The problem with this way of thinking is that it's all about a line, sometimes literally in the sand. Tyche Hendricks has written a beautiful book with a terrible title that convincingly argues for thinking about much wider view of the border: a region that includes not just the tiny patch underneath the fence, but also the huge area that comprise the border states, and in fact, both countries that have created and continue to shape the issues Americans are so obsessed with. Hendricks works from the Eastern-most part of the border in Texas to the Western-most part in California, and in each chapter she focuses on a border-straddling community, and deals with a border-straddling issue: environmental issues, education, jobs, health care, etc. The people who live on the border, or more accurately, in the border region, understand this concept, but for the rest of us, Hendricks brings the point home.
Pictured below is one of the places she describes, Friendship Park in Tijuana, a park that straddles Mexico and California. The photographer, Steev Hise, has captured people celebrating communion through a metal fence. Previously the park had a shorter, more permeable fence where food could be passed and hands could be held. Simple, everyday rituals like this are bifurcated and rendered tragic by the US/Mexico border policy. As Hendricks writes, "In a United States fraught by national security concerns, the fence became a physical display that the government was protecting its citizens from foreign dangers and unauthorized interlopers. That's one way of conceptualizing the border: strengthening its capacity to divide."
(photo used under creative commons license)
It's an unfortunate way to conceptualize the border, and one likely to continue to lead to the militarization of Mexico and of the border itself, of vast sums of money and lives wasted on the "war on drugs." Hendricks sums it up: "An attempt to partition the borderlands, to wall ourselves off, is unlikely to succeed." It hasn't succeeded in other countries, and it runs contrary to what America prides itself on: the mythology of Ellis Island and of immigrants coming to this country and Making It. "The Wind Doesn't Need a Passport" breaks this down into much more detail, and presents solutions that are meaningful, should the government ever decide to look at alternatives to militarization, racism, and exploitative labor. This is a must read.