Less than a mile south of the U.S.-Mexico border, in Sasabe, Mexico, a Guatemalan man named Giovanni (whose first name is used to protect his undocumented status) propped up his feet while an EMT applied antibiotic ointment to his feet in the shade of a cottonwood. Giovanni left his home country because of a catastrophic drought and was attempting to unite with his brothers who were already in Dallas. After trying to cross the border into the Arizona desert, his feet were ravaged: discolored, covered in gashes and tender red blisters. One toenail had been ripped off. Across the arroyo, or dry wash, were about 30 more prospective border crossers, primarily Guatemalan, some awaiting a similar medical checkup, others stocking up on water and food.
It was July, and several days before in a 110-degree heat wave, he had crossed the border with a small group of about five other people from Guatemala. After 14 hours, they ran out of water. After 21 hours, Giovanni gave up and turned back alone. He had no water, no food, and quickly lost his orientation, but he made it back to Sasabe.
Giovanni is part of a Central American exodus of people that has been increasing for decades. The recent caravans are the most recent chapter. And while there are complex and compounding reasons for the massive displacements and migrations—especially rising violence (in places like Honduras, for example, after the 2009 military coup) and systemic poverty—there is another driver behind the movement of people seeking refuge in the U.S.: climate change.
Before 2005, when Oxford ecologist Norman Myers announced that there would be 25 million climate-fleeing migrants by 2012, there wasn’t the research to back it up. There was a steadily increasing stream of reports, sure, but according to what Koko Warner of the United Nations University and lead writer of several of those reports told me, there wasn’t “the scientific methodological research that there is today.”
At the San Bernardino Ranch just east of Agua Prieta, Mexico, and about a quarter mile from the U.S. international boundary, the Earth was reclaiming the heavy steel barrier of the U.S. border wall. Soil deposits covered it, as did countless spiders, and purple flowers grew from it. The scene telegraphed that, if left alone, nature would consume the border apparatus, erase it, devour its technologies and infrastructure of exclusion, and clear the way for something new.
That’s what I saw when I arrived at this section of border in 2016 to investigate what alternatives exist to a forecasted future of climate change, displacement, and border militarization.
Read the rest, published at yesmagazine.org, here.
“The tenth annual Izzy Award was presented April 24, 2018 to four investigative journalists who published path-breaking and in-depth reporting in 2017 that exposed political corruption, environmental hazards and militarism: investigative reporter LEE FANG of The Intercept; Investigative Fund reporting fellow and Intercept journalist SHARON LERNER; Truthout staff reporter DAHR JAMAIL; and TODD MILLER, author of “Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration and Homeland Security.”
In accepting their awards at the ceremony in Ithaca College’s Emerson Suites, the honorees spoke about their work, thanking the various independent media organizations that made their work possible. In announcing the award recipients, the Izzy judges commented: “Their breakthrough coverage is made possible by non-corporate outlets such asThe Intercept,TruthoutandTomDispatch.com,resources such as The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund, and publishers like City Lights Books.”
“Author and journalist Todd Miller, who has written a new book called, “Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration and Homeland Security” says climate change is a key factor forcing families to flee from Central America and Mexico — and deadly droughts, hurricanes, floods and mudslides are projected to intensify further in the region as global warming increases, which will hit small farmers especially hard.”
At first, I thought I had inadvertently entered an active war zone. I was on a lonely two-lane road in southern New Mexico heading for El Paso, Texas. Off to the side of the road, hardly concealed behind some desert shrubs, I suddenly noticed what seemed to be a tank. When I stopped to take a picture, a soldier wearing a camouflage helmet emerged from the top of the Stryker, a 19-ton, eight-wheeled combat vehicle that was regularly used in military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. With high-tech binoculars, he began to monitor the mountainous desert that stretched toward Mexico, 20 miles away, as if the enemy might appear at any moment.
Read the rest of this commentary as published in the San Francisco Chronicle. It is an adaptation of a previous piece published at TomDispatch.
At first, I thought I had inadvertently entered an active war zone. I was on a lonely two-lane road in southern New Mexico heading for El Paso, Texas. Off to the side of the road, hardly concealed behind some desert shrubs, I suddenly noticed what seemed to be a tank. For a second, I thought I might be seeing an apparition. When I stopped to take a picture, a soldier wearing a camouflage helmet emerged from the top of the Stryker, a 19-ton, eight-wheeled combat vehicle that was regularly used in military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He looked my way and I offered a pathetic wave. To my relief, he waved back, then settled behind what seemed to be a large surveillance display mounted atop the vehicle. With high-tech binoculars, he began to monitor the mountainous desert that stretched toward Mexico, 20 miles away, as if the enemy might appear at any moment.
That was in 2012 and, though I had already been reporting on the militarization of the U.S.-Mexican border for years, I had never seen anything like it. Barack Obama was still president and it would be another six years before Donald Trump announced with much fanfare that he was essentially going to declare war at the border and send in the National Guard. (“We really haven’t done that before,” Trump told the media on April 3rd, “or certainly not very much before.”)
Read the rest of this piece first published at TomDispatch here.
“A new wave of troops could soon be deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border, even as border crossings by undocumented immigrants are at their lowest levels since 1971. The move comes as a caravan of Central American migrants and asylum seekers in Mexico has prompted a series of threats from President Trump. Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports the Trump administration is requesting that the U.S. military build walls for at least one military base along the U.S.-Mexico border. We go to Tucson, Arizona, for an update from Todd Miller, a border security journalist and author of “Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration, and Homeland Security.””
Panel Discussion on Immigration and Race Relations Authors Todd Miller, Sheryll Cashin, and Sasha Polakow-Suransky talked about their respective books dealing with topics that include immigration and race relations: Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration, and Homeland Security, Loving: Interracial Intimacy in America and the Threat to White Supremacy, and Go Back to Where You Came From: The Backlash Against Immigration and the Fate of Western Democracy.
This event was part of the 2018 Tucson Festival of Books.
At the precise moment in his State of the Union address when President Donald Trump was reassuring the U.S. public yet again that he would build a border wall, I arrived at the San Juan Bosco shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico with a group of students from Prescott College. We were about to a face a completely different interpretation of the very same “union.” In the shelter’s chapel, people who had been recently deported, banished from, or repelled by the United States sat on folding metal chairs. After the students introduced themselves a woman sitting towards the front asked, “Why are you here? What benefit does it bring us?”
A long uncomfortable pause followed, partly because I interpreted the question from Spanish to English, and partly because the students had no immediate answer.
“Have you come,” the woman asked interrupting the silence, “to tear down that Berlin Wall?”