Along the U.S.-Mexico border fence that passes through Brownsville, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Border town experts head to DC to tell the “real border security story”

Whenever the prospects of immigration reform are mentioned, the issue of border security follows shortly thereafter. The bipartisan framework which emerged out of the Senate prominently includes it and as the House and President Obama discussed the issue, border enforcement was a key pillar. That’s why immigration and border organizations joined elected officials Wednesday in Washington D.C. to tell the story they feel is being lost in the debate.

“While every border security benchmark from the failed 2007 immigration reform bill has been met or exceeded, many politicians from both side of the aisle are still using talking points that are stuck in the past,” the Border Network for Human Rights said. The organizations were joined by Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva and El Paso, Texas County Judge Veronica Escobar who held meetings all day with lawmakers.

“We were here to remind legislators that we have not just met the benchmarks set by the [2007] Kennedy/McCain bill, but we’ve surpassed them,” says Escobar. “Sometimes it feels like déjà vu all over again.”

Escobar says the message she is bringing to the hill is that communities like El Paso are the example. Escobar says she met with the chief legal counsel for Texas Senator John Cornyn and told him El Paso is safe and it’s not because of “the walls or the drones.” He told her the wall is the reason the city is safe, but she told him that’s not the case. “El Paso was one of the top three safest communities for well over a decade — long before the wall was built.”

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Cornyn, was recently criticized for not going into detail about a tweet he sent last week where he said a friend tells him hundreds of people cross his property every night but Department of Homeland Security head Janet Napolitano says the border is secure.

In pure numbers, where border agents made some 530,000 arrests in San Diego in fiscal year 1993, they had fewer than 30,000 in 2012, according to the Associated Press. But there are also some along the border who say more needs to be done for them to be feel safe.

Ranchers in Arizona told the AP they scoff at the word “secure” and said they “live in constant dread” of coming across immigrants and smugglers running through their property.

Escobar says that while there is no “one-size fits all” solution along the border, she is dubious when she sees claims of how dangerous the border is.

“When people say, ‘We don’t feel safe,’ it makes me want to look at their crime statistics because communities with a high concentration of immigrants have lower crime rates,” she says, citing studies that show migrant communities want to become a part of the fabric of the country.

“They retain their language and retain their culture but they’re interested in aligning themselves with the U.S.”

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