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.

‘Build Bridges Not Walls’ Interview on KJZZ

“The U.S. border with Mexico has been a hot-button region for generations.

The figurative temperature was turned up during the four years of the Trump administration as a new stretch of border wall was a top priority, and as rhetoric about undocumented immigration became more intense.

How different would it be if we didn’t have borders between nations and walls were uncommon, rather than on the rise?

Todd Miller explores those concepts and others in his book “Build Bridges Not Walls: A Journey to a World Without Borders.”

The Show spoke with Miller about what images come to mind when he thinks about the Arizona-Mexico border.”

Listen here for the interview with Steve Goldstein.

Empire of Borders: The Expansion of the U.S. Border Across the World. Interview on Solidarity Radio

“In this Conversation, we spoke with Todd Miller, author of Empire of Borders: the expansion of the US border around the world. Miller has authored four books: Build Bridges, Not Walls: A Journey to a World Without Borders (City Lights, 2021)

Empire of Borders: The Expansion of the U.S. Border Around the World (Verso, 2019),

Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration, and Homeland Security (City Lights, 2017), and Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security (City Lights, 2014). In this conversation, Todd gives us an update on where we are on border expansion — and the colonial history of border creation and enforcement. We also talk about how borders work to maintain a neoliberal global economic system and why we need to look towards abolitionist movements and transnational solidarity to create a world without borders.”

Listen here!

Seeking Sanctuary: An excerpt from Tucson journalist Todd Miller’s new book, ‘Build Bridges, Not Walls: A Journey to a World Without Borders’

On a cold evening in January 2018, the very same night of Donald Trump’s first State of the Union Address, several students and I visited the San Juan Bosco shelter in Nogales, Mexico. In the shelter’s chapel was a group of people, many recently expelled from the United States, seated in metal chairs. The funeral of a six-week-old baby from Honduras a few days before had left a somber mood that still weighed heavily in the space. The child had died of exposure to the cold. The baby’s young, moneyless parents had just reached Nogales en route to the United States when the tragic death occurred.

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

A World of Bikes, Not Walls?: Demilitarizing the Border

From the mountaintops of southern Arizona, you can see a world without borders. I realized this just before I met Juan Carlos. I was about 20 miles from the border but well within the militarized zone that abuts it. I was, in fact, atop the Baboquivari mountain range, a place sacred to the Tohono O’odham, the Native American people who have inhabited this land for thousands of years. At that moment, however, I couldn’t see a single Border Patrol agent or any sign of what, in these years, I’ve come to call the border-industrial complex. On the horizon were just sky and clouds — and mountain ranges like so many distant waves. I couldn’t tell where the United States ended or Mexico began, and it didn’t matter.

I was reminded of astronaut Edgar Mitchell’s reaction when he gazed back at Earth from the moon: “It was [a] beautiful, harmonious, peaceful-looking planet, blue with white clouds, and one that gave you a deep sense… of home, of being, of identity. It is what I prefer to call instant global consciousness.”

A couple hours after my own peaceful moment of global consciousness, Juan Carlos appeared at the side of a dirt road. I was by then driving in a desolate stretch of desert and he was waving his arms in distress. I halted the car and lowered the window. “Do you want some water?” I asked in Spanish, holding out a bottle, which he promptly chugged down.

“Is there anything else I can do for you?” I asked.

“Can you give me a ride to the next town?”

At that moment, my vision of a borderless world evaporated. Even though I couldn’t see them, I could feel the proximity of armed border agents in their green-striped trucks. Perhaps one of the high-tech surveillance towers in the area already had us in its scope. Maybe I had tripped a motion sensor and a Predator B drone was flying over the car. Unfortunately, I knew far too much about one of the most surveilled borders on this planet and how it’s designed to create a potentially deadly crisis for people like Juan Carlos who cross it.

Although this particular incident happened a couple years ago, the U.S. border strategy still regularly forces such migrants into the deep and dangerous desert, as has been true for the last quarter-century.

The reason I so palpably felt the surveillance system all around me was because I knew that I was risking a prison sentence if I gave a ride to Juan Carlos, who told me he was from Guatemala. So, I hesitated. The natural impulse to help a fellow human being was almost instantly overridden by a law making it a felony to transport him and in any way further his presence in this country.

My hesitation both infuriated me and reminded me of how borders can be internalized. I had to think about what the Border Patrol would notice if they pulled me over, particularly that Juan Carlos only spoke Spanish and that he had brown skin. They would assume he was undocumented. Such racial profiling is encoded in the border-security paradigm.

In the end, I wrote a whole book, Build Bridges, Not Walls: A Journey to a World Without Bordersas a kind of meditation on that moment of hesitation and how it acted like a prism through which I could reflect on my two decades of border reporting. But the book is also a reckoning with the border itself, based on conversations I had with refugees, migrants like Juan Carlos, Border Patrol agents seeking out those like him, border-industrial complex officials making money off such voyagers, journalists and scholars covering the never-ending “crisis” there, indigenous people watching their lands being walled off, and those among them who have visions of how all of this can work differently.

One of the most important conversations of all came with someone who will inherit this wall-plagued world of ours, my five-year-old son, William. One day, on a beach south of San Diego, a Border Patrol agent yelled at him as he ran toward the tall, steel-barred wall there at the border to greet people waving from the other side, in Tijuana, Mexico. I remember him sitting in the sand, trying to grasp why that agent wouldn’t let him go to the fence and be friendly. Later, when we talked over the incident, he asked me: “Why can’t we turn the wall into bikes?”

A good question and, with Donald Trump and his talk of a “big, fat, beautiful wall” gone, there’s been lots of news coverage about Biden-era immigration reform, about “fixing a broken system.”  While my expectations are low, there also couldn’t be a better moment to begin to demilitarize our border and turn it into something else. As my son suggested, another world, a world of bikes, not walls — both more humane and more sustainable — is not only possible, but essential to pursue.

Read the rest here as first published at TomDispatch.

We Are All at the Border Now, An Excerpt of Build Bridges, Not Walls in The Markaz Review

I see a man on the edge of the road. He looks both desperate and ragged and waves his arms for me to pull over my car. We are in southern Arizona, about twenty miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. Behind the man is the Sonoran Desert — beautiful twisting saguaros, prickly pear, and cholla cacti — the living earth historically inhabited by the indigenous communities of the Tohono O’odham Nation. As I stop, the man rushes to my side of the car. Speaking in Spanish, he tells me his name is Juan Carlos. He tells me he is from Guatemala. He gulps down the water I offer him and asks if I can give him a ride to the nearest town.

Build Bridges, Not Walls  is available from  City Lights .
Build Bridges, Not Walls is available from City Lights.

Just an hour earlier, majestic saguaros and elegant ocotillos surrounded me as I hiked out of the Baboquivari Peak Wilderness with Tohono O’odham elder David Garcia. The night before, we had seen two heavily armed U.S. Border Patrol agents monitoring a trail we used to reach the peak of the mountain.

The Baboquivari Peak, where Garcia once fasted for many days to ask for guidance, is sacred to the Tohono O’odham. At points along the path up the slope, we could see layers of mountains extending for hundreds of miles, deep into Mexico. When you are up there you do not see the Border Patrol. You do not see the fleet of green-striped ground vehicles. You do not see the border wall. From up there, the border does not exist. Nations do not exist. The Earth appears as one uninterrupted landscape. Absorbing such a view can alter one’s feelings and consciousness in a way few things can.

Edgar Mitchell was the sixth person to set foot on the moon. He described seeing the large, glowing globe of planet Earth as deeply moving: “It was a beautiful, harmonious, peaceful-looking planet, blue with white clouds, and one that gave you a deep sense…of home, of being, of identity. It is what I prefer to call instant global consciousness.” Seeing the land without political boundaries became an insight into what connects us to one another and the planet as a whole. The revelation was sincere and direct. High in the Tohono O’odham’s sacred territory, I felt something similar to what Mitchell describes.

Parked on the side of the road, Juan Carlos asking me for the ride, awareness of our fractured world comes crashing back. I can’t see the agents, surveillance cameras, and sensors, but I know they are all around. I can feel them. Above, one of many drones in the U.S. arsenal could be documenting the moment and streaming data about our location and movements. Agents are armed not only with weapons and technology, but with laws. One such law forbids me from giving Juan Carlos a ride. Doing so would further his unauthorized presence in the United States. If caught, I could be nailed with a federal crime, a felony. In essence, I could get prison time for showing kindness to a stranger.

Read the rest in The Markaz Review here.

U.S. Empire and the Global Border Industrial Complex, Interview on the Geopolitics & Empire Podcast

“Author Todd Miller sheds light on the Border-Security-Complex and how it relates to U.S. Empire. He reveals how the industry is in reality bipartisan in spite of how the media makes it out to be (e.g. Trump’s border wall) and that the same border policies have been going on under both the Democrat and Republican parties. He discusses how America’s borders are fortifying and extending globally and how different “border sets” from around the world are scaffolding and coming together to form a global border security state which allows transnational corporations and the wealthy to seamlessly traverse borders while keeping the poor locked down in a caste system, waging what is known as a “securocratic war”. He touches on the economic policies and environmental problems exacerbating migration and diluting the sovereignty of foreign countries such as Mexico, and looks toward some solutions.”

Please listen to my interview on the Geopolitics & Empire podcast here!