A Salvadoran man looked at us and asked if we could make ends meet earning five dollars a day. I was with a group of students and we were in Arriaga, Chiapas, Mexico in a migrant shelter called “Hogar de la Misericordia” in January. The man, like most of the 15 other men talking to us in a semi-circle, had walked a grueling 150 miles from the Mexico-Guatemala boundary. They had done so to circumvent the numerous immigration, military, and police checkpoints on the road leading north from Tapachula, a Mexican border city.

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It isn’t exactly the towering 20-foot wall that runs like a scar through significant parts of the U.S.-Mexican borderlands. Imagine instead the sort of metal police barricades you see at protests. These are unevenly lined up like so many crooked teeth on the Dominican Republic’s side of the river that acts as its border with Haiti. Like dazed versions of U.S. Border Patrol agents, the armed Dominican border guards sit at their assigned posts, staring at the opposite shore.  There, on Haitian territory, children splash in the water and women wash clothes on rocks.

One of those CESFRONT (Specialized Border Security Corps) guards, carrying an assault rifle, is walking six young Haitian men back to the main base in Dajabon, which is painted desert camouflage as if it were in a Middle Eastern war zone.

If the scene looks like a five-and-dime version of what happens on the U.S. southern border, that’s because it is. The enforcement model the Dominican Republic uses to police its boundary with Haiti is an import from the United States.

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.


An excerpt of Border Patrol Nation as it appears in Guernica.

The police always put the checkpoint at the entrance to the mobile home park where María and Manuel live. A road barely two lanes wide leads through the park with its approximately sixty gray, white, and beige mobile homes tightly concentrated in a two-block area. Just in case, María and Manuel check to make sure the shiny black police cars and orange cones aren’t there. They decide to risk it and go to church.


Q: When people think about border or immigration enforcement they usually think about Arizona or Texas. Are you saying border enforcement is happening in the state of New York?

Yes, I’ve had this conversation with a lot of other people. You’re right that the discussion is about people crossing in Arizona or Texas. But they don’t talk about the fact that once migrants cross the border, that’s just really the beginning of their struggle. If they survive crossing the border, then they have to survive getting to their destination. And for a lot of folks their destination is this part of the country—Sodus, New York, near Rochester.

They get here and the whole thing starts over again. They’re getting targeted here just like they are on the Mexican border. So there’s this constant siege mentality that leads to the same sort of survival mentality as crossing the border. People are hiding, not being seen in public on purpose.

Border Patrol has told me publicly that its agents are sitting in their cars looking out into Lake Ontario, waiting apparently for Mexicans to swim across Lake Ontario from Canada. But these people are not coming from the north, they are coming from the south. So I picture the commander of the Border Patrol sitting in his car, I don’t know, drinking a beer—I don’t know what they’re doing sitting there, you know? And all the action is happening right behind him. The Border Patrol agents behind him are picking up all the farmworkers.

Border Wars’ Todd Miller talks with John “Lory” Ghertner, a doctor who is a member of the Greater Rochester Coalition for Immigration Justice. For more background information on Border Patrol operations in Sodus and Rochester, see this article written here for Border Wars in July, 2012.

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The United States has 60,000 border guards, more than double the size of Ecuador’s army.

On October 8, Tucson police officers pulled over a driver because the light above his license plate wasn’t working. When he didn’t present a license, a typical scenario unfolded: Under Arizona’s infamous SB 1070 law, cops become de facto immigration enforcement agents.

Simply put, the state’s “papers, please” measure obligates police to rely on “reasonable suspicion” to determine if someone possesses the proper documents to be in the United States.

But police officers don’t actually make immigration-related arrests. Instead, they call the U.S. Border Patrol. The October 8 incident marked just one of 50,000 such referrals that happen yearly in Tucson. The same Arizona immigration bill that former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) head Janet Napolitano called “misguided,” is enabled by her agency’s collaboration with Arizona’s local police forces.

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This article originally appeared in OtherWords.


Three generations of Loews have worked the family’s 63 acres in Amado, Ariz. In the last 20 years, the Loew family harvested thousands of pounds of onions, garlic and pumpkins without incident. So Stewart Loew, 44, who was born and raised on the farm, was surprised when he went to irrigate his fields one night and found himself surrounded by federal agents.

Pointing to the fires about 200 feet away that Mr. Loew lit to keep warm while he irrigated his fields, one of the agents slogged out of the ankle deep water in the irrigation ditch and asked Mr. Loew what he was doing.

“I’m irrigating, dude,” said Mr. Loew, who was in his pajamas. “What are you doing?”

“Don’t ‘dude’ me, I’m a federal officer,” the Border Patrol agent said, and demanded Mr. Loew’s identification.

This story first appeared in the New York Times.