Strongman on the Border

44.  Although the project does not seem to be built any time soon, given both the utter absence of transparency of the process and lack of plans to move beyond prototyping–it needs to be continually recreated in performative gestures.  Indeed, only such gestures can affirm, and manufacture a need, given a continued lack of consensus as to its effectiveness to secure the border.  Should we accept the absence of any allocated fiscal means to move beyond prototyping as a evidence the wall is more of a figural conceit than an actual project?   The completion of the prototypes promised to be manufactured with the existing discretionary funds of $20 million; yet none of the estimated $20+ billion needed for its completion was approved, or is expected to be.

The result is that the Border Wall far more easily mapped than built, and far more easily imagined than financed or operated–but exists as a powerful map of national boundaries.  The lack of any response to FOIA requests for information about proposed versions of the wall are explained by a need to protect individual projects, but few seem viable to their creators, and many have leached so much money to refuse much of a profit for builders.   And although some partly-built prototypes may provide a powerful photo op for a President who needs one rather badly, the images seem an illustration of grandeur likely only to exist as individual fragments–evidence of the stakes of proposals rather than projects that will be seen through.

image.png

image.png

Dark Pulse Technologies/via AP

The vast amounts available for building the prototypes insufficient to cover the finalists’ costs or help to advance completion of a project that was primarily introduced into political discourse, as a place-holder in political debate to map a vision of the nation.  The absurd perpetuation of almost nonsensical discussion of the building of a wall–recently argued to be equipped with solar panels to cover its cost, without any examination of the costs of cleaning and maintaining such panels, or described as needing to be “transparent” the sense that wants border wall “transparency” lest drug traffickers hit passers-by with “large sacks of drugs” that might create bodily injury may only reflect his newfound appreciation for the term “transparent” as a descriptor, but suggests some considerable flexibility and newfound uncertainty to the impermeable nature of the frontier he long championed in the light of an apparent recent discovery “You have mountains. You have some rivers that are violent and vicious. You have some areas that are so far away that you don’t really have people crossing” which led him to revise the project from a truly fetishized image of sealing off the 2,000 mile border to only  a stretch of “700-900 miles.”

 

45.  Yet if the Wall is to remain necessarily incomplete and unfinished in actuality, it has successfully created a cleavage through the nation, and one that has been able to perpetuate an increased insecurity among all immigrants, if not also providing a justification for many “rogue” border agents to take it upon themselves to discourage or deny entry to those immigrants seeking asylum to escape political persecution or violence, and as such violate international law–as the construction of a barrier that is planned to be in Mexican territory, the imperative to build the wall seems a desire for an authoritative mapping of the border between the United States and Mexico able  to demonize migrants who cross it, and indeed to erase their stories or individual histories of “unauthorized” migrants by reducing their migration to the violation of a law, measured by traversing a line, rather than their search for a new home and way of life.

where-are-border-barriers-in-place

The need for such a wall was perhaps never more clearly suggested than in the “gaps” of fencing and indeed of the thirty-two permanent border checkpoints that have legal authority to patrol areas near to the border define a logic and landscape of apprehension on the southwestern border, but appear to be full of holes and possibilities for evasion.  

GAO-09-824_Figure_3U.S. General Accounting Office  (August, 2009)

Indeed such maps, while not incorrect, have been disseminated to suggest the need for creating the border as its own authority, and as its own heightened zone of policing, as if it had an authority separate from the state, to seal off the nation from immigrants and ward off the specter of illegal border crossing.

Illegal migrants accepted

The landscape of incarceration that is located around or near the border presents an image of inherent criminality, and indeed seems a surrogate for the criminalization of cross-border traffic and immigration–of “crimmigration,” designed to reject Obama’s previous policy of “Felons, not Families,” as the targets for deportation, by the broad criminalization of undocumented immigrants, for whom the attempt at immigration is cast as the crime.  They seek to cement the alliance between immigration authorities and local police, moreover, and of criminal law enforcement, rather than the legal protections that applications for asylum or immigrants need to be accorded:  the criminalization of immigration is at its root a denial of rights, and a stripping of the rights of immigrants in the name of the state, but even more of a political theology and religion of the state that views all undocumented immigrants as suspect.

DETAINED IMMIGRANTS 2

NOTE:  immigrants held were not imprisoned with no charge but rather without a conviction; map shows locations and number of detained immigrants being held with or without a convictionon by Immigration and Customs Enforcement

–and indeed streams of immigrants, colored red to connote danger signs, arriving to take up residence in the United States in various states of alarm, danger, and a need to respond–as well as a sense of an unstoppable “stream,” shown here if a ridiculous primitive visualization, showing no sense of the actual volume of traffic by leaving that to the viewer’s imagination to fill in–in a data analysis that oddly displays its poverty of information, given the intent of the “Division of Migrant Education” to restrict immigration.

illegal-aliens-travel-map

illegal-populaton

Yet what is a wall or a fence?  Whille fence was the operative word and powerful construction of the spatial imaginary, the The Boundary Wall Trump proposed conjured an antiquated notion of the fence–not at all as in “good fences make good neighbors”–but it went deeper than a fence, and didn’t carry any sense of neighborliness.   It recalled, rather, an archaic sense of the noun as a means of national protection, and as an exclusionary boundary, as a verb as providing a defense.  

The origins of such a wall that trumped the law, and was defined around the religion of the nation, might be, paradoxically, be seen within the excavation of the development of codes of law performed by Enlightenment jurist Giambattista Vico, who saw in the wall a powerful precursor to the law: in his magesterial eighteenth-century Scienza Nuova, Vice surveyed a monumental history of civil institutions that attentively traced the evolution of languages in different periods of civil government, the Enlightened legist Vico placed importance on the carving of a line in the fields by a plow as an emergence from nomadic life, but a pre-legal bounding of limits of property and a bloody precursor to the civil state in the early Roman world.  Vico mapped philological origins of such boundary-drawing as a site of primitive fortification as predating legal institutions, in odd contrast with the championing of the legal status given to the Border Wall as a threshold of the legality by the founders of cities who circumscribed the urbs in ways  traced by the plough:  these walls were the most primitive form of writing and division of lands traced by founders of cities, before the civil law, that “bloody ceremonies had consecrated” [550].  

Romulus.png

Trump’s wall consciously recalls a difference of blood–an almost radicalized difference of nation, kin, and family–that separates the state, and combines it with the invented nature of the boundary line as an artifact of civil society.   It recalls in its violence as an imposition of authority the ceremonial staging of Remus’ murder at the wall, a fratricide which is both conducted outside the law and outside of natural law, as it violates international law and human rights law, but is staged as something that occurs for the need of the nation–natio–and affirming the birthright of the nation above the right of Remus to live.  The very extra-legal nature of the construction of the wall that Vico defined–a construction that is not based on written tradition, but precedes it, is somehow akin to Trump cultivation of the uneducated–“I love them!  I love the uneducated!”–and akin to the undermining of the law and disrespect for legal institutions shown by both the President and his own Attorney General, who follows him in placing the role of borders above the law in defining the nation.

36.  For the success of its violence against immigrants affirms its semblance of sanctity to the nation.  Its violence on the prospective undocumented immigrant serves to  deny the tradition-bound basis of such a wall in the law, or a legal tradition that is removed from human making.  Indeed, rather than exist in a tradition of the nation, the notion of a southwestern boundary was made in maps, not existing in the ethnic composition of the actual areas of western states as a fixed line–as if to separate those who are now understood as of different blood, rather than similar groups.  The expansion of the “border zone” far from the actual border has invited guardsmen without training to perform law enforcement functions described in section 287 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act (8 U.S.C. 1357).

Less than a reflection of actual difficulties, it seems a rewriting of the boundary in blood, whose expansion reflects the adoption in so-called Immigration Reform groups in border states adopted the term of “criminal alien” as an expression of criminality for undocumented immigrants, whose prominence among states-rights activists and nationalists blurred the and encouraged baseless allegations of criminality to be invited in a big tent of disenfranchisement and denied civil rights, cutting sharply against the grain of civil society.


090315-detainedgraphic-bcol-10a.jpg

Detainees 2015 GAO.pngICE Information on Detention Centers in 2015, analyzed by GAO-16-231)/GAO Blog

Screen-Shot-2017-08-01-at-4.16.39-PMoperators of detention centers 2017

ICE Detention Centers, 2017 (by operators of detention centers)

The invented nature of the wall is historicized as a defensive act rooted in blood–and that marks the differences in blood that the US-Mexican border wall creates.  Vico’s observation of the origins of walls, moenia, with the earliest form of fortification–the Latin word for ‘walls’ is moenia, a variant of munia; and the verb munire kept the meaning ‘to fortify’–of pre-legal status.  The sharp contrast to defining the border wall as a legal threshold with the criminalization of immigration reminds us of the extra-legal origins of boundary-drawing, despite its increasing power as a threshold of the southwestern boundary.  

Much as Vico has described the early creation of a wall around Rome as fundamental to its unity, but a crude metaphor for unity that predated the commonwealth or republic–or popular liberty–as walls traced by the first founders of cities by the plough, and consecrated by the blood of those who transgressed them–as the founder of Rome Romulus, who had consecrated its city walls by the blood of Remus, after the dark fratricide dedicating the blood of the brother who failed to recognize their authority and attempted to jump across them, and whose blood came to confirm their “so-called sanctity” [550]–an unmasking revealing the made or constructed nature of the wall as a barrier on the urban periphery.  If the very “building of Rome” is dependent on the slaying of Remus on the wall, in the “Year One” of Rome, it is both a sign of the birth of the city and the rebirth of the civilization, along the wall, where blood is a sign of regeneration, and not of death.

 

f49c8e35c6cc9d33c8fe2769fb631e08

76ae7ec6c09ccbb69431f8c892d9e83c.jpg

 

Trump would never promote the border wall openly as consecrated by blood.  But it is promising a new consecration of the nation by blood, and affirming a dangerously pre-legal idea of the nation in doing so.  Denying the hope to refugees or those seeking asylum, the elevation of the border wall as a needed barrier ties it to the sanctity of the nation.  If there is little the tradition-bound basis of such a wall in the law, or a legal tradition that is removed from human making, the creation of a wall that replaces scattered discontinuous fence is presented first and foremost as an act of patriotism that existing border laws lack, and as able to replace them.  

Indeed, rather than exist in a tradition of the nation, the notion of a southwestern boundary was made in maps, not existing in the ethnic composition of the actual areas of western states as a fixed line–as if to separate those who are now understood as of different blood, rather than similar groups.   The border wall coexists, it must be emphasized, by the expansion of the “border zone” far from the actual border.  The changes in border enforcement has invited guardsmen without training to perform law enforcement functions described in section 287 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act (8 U.S.C. 1357), and U.S. Border Patrol officers to expand their abilities to stop and search within a hundred miles of the border:  the border does not, in this sense, exist as a site of enforcement.   The expansion of the parameters of legal enforcement of transborder travel seems to reflect the elevation of the border wall as a “real” definition of boundaries, that supplants legal conventions, in the same manner that  the maps we currently use allow cross-border movement–rather than respect the legal integrity of the nation as a unit.

The border wall is less than a reflection of actual difficulties in defining a border.  Rather, it seems a rewriting of the boundary in blood, as a spectacle and a show of strength whose expansion reflects the adoption in so-called Immigration Reform groups in border states adopted the term of “criminal alien” as an expression of criminality for undocumented immigrants, whose prominence among states-rights activists and nationalists blurred the and encouraged baseless allegations of criminality to be invited in a big tent of disenfranchisement and denied civil rights, cutting sharply against the grain of civil society.  The proposal to involve National guardsmen to defend a nativist ideal was never adopted, but the strong interest in sending national guards to the wall as the migrant Caravan arrived suggests its militarization.  The growth of border wall suggests the nativist appeal to the map as a way to distinguish lines of blood. In order to uncover the invented nature of human constructions, and eager to distinguish the made from natural or sacred authority.  Vico privileged a philological genealogy to orient the universal history of civil laws in Europe in invented traditions.  In his story of the made nature of institutions, neither the role of maps and indeed the tradition of boundary-marking in maps or indeed in the spatial imaginary were guideposts to his archeology of knowledge–although Vico legitimately placed significant emphasis on the transmission of geographical notions.  

The border wall suggests a new stage in the transmission of notions about the border, in ways that reflect how borders, less clearly defined in maps that offer universal coverage and span distances in ways that allow borders to be fluid, provoked a new geography of state.

Leave a comment

Filed under 2016 US Presidential Election, Donald Trump, immigration, mapping the US-Mexican border, unauthorized immigrants

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.