Big arms manufacturers are the hidden actor in the militarization of the border between the United States and Mexico and have played a more important role than the White House itself in the hardening of immigration policies in recent years, according to a study published this Monday.

“A small number of corporations, mainly arms and information technology firms, have played a fundamental role in promoting border militarization from which they have benefited with billions of dollars in contracts,” Nick Buxton, co-editor of the report, told Efe.

The report, prepared by the international research group Transnational Institute (TNI), argues that security firms and arms manufacturers such as General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Boeing, among others, have designed border policy over the past three decades and are responsible for the current juncture.

“The debate over (President Donald) Trump and the border has distorted reality, because it ignores that there is already a highly militarized wall supported by Republicans and Democrats for three decades,” he said.

Research indicates that over the past 15 years, the budget for U.S. border security and immigration control increased from 9.1 billion in 2003 to 23.7 billion in 2018.

That, Buxton said, generates “enormous profits for these corporations while creating an increasingly deadly environment for immigrants crossing borders”.

The increase is much greater when compared to the 1990 budget, when the investment was $1.2 billion, equivalent to an “incredible 1.875 percent increase,” the document reported.

Over a dozen large security business companies were identified as the beneficiaries, but “too often, these very lucrative links are hidden from public view and, therefore, erased from public conversation,” said Todd Miller, author of the report.

“Exactly the opposite must happen: the fact that giant corporations benefit and lead to border militarization must be at the center of one of the most important discussions taking place in the United States at this time,” the researcher added.

In this sense, the study points to the budgets and debate over the Border Patrol (CBP), which between 2006 and 2018 signed contracts worth 26.1 billion dollars, a value that exceeds the sum of the accumulated budgets of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) from 1975 to 1998.

Buxton stressed that although Trump “has brought his own toxic influence to the debate, demonizing emigrants and inspiring racist attacks, evidence shows that most of the militarization of the U.S. border occurred long before the New Yorker’s arrival”.

The report highlights the great contributions that these corporations make to the campaigns of congressmen, both Republicans and Democrats.

As an example, it found that beneficiaries of CBP contracts, such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Atomics, General Dynamics and Raytheon, are also major campaign contributors of members of the Congressional Appropriations Committee and the National Security Committee, responsible for budgets and border policies.

Between 2006 and 2018, these corporations awarded $27.6 million to that committee, although the report clarifies that this lobbying also relates to military spending.

In 2018, when the largest border and immigration budget in the country’s history was signed, lobbying coming from these companies was intense.

And this situation is not likely to change, according to Buxton, who anticipated that it will be repeated in the next elections in 2020.

“I think we will see the arms and defense companies continue to donate to both sides to ensure that border militarization continues to receive funding and political support,” he said.

Hannah Taleb, spokeswoman for No More Deaths, the organization that co-sponsored the report, said in a statement that border policies have continued to “push” migration to these deeply militarized areas, causing “incalculable human suffering”.

Buxton says ending the cycle of border deaths will have to confront those who currently benefit from it, namely the corporations that provide security and are arms manufacturers.

“We need to break with a model that constantly increases the militarization of borders and instead address the root causes of forced migration,” he said.

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