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Guest opinion

Fryer: Time to reject dangerous lie about 'border security'

During three televised gubernatorial debates, I was grilled by the moderators about my position on "border security." I told them that, although my opponents were perfectly happy to answer, I reject this line of questioning. This is why.

I refuse to be a part of the dangerous lie that what we need on our border is more "security," while a human rights disaster is unfolding right in front of us.

Here's the truth: Our border is not being swarmed by hordes of murderous brown people. This racist lie is being told by politicians who are in the pocket of private prison companies. They couldn't care less about keeping us "safe"; they want to keep us afraid, because fear fills prisons, and more prisoners means more money.

In the meantime, desperate families on our border begging for help, who have fled violence, oppression and extreme poverty – conditions that U.S. policies have helped create – are being criminalized and terrorized. Thousands have reported sexual assault while in ICE custody. Adults are facing the most inhumane conditions – as many as ninety women crammed into a single 15 x 15 foot cell, no privacy to go to the bathroom, no bed, rotten food, untreated medical conditions – and children have become prey for sexual predators. An employee at a Mesa detention center for children is standing trial for sexually assaulting eight boys. An employee of a Phoenix center was arrested for sexually assaulting a 14-year old girl and a third worker, at a center in Tucson, has been convicted for sexually abusing a child. Nearly 600 children still haven't been reunited with their parents and may never be. At least one child has died after being in ICE custody.

So, no. I'm not going to answer questions about "border security" when children are being abused and sexually molested by people on our payroll.

And those who keep promoting this false narrative – including members of the media and people in my own party – are complicit in what is happening.

All you have to do is look where the U.S. government is spending our tax dollars to see what's really going on.

The U.S. government spends relatively little money actually fighting bad guys on the border. That's because there aren't any more bad guys on the border than there are anywhere else in the country. The small division of ICE, Homeland Security Investigations, which investigates smuggling and national security threats, has a budget of just $2 billion.

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On the other hand, our government spends three and a half times that much, including $4 billion a year on the "Enforcement and Removal Operations" division of ICE and $3 billion a year on private detention centers, arresting, detaining and deporting people whose main fault is that they don't have the right paperwork.

I have an idea that the mainstream media, opportunistic politicians, frightened politicians in my own party and people who own private detention centers will call radical: Let's take a deep breath and rethink what we're doing.

Then, let's redirect that $7 billion a year into resettling the frightened families who are asking for our help. The U.S actually makes an average of $21,000 more than we spend per refugee, helping them gain language skills, get jobs and become taxpayers, customers, employees and friends. And let's make it easier for people to legally cross the border – to work, shop, go to school and be with loved ones – so they don't have to risk their lives doing it through the desert.

Let's stop being so afraid and act like Americans, for Pete's sake.

Kelly Fryer is a Democratic primary candidate for Arizona governor.

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