36. The arrival of the faceless “caravan,” tracked en masse in right-wing media to the fascination of the nation, heading, as if ineluctably, to the border, seems to create a narrative of us v. them, nation v. enemy or threat, and order versus chaos. One did not need to read the street signs on the roads that they took, but they became emblematic of the many arrows, vectors, and rivers of migrants who had been described in earlier infographics. The horde-like characterization of those seeking asylum served not only to de-individualize their plights, but to distance their individual stories, and indeed convert the women, children, and transgender seeking asylum into a nameless mass which lacked any rights, and whose plight–and courage to perform the difficult itinerary on foot–only encouraged their appeal to be rebuffed, and their rights diminished.
As the larger group of migrants arrived at San Ysidro port of entry, even as the arriving migrants prepare to present themselves for asylum, the border wall and presence of the National Guard stands to erase the idea that petitioning for asylum lies within American law–if not for the few hundred who have made it to the border, for those who may follow. The notion that presenting oneself at a port of entry–or to the Border Patrol authorities–constitutes a crime serves as a means of presenting immigration as taking advantage of laws, and as violating a sacred law of the nation, rather than as a normal practice of immigration law. And the coincident decision to begin openly separating some 50,000 children of migrants from their families who entered the United States only served to remind them of a lack of legal protections, and to disorient them in their new land, in ways that were intended to serve as a monetary reminder to any undocumented migrants considering border-crossing.
In an age when the boundaries of our selves seem increasingly violated by distractive stories of social media that seem tabloid headlines, as if a disruptive set of exclamations, it is fitting that the border becomes such a central focus of attention for the nation. Nations are, we are told, essentially borders, and that “a border without a nation is not a nation,” and we are getting “control of our borders back” as if we were perilously close to losing nationhood, even if the projected border wall is not built and will not be built, the fiction of securing the border–which was never let or disappeared–provides more than a compelling focus of attention, that incarnates the despair of the loss of status of many Americans, and an illusory sense of returning to a lost state of integrity.