Thursday, July 18, 2013
Protesters gathered nationwide Wednesday, including in San Diego, to oppose a Senate proposal they say would unacceptably militarize the U.S.-Mexico border.
Across the nation, immigrant rights groups organized protests Wednesday to oppose a Senate proposal that would vastly build-up security and policing infrastructure along the U.S.-Mexico border.
About 70 people gathered outside the Vista office of Republican Congressman Darrell Issa. He is a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which will play an important role whenever the House begins drafting its version of an immigration bill.
The Senate bill passed last month and included a border security amendment allocating $46 million for new fencing, drones, radar systems and other technology. If signed into law, it would roughly double the size of the Border Patrol to 40,000 agents.
The amendment was added to gain Republican support for the bill — which also includes a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally.
However, the people who gathered outside Issa's office on Wednesday said the so-called border surge would do irreparable damage to border communities like San Diego.
James Summers, a Vietnam War veteran and president of the San Diego Veterans for Peace, was among them. He said his organization has a narrow focus of opposing war, but said he attended Wednesday's protest organized by immigrant rights groups because he felt that "what's happening on the border is beginning to look perilously like war on our own people."
The protesters said they believed the border surge could have far-reaching consequences, even in communities like Vista, more than 50 miles north of the border.
"The Border Patrol has jurisdiction up to 100 miles from the border itself," said Pedro Rios, director of San Diego's American Friends Service Committee, which organized the protest. "So the concern is that with the proposal to double the number of agents, the agents will be roaming around communities."
Rios said Wednesday's protest was meant to let Congressman Issa know many of his constituents oppose the proposed border build-up.
Although the House of Representatives has yet to take up the immigration bill, House leaders have indicated that the Republican-led chamber will push for even tougher border provisions than the Democratic-led Senate did.