My appearance on Adam Conover’s podcast Factually! on my new book and the Border Patrol

“No feature of the American landscape is more absurd than the border. It cuts across natural landscapes, is highly militarized, and possesses the largest law enforcement agency in America. Why? Journalist and Author Todd Miller joins Adam to explain why the heck Border Patrol got involved with the BLM protests last June, what “check point trauma” means, and why we need to build solidarity, rather than division with the people who share the continent with us. Todd Miller’s book – Build Bridges Not Walls – is out at the end of March, and can be pre-ordered at

Listen to it here!

Biden’s “business as usual” border regime

I co-authored this piece with Nick Buxton.

On January 19, then Department of Homeland Security Secretary nominee Alejandro Mayorkas was asked what he would do about the migrant caravan of mostly Hondurans headed for the US southern border. He responded that the United States would respect the law on asylum. According to Mayorkas, if people were found to qualify “under the law to remain in the United States, then we will apply the law accordingly. If they do not qualify to remain in the United States, then they won’t.”

The day before, nearly 8,000 people had crossed the border from Honduras into Guatemala. Some were heading to Mexico, but most wanted to seek safety in the US. Many of the people in the caravan reported that they were headed north in the devastating aftermath of two successive category four hurricanes that hit Honduras and Nicaragua in November 2020. Upon arrival to Guatemala, the caravan was almost immediately broken up by US-trained military and police that forced them, sometimes violently, from the highway.

Since 9/11 the US has made a concerted effort to extend its borders abroad by training police and military and transferring resources to other countries. For the last ten years, there has been a special emphasis on Central America, seeking to stop refugees from even getting close to the US border. If, however, the refugees manage to pass these militarized road blocks and reach the US border, only a fraction of them will be likely to receive protection.

The number of successful asylum cases in the US, even before Trump, was notoriously low. Nor is there as yet any climate-related status for those displaced by environmental devastation. As Mayorkas would imply soon after being ratified by the Senate, the people in the caravan were not going to qualify. Not qualifying meant they would be blocked at the US border.

Read the rest here..

Biden’s Border: The Industry, the Democrats, and the 2020 Elections

I co-authored this policy briefing with Nick Buxton.

“This briefing profiles the leading US border security contractors, their related financial campaign contributions during the 2020 elections, and how they have shaped a bipartisan approach in favor of border militarization for more than three decades. It suggests that a real change in border and immigration policies will require the Democrats to break with the industry that helps finance them.”

Read more here.

Border agents are allowed to operate 100 miles inside the US. That should worry us

If you were under the notion that America’s borders are our international boundary lines with Mexico and Canada, think again. The US government’s notion of “borders” has long been much more legally expansive than most people realize; the “border” is increasingly everywhere.

Americans learned that the hard way when “Trump troops” were let loose on the streets in Portland, assaulting protesters and pulling people out of their cars. These agents in military camouflage without insignia include the Department of Homeland Security’s Border Patrol Tactical Unit (Bortac), which usually operates on the US-Mexico border.

Read the rest here as originally published in The Guardian.

Flying on two wheels: Travel in coronavirus lockdown

This weekend I topped 1,000 miles ridden on my bike since the lockdown began without leaving Tucson. After 500 miles, I named the bike Rocinante after Don Quixote de la Mancha’s faithful horse, for no other reason that I found it amusing. Later it occurred to me the real reason was that I wanted to occupy that place between delusion and idealism, a place where I would take myself a little less seriously. 

Perhaps here, or so goes the reasoning, I could garner the optimism and conviction that the pandemic could indeed usher in something new. 

Like so many others, everything cancelled for me in March. I was about to go on a second leg of a book tour for “Empire of Borders,” a book of investigative journalism that looks at the expansion of the U.S. border around the world. I lost events at libraries, at universities, at conferences. The loss of engagement at an important if not fledgling moment of a new book has been a painful void. 

But the cancellation that saddened me the most was a two-night train trip I was going to take with William, my four-year-old, to Portland in early April. I was excited to show him that there were many ways to travel besides flying. I didn’t really care about the potential that he’d be, at times, a royal pain in the ass.

To excite William about our trip, I relayed memorable moments from other bus and train trips in my past, from Buffalo to Guadalajara, from Managua to Tucson, from Tucson to New York City. I told him about when I woke up on a Greyhound bus in a swathe of Redwoods in Northern California. The bus left Oakland the evening before en route to Coos Bay, Oregon. When I opened my eyes, I saw the giant trees woven into the dawn fog through the window. 

It was like I woke up into a great work of art, the beauty and grandeur were that astonishing. And that was not all. Maybe it was simply the early morning, the dream-state, or the fact that I had been on the bus since Buffalo, but it was their faces. 

Not human faces, but faces of wrinkles and wisdom on the trunks that left me humbled, as if I only knew a fraction of what was going on, and I was only a fraction of something much bigger.

I had waited years for this trip with William. My hopes were almost Quixotic. I wanted it to be a pilgrimage, in the most traditional sense, where we entered one way and left another. I took the cancellation hard.

The thousand miles on the bike — the equivalent of going from Tucson to LA and back — certainly began from the mourning and melancholy caused by the pandemic, but there was also something more to it. It became a pilgrimage in its own right. 

Maybe by not being able to travel at all, I could learn to travel again. 

Which brings me to the hawk.

Read the rest, as published in the Tucson Sentinel, here.

Quietly queued: Thoughts in the coronavirus line at the supermarket A reflection on grocery shopping during the COVID-19 era

It all starts when a woman isn’t happy that there’s a line, and immediately rolls her shopping cart into everybody’s six-foot space on her way to the end while simultaneously proclaiming a concern for our children who, at this moment, due to the virus, are not being educated. The future, for that reason — she proclaims — is dire. 

As I listen I realize another person is creeping up behind me. He’s close, too close. Is he too close? And then I realize he’s not too close. And I wonder: how much is this virus consuming me? 

Above us people in the bending supermarket line is a blue sky—losing its shimmer and beginning to dim. Dusk in it its initial stages. There is a lingering spring warmth in Tucson and yellow, orange, and purple wild flowers (brittle bush, chuparosa, purple desert lupine) are on my mind. Earlier in the day William, my four-year-old, held four desert marigolds, two in each hand as he sat on the back of his bike. He picked them for his mommy who had the good fortunes of turning 40 during a global pandemic. But now I’ve gone to the store alone. 

The rest of the line waits without a word. And this is when it happens. I begin to send my deepest respect to everybody around me.

At first it comes as a feeling of solidarity with an employee with a semi-anxious look on his face who gazes at the complaining woman with a hint of irritation. 

Read the rest here as it appears in the Tucson Sentinel.