and prevention to decrease the demand for drugs.

“It’s entirely unclear what [Ducey] has in mind or why he thinks this will somehow have a meaningful and lasting impact, and seems to reflect an unwillingness to move beyond this framework of this decades-old war on drugs — which primarily impacts communities of color and has not worked,” Lyall said. “The money very well might be better spent on a different approach rather than the continued criminalization and militarization of our communities.”


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