Liberation Road

At the US-México Border, Much More Than a Wall

The weekly newsletter of the México Solidarity Project

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

March 24, 2021/ This week’s issue/ Meizhu Lui, for the editorial team

Donald Trump’s constant “Build the Wall!” mantra always had more than a wall in mind. The slogan amounted to a short-hand for “we can’t let those immigrant Mexican rapists and murderers and terrorists come at us over our borders.” Chanting the slogan at Trump rallies fired up and consolidated his base of home-grown terrorists, both those in the public at large and those who had joined the Border Patrol or become agents for ICE.

Trump’s mantra actually had a deeper impact than all that. Its constant repetition left the US public thinking only about the physical wall. But building a wall involves more than construction workers putting up fences. Trump’s wall stereotypes migrants as criminal undesirables. Criminalization requires policing, and policing requires not just specialized agents, but a vast array of armaments, surveillance tech, and detention centers.

These enforcement mechanisms don’t just impact those trying to cross a line in the sand. Our “border” stretches 100 miles wide all around the United States, and border-enforcement tentacles reach deep into the communities, homes, and workplaces of two-thirds of the US population. Don’t just think Tucson or El Paso. You probably live in a “border” town too. More to the point, unless you’re a migrant, you may not realize you’re living in a police state as well.

Who benefits from the criminalization of migrants as an excuse for militarizing the border? Todd Miller, in our Voices interview this week, looks beyond the wall and unmasks those who profit from wreaking fear, misery, and death on migrant families. “Border Security” has become a form of human trafficking, a big business.

And big politics. Trump’s harping on the wall made him the target of our anger and disgust. But that fury aimed at Trump obscured the years of campaign contributions from border security companies that have both Republicans and Democrats complicit in inhumane border policies and glaringly gross outlays of our tax dollars on private security contracts.

To win migrant and immigrant rights, we’ll have to sever the ties between the profiteers and the politicians. We’ll have to win rights not just for those already here, but for those who need to enter. We need more than a hammer to take down more than a wall.

Todd Miller grew up on the northern US border, fascinated by the changes, over time, in what people have to go through to get to the other side. He’s now been researching the connections between border policy and border security companies for many years. For his 2019 Transnational Institute reportMore Than A Wall: Corporate Profiteering and the Militarization of US borders (in Spanish here), and his policy briefing published last month, Biden’s Border: The industry, the Democrats and the 2020 elections (Spanish), Miller collaborated with the groups No More Deaths in Tucson, Mijente, and the ACLU. Watch for his new book, Build Bridges, Not Walls: A Journey to a World Without Borders, in April.

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