Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Empirical Image. Sealing the U.S. Mexico Border doesn't match the reality. .

To maintain a climate of uncertainty and fear of immigrants, it is necessary to portray the border region as unstable, porous, and the source of society’s ills. Despite being accepted as biblical truth, the image does not really match the reality.

The U.S.-Mexico border is the most traversed border in the world. With an average of 250 million crossings annually, only less than 1 percent estimated occurs without authorization and attracts all of the political attention.

In San Diego alone, over 70,000 Mexicans cross over daily, mainly to buy consumer goods. In 2003, shoppers spent $40.8 billion in the local economy, adding an extra $3.3 billion through sales tax. Considering there are several major twin cities that straddle the border, Mexicans help sustain the whole border economy by contributing taxes and creating jobs.

While the regularized influx of migrant workers is nothing new, the shaping of the imagery is a recent phenomenon.

According to Peter Andreas:

Public perception is powerfully shaped by the images of the border which politicians, law enforcement agencies and the media project. Alarming images of a border out of control can fuel public anxiety; re-assuring images of a border can reduce such anxiety…[therefore], successful border management depends on successful image management and this does not necessarily correspond with levels of actual deterrence.

This “image management” is used in the current context to criminalize migration while moving the focus away from the real issues. While no “terrorists” have been caught crossing through the Arizona desert, there is the permanency of fear (and perpetuation of the belief) that terrorists are coming across, blending into the stream of migrant workers.

The other phantom of border enforcement, drug trafficking, is also linked with migration through the “unguarded wastelands.” In fact, according to a Drug Enforcement Administration report in the aftermath of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the further opening of the borders to cargo traffic, it was estimated that most cocaine coming into the U.S. entered through official ports of entry, occasionally with the collusion of corrupt customs agents.

According to José Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, federal deputy attorney general and the head of the elite SIEDO anti-organized crime unit, the Mexican government is currently investigating possible links between state police in Baja California and U.S. Border Patrol agents in drug trafficking.

Migrants themselves face the greatest danger along the border. Pushing the crossing routes into the desert and mountains has created a human rights tragedy. Dying at the rate of one a day, casualties on the border will soon surpass the number of people killed on 9/11, and are ten times the number of people who died escaping over the Berlin Wall. Border militarization has not stopped migration, only imposed new, deadly rules on it.

But the biggest smuggler or coyote is the U.S. immigration system that forces them into such a perilous journey in the interests of big business in the first place.

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