Strongman on the Border

35.  Infographics and cartographic images that map the danger of cross-border transit had helped to manufacture the need for the wall, and lend objectivity to the need to stop cross-border transit and the illegality that it had perpetuated.  Data visualizations that collectively map cross-border entry of the United States collectively demonize migrants as violating the law, erasing individual stories in favor of violation of the law by transit across a border that the wall seeks to stabilize and reinforce.  The maps created by organizations such as the Center for Immigration Studies from Border Control statistics serve to designate the “illegal” nature of immigration confirms the outsider origin of the majority of current US immigrants–especially compared with a century ago.   In fact, over a quarter of immigrants to the United States are in fact “unauthorized,” and the group is collectively stigmatized as “illegal” to remap their presence as a problem for which they are to be blamed.  

The portrayal of the US-Mexico border as a site of illicit smuggling that was increasingly difficult to control, and no doubt unable to be left purely to local supervision or policing, as it was a threat that as shown to overwhelm the nation as a whole–if this map was generated within the Texas legislature.  Although few smugglers actually even concede that the border wall would end the smuggling of drugs or migrants, as the vast majority of drugs that enter the nation from Mexico–the “greatest criminal drug threat” to the country according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in 2017 moved across “U.S. Ports of Entry (POE’s) in “passenger vehicles with concealed compartments or commingled with legitimate goods on tractor trailers”–or that drive through under the supervision of Border Patrol guards, rather than across the border on foot, and often involve Border Patrol members who served as lookouts for the smugglers for extra money.

Although the range of factors that allow smuggling on road traffic are ignored in the “mapping” of smuggling routes of drugs across the 1,254 mile border that was considered by the Texas legislature–and which suggests zone of utter unguarded permeability–and terror–


–or in the imagery of gun smuggling by cartels working along the Texas-Mexico border —

gun smuggling from mexico

–such images of the traffic of guns, humans, or drugs suggest that they occur apart from Ports of Entry and at points a Border wall would protect.  But the porousness of the border is built into the system of members of the Border Patrol, and the mechanics of cross-border travel, and the panoply of smuggling routes of a “flow of transnational crime and violence” graft perfectly onto the locations of our highway system.  As much as Texas “seems” the central route of traffic, the locations of apprehensions or the detection of supposed “routes” don’t indicate itineraries that are fixed and stable, and cannot be stopped by border walls  They slip across the border because they experiment and know how to do so; they won’t be stopped by a Border Wall.

Panoply of Smuggling into USA.png

32.  The force of maps that place the effects of the failure of policing on the occurrence of a range of criminal acts in local places.  A set of powerfully polemic maps created by the Center for Immigration Studies, an allegedly non-partisan group listed by Southern Poverty Law Center as a “hate group,” echoes these sentiments.  made for Senator Charles Grassley from data compiled by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, reveals the locations of convicted murderers that were freed by ICE in 2013, in order to affirm the danger of the border as a permeable boundary in need of being affirmed to preserve the safety of the nation–invoking the very issue of “national safety” and “public good” invoked to allow Border Control officers and ICE agents to expedite deportations of immigrants without stable residence in the country deemed to be so deeply suspicious–mapping the cities where “alien” criminals convicted of homicides were released from prisons against the blue detention centers from which they were released, was called “the worst prison break in history” by Texas senator Lamar Smith.  

The release of “criminals” whose native countries have not cooperated with criminal deportations reinforces the designation of criminal identities for migrants to suggest the danger of “freeing” of such convicts has created across the country, disproportionately casting the release of 193 people convicted of homicide as posing a danger to the nation, by showing the release of criminals across the nation.

lease of Criminal Aliens.pngCenter for Immigration Studies (2013)/interactive map viewer

The provision of a “map viewer”  allows one to see the creation of such extremely unpleasant dehumanizing detention centers–no doubt a site of criminalization if there ever was one–as linked to homicides, in order to create a topography of fear clustered around entry points to the and public safety” and illegal immigration as a “clear and present danger.”  This threat is made manifest through the proliferation of border maps and in the mapping of the border that they create as a line of transgression that needs to be controlled.   For only by taking “complete operational control” of the 2,000 mile border and border-region and replacing what is deemed “no longer effective fencing” can a new and secure map be drawn, that Trump presents as fulfilling a bargain with his constituents, and a redefinition of its civic space.  

The redrawing of this undefined–and perhaps least defined–area of the nation as if it were central to national security led to the imagining of a “fixed” boundary, conflating culture and nature, were primarily addressed to containing workers, who were feared to flee their worse economic conditions in Mexican lands by neoliberals, and flood America; the current projection of dangers poised to enter the nation has of course been less about protecting a labor pool, than a way to map fears of poor wages and unemployment onto a symbolic site that assumes undue prominence in nativist visions of the United States.  Despite the historically productive nature of cross-border trade, the wall has assumed a place in our discourse about the nation–captured in the absurd premise of locating our sense of sovereignty in the policing of our frontiers.

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Filed under 2016 US Presidential Election, Donald Trump, immigration, mapping the US-Mexican border, undocumented migrants

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