US President Barack Obama has decided to send an additional 1,200 National Guard troops to the US-Mexico border.
The decision comes as the heated debate over the controversial Arizona immigration law continues and US immigration reform activism also continues to rise.
During his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama had promised to both secure the borders and bring about comprehensive immigration reform, however many are wondering when that reform will come.
“While he [Obama] continues to talk about how he supports bringing about significant immigration reform policy, in fact all that he has done so far is be very very hard-nosed in terms of enforcing immigration law,” said Juan Jose Gutierrez, the president of Vamos Unidos USA, a non-profit organization that serves undocumented and document immigrants in the US.
The National Guard troops being deployed are limited in the actions they can take, leading many to argue that the move by Obama is merely a symbolic gesture, but Gutierrez disagrees.
Obama’s actions strike many as a unilateral reaction growing tensions in the country over immigration including the passage of a controversial immigration law in the southwestern state of Arizona. The move ignores a cooperative approach with Mexico on immigration reform, which was promoted during Mexican President Felipe Calderon's recent state visit to Washington.
“The United States keeps dealing with the issue of its bilateral relationship with Mexico not as partners, but as a controversial sort of relationship. I mean, the countries are together, they are economically and politically integrated, yet the United States government continues to deal with Mexico as something less than a full partner,” said Gutierrez.
The White House has said the increase in troop numbers is part of a larger mission with Mexico to tackle drug violence and crime along the border. Gutierrez hopes this is the case, however he is concerned that proper attention is not being given to the millions of immigrants and families who are summering.
“Nobody seems to think that’s a serious enough situation that it needs urgent attention by the Congress of the United States and the executive of this country, President Barack Obama” said Gutierrez.
It is evident there are criminal problems along the border admits Gutierrez, but tackling those issues requires a cooperative approach with Mexico that does not send the wrong message to the Mexican people.
Past increases in National Guard troops at the border have caused the region to become more dangerous, forcing illegal immigrants to cross the border over harsher terrain, ending in a greater number of deaths.
According to Gutierrez, immigration reform requires a comprehensive approach that moves away racism and away from an enforcement only mentality.
“The best way to fix this system is by all partners working together and realizing that in a global economy and in a globalized world where people are being displaced from their countries of origin and they need to go where they can find a job, where they can deal with their poverty in dire circumstance and that means in the case of Mexico and the United States many Mexican people coming to the US and following historical patterns. This problem is not going to be resolved; it is going to be made worse. The president needs to deal with this situation urgently and effectively. Sending troops to the border is the wrong approach,” said Gutierrez.
Gutierrez says the fight is about protecting the rights of everyone, the same rights protected in the US by the Bill of Rights and the US Constitution that guarantee fair treatment for everyone.