Strongman on the Border

36.  The need for the wall was long conjured in such admittedly crude and misleading maps.  Is it any surprise that Vladimir Putin and Russian intelligence have encouraged an image that is designed to splinter the participation in public life of our nation?  For the division between “us” and “them” along the border translates into a division between our visions of the United States, divisions between folks feeling themselves wronged, caught in a spiral of downward mobility, endangered in their status, looking for making things great again, and those who are more trusting of secular laws.  

In prominently mapping the prominence of the border as a site of violation, Trump has created or allowed to fester divisions in the society, and helped direct aggression and dissatisfaction against the stigmatization of lawful immigrants, naturalized citizens, and permanent residents of the nation grew, as did the fear of a pervasive illegal presence that the creation of the boundary wall might be able to actually stop.
The imperative of the conceit of the wall serves to validate the authority of the Trump presidency, and concrete proof of Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and the promises in campaign speeches widely broadcast in international media and Spanish-language news.  Such broadcasts encouraged the numbers of border crossings to fall dramatically, continuing trends of decreasing numbers of border apprehensions, but the wall offers needed affirmation of the legitimacy and authority of Trump’s executive ability to effect the need for “taking control back over [national] borders” he had promised.  Yet what has happened within our own borders is a story omitted from the focus on the border alone, and not the tyranny that their strengthening creates.

The interest in augmenting border authority with border patrol agents, many of whom will not speak Spanish, accentuates its faceless quality in ways that undermine individuals in relation to the law.  President Trump’s supporters were ready to personalize fears that the border that was all too frequently transgressed, as they adopt diffused in a spatial imaginary that the Trump campaign cultivated and had been mapped primarily from the point of view of border agents, in ways that erase the perspective of the migrant or indeed their individual human rights.  

While  once cast in terms of border management— in ways that mirror the managerial rhetoric of business models that minimize judgement or best practices–the question of national security is inserted into the patrolling of borders, obscuring individual stories and warping our perceptions of control over space, to alter and diminish the relation of the individual to the lawThe tallying of totals of border-line apprehensions and refused admission by the Border Patrol that are prepared by the Customs and Border Protection officers on the southern boundary serve to concretize the region that they police in maps that have magnified the border as a site of increased regulation that needs to be controlled.   The forced detention of many undocumented immigrants beside the border has created a new landscape of American incarceration–including not only jails, but centers of detention and detention facilities–that has hugely expanded the huge industry of private prison facilities across the United States.

Detention Map USA-2017Detention Facilities of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the United States, including jails, detention facilities, and detention centers (2017)

–and especially done so along the US-Mexico frontier.

detention centers, detention facilties, jails.


37.  The number of CBP officers more than doubled since 2000, and allowed the border to be mapped without impunity after 2006, with the construction of the first wall.   The mapping of data on unauthorized migrants that labels their presence as “illegal” and as dangerous to the nation–their presence is hence mapped in red–has assumed a scary sense of objectivity in some of the right-wing media and the supposedly non-partisan–and objective sounding–Center for Investigative Reporting, a group defined by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group who have disseminated actually fake news to a large audience, as if to magnify the need for attending to the border as if it were a fixed line preventing transit.  

All of a sudden, data about the seizures of drugs, numbers of apprehensions, and other criminal violations could be mapped to concretize the border as a site of cross-border criminality, in ways that produced a flurry of maps able to suddenly concretize the border in the social imaginary, and indeed to map the motion across the border over time as something within the legal jurisdiction of the United States but over which we need to gain better control–as if this control is entirely within the law.

38.  Trump’s insistent call to strengthen the boundary has offered a particularly powerful means to demonize the migrants who cross it–and indeed it provides a figure of persecuting migrants collectively by reducing individual histories to violations of a law, measured by traversing a line, rather than seeking a new home and way of life or asylum.  The wall exercises and enacts form of tyranny over the individual migrant.  Candidate Trump deceptively argued “violent crime has increased in cities across America” to strike fear into audiences, and relied on how maps to embody a phantom rise of criminality tied to border-crossing.  

Mapping crime rates onto undocumented immigrants seem a specious performance of law; indeed, the doubling of arrests of immigrants with no criminal records, conceal that immigrants commit few crimes and cities with more immigrants are safer. Despite assurances that the criminalization of immigration addresses only those involved in a “criminal enterprise”, the wall has become central in a discourse of exclusion from the nation, with deep roots in the modern carceral state, by criminalizing the immigrant–whose danger was foregrounded in unsubtle infographics during and before the campaign, and have hastened the lawless raids on immigrant communities, with the decision to abolish any discretion about deportation, and shift from strategies of detention and prosecution to danger and removal.  

Hysteria-along-the-US-Mexico-border-map-showing-relationship-between-detention-capacitySchriro, 2009

Schriro’s bizarrely confusing panic-inducing map is not only a figure that registers and creates increased anxiety about the border, but suggests the border areas as an area of lawlessness, where ethnic high “demand” for detention justifies its removal from the law or standard operating procedure; the suspension of the law at detention centers itself justifies the suspension of the law in these bright red regions of legal indeterminacy, a “cartographical haze” or fuzzy space where laws may not apply– in its assertion of a false cartographical objectivity, indeed, the haze suggests a suspension of moral judgement and ethics, in the needs of the state and Immigration Enforcement to serve its duty to protect the nation and to detain the threats that the nation faced.

ICE Detention Centers over 72 hrs FY 2015GAO map from size and range of detention facilities from ICE statistics (FY 2015)

The growth of a barrier of detention centers and carceral regimes around the border–here mapped in terms of detention capacity (black dots) and demand for incarceration, by ICE Commissioner Dora Schiro in 2009, showing how apprehension and removal have created a new sense of the border, and mapped a sense of an invasion of the border into the nation, as apprehensions are no longer located along borderlands, creating a sense of the unconfined criminality along border regions, as data on detention bleeds south of the border, into the Gulf of Mexico, and across the Rio Grande–and suggest an endless need for the demand for detention along the border, through the apparent objectivity of a “cartographic fog” as a heat map adopts the sense of cartographic objectivity, in the terms of Mark Monmonier.  

The border not only comes, as Alison Mountz argues, to “stand in for US national borders and immigration policies,” but gains an interchangeability with other borders at the same time as foregrounding the dangers of criminal presence moving across the borders–even if the map does little to illustrate the mechanics of apprehension or the legality of apprehension along the US-Mexico border, or the degree to whcih those immigrants who are apprehended have had their rights compromised, as they are physically removed from legal representation, advocacy, and indeed interpreters or other family members, by marginalizing their presence in removed detention centers.

The presence of detention centers is naturalized in this landscape of a “demand for detention” that is objectively illustrated on the map, in a true “cartographical haze” that distorts our respect for individuals and sense of ethics, and even our self-respect.
Hysteria along the US-Mexico border: mapping relations between detention capacity and demand (Schriro, 2009)

The naturalization of the border as an archipelago of detention centers lying around the border, and beside it, as part of our national landscape is itself an undermining of justice for migrants.  Maps of dangers or threats near the border serve to justify the expansion of detainment centers in a circular logic, mapping “demand” against “existing capacities” for holding facilities, smoothing out rasters to justify the expanding facilities when the southwestern border Atlanta–from field offices in San Antonio; Phoenix; Houston;–overflowed with crowded detention facilities, as arrests of immigrants are concentrated on the southwestern border.   Indeed, the patchwork carceral network of 637 detention centers, county jails, juvenile facilities, and private prisons constitutes a network of disenfranchisement that operates on refined techniques of disenfranchisement from a lack of legal representation to contact with lawyers, translators, or non-profits and NGOs.

The resulting “map” of detention, clustered prominently along the southwestern border or in driving distance of it, most of them with dehumanizing conditions–including solitary confinement and other techniques of psychologically breaking down detainees and the federal government’s refusal to recognize that these centers entail any reduction or circumscription of rights.  That they do, and that 33,000 immigrants were detained daily in 2015, according to ICE itself, with 23 detention centers located in Texas accounting for 30 percent of total detainees and 45 percent of detained asylum seekers.

detention-map4.jpgTexas Observer

But in mapping an alleged “demand” in terms of arrests, largely by border patrol, and capacities of incarceration the distribution is both removed from any practices of detention or detainment, and their conse quences, which are silenced; the map’s fog effectively perpetuates the institutional interests of detention facilities., rather than explain the dynamics of apprehension or rationalize the legally unjustifiable extent of practices of detention:  detention is naturalized onto the landscape of the border.

Offices Shiro.pngSchriro (2009)

The creation of this topography at the start of the Obama administration–it was prepared for and sent to Janet Napolitano–reveals the stubborn nature of a mental imaginary of the border that has dramatically grown since, nourished by the publication of a range of maps that naturalize the need for the status of the border outside of the law. To be sure, the map calls attention to and reveals a conviction of the vulnerability of points of entry into the United States in Arizona–Lukeville, Nogales, and Sasabe–and San Diego, as well, encouraged by the increasing law enforcement, smuggling routes that have moved  eastwards into Texas and the Rio Grande. The notion of such a mobile border is different from a wall, which so sharply divides the region into us v. them where a need for deportation and detention trumps civil rights.

The databases that Schriro uses are confidential, and the determination of “anxiety” or “advantages” in Schriro’s heat-map visualizations are unclear.  But they suggest a desire for an objective mapping of the border, and imply a growing demand for locating detention centers on the far perimeter of the nation.  Such locations of detention would have the effect of removing those detained from legal aid or access to their families and relatives, as well as the external world: at the same time as Schriro’s maps, a National Immigrant Justice Center study found 80% of detainees held in such facilities lacked access to representation from legal aid organizations, and the concentration of local detention at a remove from arrests once cast in regional perspective–rather than in terms of the nation-wide basis of a network of mass detainment that seems to have spread like a shadow-institution in the carceral state.

Detention Map USA-2017

The image raises disturbing possibility of an expanding shadow private prison system in the United States already suggest a scary doubling of the carceral institutions in the country.  Detention centers however are more than a shadow system:  they provide few of the resources or correctional tools as prisons, but run under contract with ICE, risks actually violating federal anti-slavery laws.  Work conditions so dehumanize undocumented immigrants, whose presence in detention centers is rarely overseen.  They face little or no  medical attention or care, might be held in solitary, fed spoiled meats, and allowed moldy showers in sites of upwards of 3,000 beds otherwise built to house convicted criminals–all without legal hearings or access to legal aid.  The limited oversight of these private institutions is only slowly being investigated and monitored by non-profits that provide a sort of “outsourced” government operating outside the law across much of the country, if most often located near the to border.

39.  The distribution of such a network, of incarceration goes beyond a division of political parties, it should be noted, because it is already so deeply rooted in our landscape.  And it is mirrored in the expanding detention gulag that has been more recently mapped in terms of detention centers along the border–a sort of externalization of undocumented immigrants charged with offenses to the border, placing them at a liminal remove from justice or a process of appeals.  If this number of immigrants held without legal conviction, but labeled as criminal was quite considerable along the border by 2009–


–the growth of ICE detention center had grown substantially by 2015, in almost a shadow system of government that lay at a remove from the law.


2015-10-06-1444150686-7628997-DetentionGulagDetention Gulag (2011)/©Michael Dear/Dream Cartography

The growth of such a “gulag” concentrated at sites on the border–huge detention centers in Pearsall, Texas; Eloy, Arizona; and Lancaster California–have made the border something of a space for suspending civil rights.   The growth of this shadow geography of detention outside of civil law and outside of accepted notions of legal representation has indeed transformed if not undermined our sense of the relation of the individual to the law along the border, and allowed the disquieting emergence of a new logic of legality–removed from secular law–to flourish in recent years–jails in blue, detention centers in red, and detention site in black–


detention in USA.png

–in ways that reveal a “boom” of the apparatus for immigrant detention that was driven by a mandate for incarceration in private prisons in most of the country that is removed from individual political parties–as it turns a profit–that is removed from guaranteeing the liberties of the individuals detained.  Few would deny the value of such jails, which have become sponges of federal funds, to the local economy, especially among those who work at the facilities or have family who work there.  The diffusion of such incarceration of immigrants suspected of lacking documents or being criminal–crimmigrants, as the odious neologism goes–justifies the expansion of incarceration for many, and places it on the mental landscape of immigrants with a prominence no immigrants had experienced in previous years, and that recall the spread of internment camps of Japanese-Americans–although they are not for housing citizens, they are based on the debasement of their inmates, and the aggressive deprivation of their individual rights, that recall the internment camps that sought to alienate Japanese-Americans of their status as citizens.


The focus on transnational threats that the border wall is supposed to ensure against is perhaps its deepest myth and most persistent if deceptive justification for its construction.  The specter of violation of borders by external trans-national agents–as gang members who recruit form recent immigrants and the spread of an “immigrant gang plague” at rising costs to society that Trump defines in contrast to the children of immigrants granted rights of residence.  Surveying the nation from his newfound position in the White House, Trump may have shifted his rhetoric toward all of the estimated 11 million immigrants who overstay or without visas, but he has promoted policies of border security that present a new notion of citizenship and inclusion.  In such a deeply distorted vision, undocumented workers and migrants occupy the status of policing national frontiers and guaranteeing security that echo the widespread Islamophobia of the Trump administration in disturbing ways, and seeking to shore itself up as a nation by building stronger borders.

40.  If mapping a wall between the United States and Mexico as an impassible frontier promises to staunch the dangers of globalism, the coördinated removal of between 11.5 and 13 million criminal immigrants creates an imaginary cartography–but fulfills a need to demonize those traveling across the border and identify “trans-nationals” as threats to national sovereignty.  Although Trump is notoriously not a man for details, neither are his supporters: he has recast himself as something of his own cartographer of the nation-state, and uses the notion of a border wall as a basis to redraw the state and sovereign claims, using the conceit of the wall to pronounce about national belonging, in ways that go far beyond a building enterprise.  In projecting criminality onto illegal immigration, in the manner of British advocates of Brexit, or French defenders of nativism, the nativist argument that Trump endorses is dangerous to the nation.

For the dangers of undocumented migrants posed to the nation were magnified as a threat to civil society, appropriating many of the fears of refugees as sex offenders and criminals, and heightening the ties of Mexican migrants to drug cartels–even if the association between migrants and drugs is, not too paradoxically, more the result of the criminalization of border-crossing, as undocumented immigrants smuggled across the border may pay the price by transporting marijuana or cocaine trafficked in the United States clandestinely.  

The protection of the border is described as a paramount basis of the protection of public safety, as the site of the border is viewed as a failed conceit that has abandoned its promise to protect the public good.  But the notion of a ‘public good’ or indeed of what constitutes ‘protection’ have been distorted in this discourse, and is distorted in the false objectivity of maps.  Both the blame assigned undocumented, who pay hefty sums of $2,000 or $3,000 per person, and exploitation by drug smugglers of many immigrants, by cartels and prostitution rings, unfairly linking migrants with criminal acts, and are themselves cast as dangers to individual states, whose pernicious effects cascade far across the country in many visualizations that persuasively seem to link the porousness of the border to the influence drug cartels based south of the border wield across the land in images that identify needs for protecting “public safety” of cities exposed to the importation of drugs by cartels able to traverse the border since 2006 with apparent abandon, and under the existing legal structure that has failed the nation, and allowed the higher levels of violence, drug trafficking, opioid addiction and more to affect even small villages far north of the border:

artel routes since 2006.png

Their presence seems effectively to redivide the sovereignty of the state in a map dominated by transnational cartels, in ways that seem to refigure the very complexion of the nation and evacuate the character of the nation as a civil space:

Areas of INfluence

The recolcration of the union suggests a form of revealing the state of emergency occasioned by the growth of trans-national cartels.  Streams of sales that send American money to be laundered to Central America that have led a broad range of cities across the nation to report Mexican drug trafficking, moving through the border, and challenging our sovereignty–buoyed by a new “Hispanic underclass” that is “less interested in Hispanic culture” but that possesses distinct animosity to the United States,–as a policeman in Santa Ana put it, “totally different kind of person” from previous generations, and arriving “with a chip on their shoulder toward the United States . . . which they blame for the political and economic failure of their home countries.”  The danger of this dangerous flow engages a range of criminality that one can almost not completely catalogue.

There is also the possibility that drug dealers play on the recent immigrants who both need cash and may develop addictions.  But the deceptive and disquietingly elastic term “Criminal Aliens“–adopted by the Department of Homeland Security–creates an instability almost designed to provokes questions of whether immigration without a visa itself constitutes a crime.  An even more alarming image of the colonization of border states and indeed much of the western states with “Mexican Transnational Criminal Organizations” was run repeatedly on Breitbart, to suggest the increasing presence and prominence of cartels in daily lives of Americans, in ways that further fed fears of the “infiltration” of America by drug cartels, reprinting and repurposing the apparently objective U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Areas of Influence of Major Mexican Transnational Criminal Organizations as evidence of the endangerment of America by transnational organizations that the construction of a border boundary might prevent–but which describe the nation as actually besieged, with “Fort Worth . . .  under complete control of the Sinaloa Federation, [and] nearby Dallas the drug trade is split between Sinaloa, Los Zetas, Beltran Leyva, the Knights Templar and CJNG.”  

The mapping of a perspective of the DEA’s knowledge of the presence in each bureau of an individual or combination of cartels of transnational crime perpetuates the presence of such transnational organizations in the United States–in ways that the construction of a wall would hardly address–but encourages a mental imaginary of a need for an obstacle that could diminish that presence.  While the Border Wall would be a wild misappropriation of funds, it is promoted as a quick fix, and a definitive response, to a deep problem that both law enforcement and drug enforcement perceive, and are poorly able to map or control.

DEA field offices:Transnational Cartles.png

Indeed, the mapping of “major areas of influence” of transnational cartels suggests an image remapping the United States, and directly threatening the sovereignty of our nation, by casting the nation as subject to the “invader’s authority” of cartels, whose areas of influence indeed seem more prominently foregrounded than any national authority–the cartels cross state lines, and two are prominently present directly on the US-Mexico border.  Indeed, there is the sense that the dominance of cartels that the current system of legal immigration has allowed has disrupted the sovereignty of the government, and indeed the sovereignty of the state; the Sinaloa are dominant on the west coast, Los Zetas in southern Texas, and Juarez cartels in southwest Texas; they “dominate” major regions near the border, as if what are Mexican regions have made their presence felt in the United States in the new map of transnational criminality.

Areas of INfluence.pngAreas of Influence of Major Mexican Transnational Criminal Organizations/DEA

Cartels on Border.png

Dominant Cartels

41.  The notion of the border as a site of entrance of transnational dangers needing to be blocked has percolated in a tradition of particularly flat cartographic description, that has privileged the border as a site of unidirectional transit as if it were a generator of meaning.   The image built on a repeated mapping by the Department of Justice of “drug corridors” that include the National Drug Threat Assessment (2011) but were sedimented in the spatial imaginary of the nation extending back to a National Drug Assessment Summary (2004), or 2006 DOJ drug corridors (2006), that essentially overlap with the National Highway System, although if running on interstates, are tied to airports and other illicit avenues of transport, but made wide circulation on blogposts and websites as evidence of a suspicious police state, an invasion of illegal drugs, or a lack of vigilance of border patrol, currying a spatial imaginary of a nation’s heartland being destroyed by demonized Mexican cartels and transnational criminal organizations, mapping onto heroin addiction, in DEA documents stripped of original context or textual apparatus to create terrifying images of national vulnerability that effectively defined the cartels’ culpability of the deaths of Americans from across the border.

The huge deaths due to addiction of imported drugs seemed another call for the need for the construction of a wall, to stem the cross-border traffic of unwanted drugs that Americans buy and are increasingly compelled to feed their own addiction to.

Heroin Deaths--DEA--by Carteel.pngAreas of Influence of Major Mexican Transnational Criminal Organizations

Despite the objectivity of these images, the construction of the wall–and the erosion of justice for immigrants that it symbolized–has begun a broader erosion of civil society.  John Berger argued in his 2002 short essay on borders, later reprinted in Hold Everything Dear, a book written in reaction to and as a way to process the events 9/11.  In what seems a prescient meditation on border walls, Berger eloquently argued that the pressures of globalization, walls replaced class as the front line of the war between rich and poor not only in the world’s actual geography and constrain movement but define economic realities in ways that create a stark choice for everyone that exists within us all; Berger saw pervasive ethical problems in the conformism of the activity of wall-building as posing problems of conformism and an emptying of language–“the mouthing of words which no longer mean anything“–as the result of “the essential activity of the building of walls–walls of concrete, of electronic surveillance, of missile barrages, frontier controls, and opaque media” through lived space.  

There have been a number of attempts to efface the authority of the wall by erasing the image of an impermeable boundary wall.  Architect Ronald Rael revised the conceit of the border boundary by inserting the identity of individuals on either side of its structure, and indeed creating a sense of sociability across the wall able to bridge the very divide that Trump increasingly exploited during his campaign and in his rallies to create a pre-legal image of national identity, by imagining or re-imagining the boundary that would be defined by the wall as providing a site for inter-personal exchange, returning to the site of the “wall” in order to transform it to a new site of sociability, examining what has been constructed as a violent division as a site of social interaction–yet perhaps not addressing the violence of the wall as a stripping of legal rights and a violation of international law.


But if Rael successfully effaces the symbolic authority of the wall as a structure running along the southwestern boundary of the United States, the somewhat light-hearted proposals he offers in response to the public competition does little to erase the tyranny of the wall that is increasingly operative in American political discourse.  Rael’s proposal seems to recuperate a sense of ordered sociability and interaction across the violent division of space of a border wall, but runs a risk of obscuring the violence of its proposal. Is it in fact denying the extent to which its structure only seeks to remap the relations of inhabitants on either side by imposing a strict and violent divide between them?  

For while seeking to efface the symbolic authority of the wall in the present, the dismantling of its insurmountable structure by recasting the wall as a site for norms of sociability or exchange–whether on a teeter totter structure, or–as Rael also proposed, a series of rotating doors for potential burrito shops–set up a diminished set of norms for cross-border relations, impoverished by lacking any actual sense of unequal economic positions, and failing to confront the extent of deep violence that extends from the wall through the violent vision of the country and of border politics advanced by the wall that denies movement and obstructs boundary crossing, whether for economic, political, or human rights refugees or asylum seekers.  

border-walls.jpgFrederic Brown/AFP-Getty Images

Yet the horrific violence of the border wall exists as a new map of the nation, not able to be reduced to its actual or symbolic structure, whose effects spread across the country rather than being confined to the border.  Indeed, the call-and-response three word cries of participants in Trump’s rallies to “Build that wall!” suggest not only displacing a problem with an imperative, but organized a relation of the candidate and his supporters around a grandiose project, irrespective of whether it was built or not.  The promise for building an obstacle that seemed so simple concealed any of the difficulties of construction over mountainoous terrain beyond the 1,000 km created by the 2006 Secure Fence Act–650 miles–which gird just over a third of the US-Mexico border.  


42. The rhetoric of most maps of the border mirror Trump’s rhetoric of its permeability and “fragmentary” nature, by depicting a barrier whose gaps indeed affirm that the wall is “so badly needed” for those not practiced in reading its topography, which the figures of Border Security only confirm.  Trump’s arrogant reaffirmation of his vow to make good on the promise to build a “great wall” seemed a solemn tie to his audience, determined to keep those demonized figures out of the nation–and do so by redrawing its bounds.  The need for such a “great wall” on the 1,310 kilometers of the Southwestern Border that are not fenced off or marked by walls or vehicle barriers, and revealed by the gaps in the “border fence”–a term that Trump has, to repeat, disavowed by championing the firmer architectural figure of a “Wall” during his campaign, in another example of his preoccupation with the effectiveness of individual words, themselves both evacuated of meaning but assigned new, powerful senses–“Wall,” “Terrorism,” “Radical Islam,” “Swamp”–that have provided the obsessively capitalized pillars of his relatively recent political career as someone who calls it like he sees it, and speaks from the heart.

us-mexico-border-fence1.pngStratfor:  US-Mexico Border Fence, 2017

The actual construction of border walls increase the deaths of migrants and would-be asylum seekers alike, and disrupt the individual safety of migrants in the United States at large, and far from the border itself.  The attempts to efface the boundary wall by an organized play structure, rotating burrito stands, or other structures of exchange provide a poor means of addressing its open violation of human rights and international law, and indeed the pretext of legality that it affords to justify heightened economic divisions and disparities of life.  

The creation of an improvised space seems in fact one that maintains social inequalities, while offering small manners of bridging its space, and in retaining even a gesture to the presence of the border wall seems to ignore or sidestep the introductions of technologies of management, group surveillance, and monitoring that are enabled by a rhetoric of criminalization that pushes the limits of human rights, and upsets the legal terrain of the sovereign nation-state.  

Border_Mexico_USABarriers on Border Wall:  SanDiego on left; Tijuana on right

–before the state, if not the law.  As the barriers abound along the region, and Trump seeks to meet his promises to build the wall as the signature act of his Presidency, the replacement of existing fences with greater barriers is described as a ditto pf state/

43.  The response that the Border Wall created to questions of international relations was remapped in a ludic manner by architect Ronald Rael, whose design for the Border Wall was drafted in response to the call for proposals for prototypes of the wall to open bids for government contracts on an unimaginably expensive infrastructure project–although one that would be built outside of United States territory.  When Rael sought to imagine an alternative architecture of the wall, he suggested the need to recognize the shared nature of the frontier as a site of mutual habitation–in ways that serves to underscore its remove from the plans that Donald Trump and friends imagine. For Rael, the image of the wall must begin from the fact that the border runs so clearly through settled space–rather than across uninhabited lands–that the prospect of materializing–and militarizing–a permanent divide between lands or people by a wall studded with gates, checkpoints, and vigilance seems to obscure the relation of the wall to humans who cross the border annually, as if to shift attention from the migrants to the construction project that erases their stories in such a definitive fashion.  For the notion of building a continuous “impenetrable” barrier over such expanse divides populations, economies and habitats far more than warranted or justified, even if the degree of fencing that was proposed in 2015 has grown in the functions that it will perform in a new religion of the nation.

imageProtected Lands along the US-Mexico Border of Potentially Significant Environmental Impact

border-fence-06Border Fencing Proposed in 2015

For this reason, Rael rather whimsically re-envisioned the shared terrain of the boundary as a set of teeter totters, or a row of burrito shops with revolving doors, to attend to its disruption of an already uneasy social equilibrium.  Despite months of eager prototyping of models segments of a proposed Wall in a competition for schemes to secure a territorial divide between the United States and Mexico that Customs and Border Protection which garnered over two hundred submissions, which won considerable media attention, questions continue to surround whether the project will ever be completed, if not begun:  but the prospect of drafting such an impenetrable and unscalable wall, both “physically imposing” in size, impossible to tunnel under, and impenetrable to sledgehammers or other battery-operated electric tools for at least an hour, as if it were a simulacrum of the state:  the request for proposals for two types of prototypes of a barrier-like structure for a “Solid, Concrete Border Wall” by March–described as the President’s building medium of choice, were described as “too sensitive” to be released by a Freedom of Information Act, by the Department of Homeland Security, sought to meet the promise for building a “big, beautiful wall” Trump had repeatedly evoked in strongly figural terms as a candidate–promising to build for the nation a “real wall” able to “stop drugs, human trafficking etc.”   So proud has Trump been of the wall, and so closely has he identified himself with its mapping of the nation, that he openly entertained the notion of naming it after himself, as if to confuse his legitimacy with that of the wall:  the claiming of the wall as Trump’s own idea discounts and erases the longstanding debates about the frontier.

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

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