Defund the Global Climate Wall

To create a safer, more sustainable world, the United States needs to divert border money toward climate action.

At a National Security Council meeting in September, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that the consequences of climate change “are falling disproportionately on vulnerable and low-income populations.” He continued, “And they’re worsening conditions and human suffering in places already afflicted by conflict, high levels of violence, instability.” He assured his colleagues that the climate crisis is a “core element of U.S. foreign policy” and that “every bilateral and multilateral engagement we have—every policy decision we make—will impact our goal of putting the world on a safer, more sustainable path.”

Blinken’s sentiment was echoed by a report on the impact of climate change and migration from the White House earlier this month, one of a slew of reports as the U.S. prepared for the United Nations summit on climate change that begins in Glasgow on October 31. According to the report, “The current migration situation extending from the U.S.-Mexico border into Central America presents an opportunity for the United States to model good practice and discuss openly managing migration humanely, [and] highlight the role of climate change in migration.”

Hypothetically, these words might reassure the more than 1.3 million Hondurans and Guatemalans displaced in 2020 by climate-induced catastrophes such as droughts, hurricanes, and floods. But the lofty rhetoric is contradicted by another story, one told by the U.S. government’s budgets.

Read the rest as originally reported by The Border Chronicle here.

Global Climate Wall: How the world’s wealthiest nations prioritise borders over climate action

The world’s wealthiest countries have chosen how they approach global climate action – by militarising their borders. As this report clearly shows, these countries – which are historically the most responsible for the climate crisis – spend more on arming their borders to keep migrants out than on tackling the crisis that forces people from their homes in the first place.

This is a global trend, but seven countries in particular – responsible for 48% of the world’s historic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – collectively spent at least twice as much on border and immigration enforcement (more than $33.1 billion) as on climate finance ($14.4 billion) between 2013 and 2018.

These countries have built a ‘Climate Wall’ to keep out the consequences of climate change, in which the bricks come from two distinct but related dynamics: first, a failure to provide the promised climate finance that could help countries mitigate and adapt to climate change; and second, a militarised response to migration that expands border and surveillance infrastructure. This provides booming profits for a border security industry but untold suffering for refugees and migrants who make increasingly dangerous – and frequently deadly – journeys to seek safety in a climate-changed world.

Read the report and executive summary for the Transnational Institute here.

Drug Cartels Do Not Exist: An Audio Interview with Author Oswaldo Zavala

Author and scholar Oswaldo Zavala challenges the cartel narrative anchored in a “national security storytelling machine,” and opens up a whole new way to think about the drug war.

Some books not only challenge our preconceptions but also change our worldview. One of these is Drug Cartels Do Not Exist: Narcotrafficking in U.S. and Mexican Culture, by the Juarense author and scholar Oswaldo Zavala. In the following audio interview, which you can also download like a podcast (see link above), he explains what he means by the provocative title of his book, first published in Spanish in 2018 (the English translation will be coming out early next year). By challenging the term cartel, he reveals an entire world behind the drug war, one that is anchored in official national security discourse.

In the interview Zavala talks about his time as a reporter in the 1990s in Ciudad Juárez and how that experience informed the argument of Drug Cartels Do Not Exist. We talk about what Zavala calls the “national security storytelling machine” and how the exaggeration and caricaturizing of drug smugglers (also reflected in the broader culture in television shows) justifies mass militarization (including, of course, the ever-increasing fortification of the U.S.-Mexico border) while masking other elements at play, such as huge extractive projects. These projects are often happening in the same places where the media focus on drug cartels in combat.

Zavala’s paradigm-shifting book also connects the waves of violence and homicides in Mexico over the last 15 years to the upsurge in this militarization, rooted in counternarcotics operations unleashed by the Felipe Calderón administration in 2006 under pressure from the United States, which provided help and eventually financing. But listen for yourself. I guarantee you won’t think about the war on drugs the same way again.

Listen here!

The Racist History of Border and Immigration Enforcement: An interview with geographer Reece Jones about his new book, White Borders.

In geographer Reece Jones’s new book, White Borders: The History of Race and Immigration in the United States from Chinese Exclusion to the Border Wall, he tells the sweeping history of racism in immigration law and border policing. This is the University of Hawai‘i professor’s seventh book (either as an author or an editor) examining border and immigration issues. White Borders begins at the infamous Charlottesville white nationalist march in 2017 (“You! Will not! Replace us!”) and ends with a meditation on the Statue of Liberty via a press conference run by Donald Trump’s senior immigration adviser, Stephen Miller. With vivid storytelling and incisive analysis, Jones unpacks the U.S. history that brought Trump to power and exposes the white nationalism that is inherent to border enforcement no matter who sits in the Oval Office. I asked him several questions about the book on its publication day, October 12. I was particularly interested in how the history he uncovers in White Borders connects with what we see on the border today.

Read the interview here.

Walls Are Dumb but President Biden’s ‘Smart Border’ Is Even Worse

In December 2019, the city of Chula Vista announced with much fanfare that it had been designated as California’s first Welcoming City. This designation honored the community’s commitment to include its undocumented residents. Located 15 minutes from the U.S.-Mexico border, Chula Vista has one of the highest populations of immigrants in the United States, about 30 percent of its population of 270,000. Rachel Peric, the director of Welcoming America, said this “inclusive environment” was a “model . . . to ensure residents of all backgrounds—including immigrants, can thrive and belong.”

College student Nicholas Paúl told me his city’s designation “was a proud moment” for his community. Raised on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, Paúl is emblematic of many residents from Chula Vista. “I’m a fronterizo,” he told me. Every weekend he crossed the border to Tijuana to visit family and friends. “It’s a way of life,” he said. “It’s not something that is unique to me. It’s my whole family, my whole neighborhood.”

So it came as a shock to Paúl a year later, in December 2020, when an exposé by San Diego’s daily newspaper revealed that the Chula Vista Police Department was sharing information from automated license plate readers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the parent agency of the Border Patrol, and of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“They collect information not only about license plates but also the car—make, model, color, location coordinates,” Paúl said. Police mounted cameras on four patrol vehicles that constantly take pictures of license plates while they roam the city. Paúl and other Chula Vista residents feared that they were targeting the city’s undocumented population, possibly his very neighbors. Furthermore, the license plate reading program had been in effect since 2017, so this was happening even as Chula Vista received its Welcoming City designation.

Paúl’s testimony is in a new reportSmart Borders or a Humane World?, that I coauthored with immigrant rights organizer Mizue Aizeki, and border scholars Geoffrey Boyce, Joseph Nevins, and Miriam Ticktin for the nonprofit Immigrant Defense Projectand the Transnational Institute.

Read the rest here at The Border Chronicle.

The U.S.-Haiti Border: How the United States Blocks Haitians Wherever They Go

Five days after the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people in Haiti, the United States sent a jumbo jet flying over the countryside. As people stood amid the wreckage, the prerecorded, disembodied voice of Raymond Joseph, the Haitian ambassador to the United States, spoke from the sky: “Listen, don’t rush on boats to leave the country. If you do that, we’ll all have even worse problems. Because I’ll be honest with you: if you think you will reach the U.S. and all the doors will be wide open to you, that’s not at all the case. And they will intercept you right on the water and send you back home where you came from.”

The U.S.-Haiti border had arrived. It came with 16 Coast Guard cutters roaming Haitian shores and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security opening up detention beds run by the private prison company GeoGroup in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. U.S. officials call this elastic apparatus in Caribbean waters, which can expand at a moment’s notice, the “third border.” Here, there is an enforcement web of many agencies—including the Coast Guard, Border Patrol, CBP Air and Marine, ICE, and even U.S. Southern Command—that emanates from the U.S. in Puerto Rico and South Florida. All these agencies participate in joint annual exercises, known as Integrated Advance, that are meant to deal with “maritime mass migration in the Caribbean.” Integrated Advance is part of Operation Vigilant Sentry, the DHS migration interdiction plan in the Caribbean. In 2015, officials even disguisedthemselves as migrants heading north on boats as part of the exercise and set up a command and control center. “A migrant operation is one of our most likely missions at Army South, so we have to be prepared,” said Major General Joseph P. DiSalvo, Army South’s commander.

Read the rest here at The Border Chronicle.

For the US, the Climate Plan Is More Walls and Armed Agents at the Border

Not long into our conversation, the young woman at the migrant resource center in Sasabe, Sonora, told me why she had left her home in Baja Verapaz, Guatemala: floods had ruined her family’s crops. Her name was Flor* and she was 19 years old. Two Category 4 hurricanes battered Central American coasts in late 2020, unleashing intense flooding throughout Guatemala, drowning harvests, and threatening starvation for the coming year. The migrant center, called Casa de la Esperanza, is just two blocks from the US port of entry. Mexican flags fluttered throughout the town on September 15, the day before Independence Day. Flor told me it was exactly a month since she had left home. She was sitting next to her companion, Esmeralda, who was 20 and also from Guatemala. They told me they had already tried to cross into the United States the week before, but were arrested and deported by the US Border Patrol.

Earlier that week, the World Bank released a report titled Groundswell, which predicted that, if global carbon emissions are not mitigated, 216 million people will be on the move by 2050 from six different regions, including Latin America, as a direct result of the changing climate. This came a month after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s August report delivered a dire warning: unless there are “immediate, rapid, and large-scale reductions to greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to 1.5 degrees celsius will be beyond reach.” Outside the migrant center, you could see the 30-foot wall going up the hill; it had been constructed by the Trump administration in late 2020, around the same time Flor’s crops were being submerged by catastrophic flooding. The red, rusty wall left a wide scar of razed land visible from miles away.

Read the rest here at The Border Chronicle.

9/11’s Border Legacy: Razor Wire, “Smart” Surveillance, and Billions in Security Contracts

Along the 20-foot border wall in Nogales, Arizona, six lines of coiling razor wire blanket the rust-colored bollards from top to bottom. Shortly after Joe Biden was inaugurated in January, Nogales mayor Arturo Garino asked that it be cut down. Although the wall itself predated the Trump administration, the razor wire was installed by the US military in 2019. Today, it is the most visceral reminder of Trump’s viciously anti-immigrant administration. But the concertina wire, and the wall, aren’t going anywhere. In February, the federal government issued a call for bids from private industry to maintain border wall infrastructure. As Garino said, “I know that the government has a tendency of, when they put something up, they always keep it up, doesn’t matter what administration is there.” Indeed, the maintenance of this flesh-slicing wire is but one layer of a complex and massive border apparatus and industry that Biden has inherited.

Read the rest here as first published in The Border Chronicle.

Interview at Teen Vogue: The Case for Open Borders Is Laid Out in the Book ‘Build Bridges, Not Walls’

Interview conducted by Will Meyer starts like this:

“The iconic abolitionist activist Angela Davis once wrote that “walls turned sideways are bridges.” This creativity and openness to our fellow humans — this bridge-building — is what we need to do to address the unfolding crises of climate change, mass migration, and late-stage capitalism, according to investigative journalist and author Todd Miller. Miller has spent decades studying the politics of border regions, tracing the human and environmental toll of decades of militarization, forced displacement, and detention. His fourth and latest book on the subject, Build Bridges, Not Walls, from City Lights Books, makes an abolitionist case against borders.

In a recent phone conversation, Miller spoke to Teen Vogue about the personal, political, and spiritual case to tear down border walls.”

Read the rest here.