The Border-Industrial Complex in the Biden Era: Robotic Dogs and Autonomous Surveillance Towers Are the New Wall

First, it was the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) vehicles speeding along on the road in front of our campsite. Then it was the Border Patrol’s all-terrain vehicles moving swiftly on a ridge above us. I was about 10 miles north of the border with Mexico, near Peña Blanca Lake in southern Arizona, camping with my six-year-old son and some other families. Like fire trucks racing to a blaze, the Border Patrol mobilization around me was growing so large I could only imagine an emergency situation developing.

I started climbing to get a better look and soon found myself alone on a golden hill dotted with alligator junipers and mesquite. Brilliant vermilion flycatchers fluttered between the branches. The road, though, was Border Patrol all the way. Atop the hill opposite mine stood a surveillance tower. Since it loomed over our campsite, I’d been looking at it all weekend. It felt strangely like part of French philosopher Michel Foucault’s panopticon — in other words, I wasn’t sure whether I was being watched or not.  But I suspected I was.

Read more here as originally published by TomDispatch and The Border Chronicle.

An Open Letter to the Biden Administration: It’s Time to Lean In to the “Open Borders” Accusations

“C’mon President Biden, let’s stare down the real crisis on the border, the crisis of imagination. It is possible to do things another way.”

I know everyone is accusing you of maintaining open borders. Many of the accusers are the usual suspects: Texas governor Greg AbbottThe Federalist, Fox News. Senator Ron Johnson got more dramatic and said you are “throwing open” the U.S. borders. And Border Chronicle antagonist and Fox News reporter Bill Melugin recently tweeted a video of a small group of men struggling along the edge of the Rio Grande with some coiling razor wire. Stephen Miller, immigration adviser to Donald Trump, quoted the tweet and shouted (as you only can on Twitter) that this is an example of “completely open borders.”

Read the rest here at The Border Chronicle.

“Lines of Life and Death”: A Podcast with Geographer Joseph Nevins on Global Apartheid and the Right to the World

Lauded border scholar Joseph Nevins dissects the global border apparatus, shows its parallels with South African apartheid, and calls for both freedom of movement and the right to stay home.

Who has passports? Who can get visas? Which people have to risk their lives crossing lines, and who can fly and cross borders with ease? And what if heavily policed borders are actually a human rights violation? What would be the remedy to that?

In today’s podcast we welcome geographer Joseph Nevins to discuss all this. Joe is the author of two important books on border and immigration policing, Operation Gatekeeper and Beyond: The War On “Illegals” and the Remaking of the U.S.-Mexico Boundary and Dying to Live: A Story of U.S. Immigration in an Age of Global Apartheid. He is a professor at Vassar College.

I have known Joe now for more than a decade, and over those years he has been a mentor, and inspired me with his insight, wisdom, and scholarship. Please join us in this conversation as we take a step back and unpack the global border apparatus, talk about global apartheid and the right to the world, and discuss what those “lines of life and death,” as Joe puts it, really mean.

Listen here at The Border Chronicle.

“The American Homeland Is the Planet”: How the U.S. Exports Its Border to Ukraine

“Since 9/11 the United States has expanded its southwestern border enforcement abroad. Yes, even to Ukraine.”

On March 26, the U.S. Department of State announced that it would provide Ukraine with $100 million for law enforcement, critical infrastructure, and “essential border security.” Included in this would be personal protection, tactical, and communication equipment; medical supplies; and armored vehicles for the Ukrainian Border Guard Service. On April 5, the director of the State Department’s Bureau for Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL), Todd Robinson, wrote on Twitter that the INL’s support “for the State Border Guards . . . is unwavering in the face of Russia’s devastating war. I had a chance to personally review equipment & supplies we are providing to support Ukraine’s efforts.”

Read the rest here at The Border Chronicle.

Reporter’s Notebook: This Year’s Border Security Expo in San Antonio Was the Biggest Ever: “Why Would You Even Want a Solution?”

“Robo-dogs, ghost drones, Palmer Luckey, and protestors outside, plus other observations from my week at the Border Security Expo in Texas”

At the end of the panel “Drivers That Have Led to an Increase in Mass Migration,” on the morning of March 29 at the San Antonio convention center, a man approaches a microphone set up in the aisle for people to ask questions. The convention hall is packed with people in business suits, mainly from the border industry. According to organizers, almost 1,500 people have come this year, making this the best-attended Border Security Expo in its 15 years. There are bright lights on the panel, where five men sit, including former Customs and Border Protection commissioner Robert Bonner and former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Thomas Homan. It is dark in the audience, so it is difficult to see the man when he begins his question. He says he’s from South Texas, the Rio Grande Valley. He says his son is in the Border Patrol. He repeats a point that the panelists had made earlier, that cartels are making a lot of money on the other side of the border. But, he says, the expo floor here is filled with companies, so there are evidently a lot people making money on this side of the border too.

“Why,” he asked, “would you even want a solution?” There is an audible hush in the audience and a prolonged silence among the panelists, many who themselves have gone through the DHS revolving door and now work for private companies (including Homan and Bonner). The pause goes on for so long that the man has to step forward to the microphone again and ask, “Would someone be able to address that question?”

Read the rest here at The Border Chronicle.

The Most Beautiful Place in the World: An Audio Interview with Isabel Garcia about What the Border Could Be

Southern Arizona’s legendary human rights champion rates the Biden administration’s first year at the border and suggests the time has come for a “quiet revolution.”

With 2021 coming to a close, and one year of the Joe Biden administration under our belt, I thought there would be no better person to assess what has happened (and offer a way forward) than Isabel Garcia, the cofounder of the Coalición de Derechos Humanos, based in Tucson, Arizona, a grassroots organization that has fought the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border—and promoted human and civil rights—since 1993. Isabel herself has been on the front lines of border struggles and immigrant rights since 1976, in the streets, at the border, in the courts (now retired, she was a legal defender for decades), and in the offices of policy makers.

In the interview, Isabel discusses the continuation of border militarization under Biden (including the Covid-era Title 42), the court case of a Tohono O’odham woman who blockaded the border-wall-constructing bulldozers with her body, the bipartisan nature of border fortification and the Democrats’ historic role, and activists’ decades-long attempts to stop it.

“Since 1976 we have been fighting for immigration rights,” she says. “I was a young woman. And we have fought within the Democratic Party. And we have fought the Democratic Party over and over and over again on the militarization of this border. Every single bill that comes along … it doesn’t matter what decade, it has been presented as a compromise, compromising what? Obviously compromising the border.”

Isabel says that if people understood the history of labor, immigration, and the border, the conversations today informing policy discussions would be much different. She suggests three major policy issues to tackle: U.S. foreign policy behind displacement, legalizing all noncitizens, and demilitarizing the border.

What stands out most is Isabel’s vision that in the borderlands—if we got rid of all the guns, gates, and guards—we could create one of the “most beautiful places in the world.” To do that, she suggests, there needs to be a “quiet revolution.”

Listen here.