The Border Patrol Trip was a unique experience in some regard. While it was very different to see the border so up close and personal, it was also through a lens that was provided by representatives of the United State government with the context of the people who must deal with the border on the social or cultural level. The people who serve and protect at the border usually don’t live in that area. Personal vendettas make it quite difficult even if that were an option for someone interested in doing so. Being labeled a “dream killer”, “race traitor” while being avoided like a boogie man is a common occurrence for the border patrol agents. Which creates further context on how that the lens in which we are presented of this field trip is presented. There were lots of historical statistics and correlated buzzwords, such a “amnesty” and “asylum” that are often used to frame the narrative and clarify the necessity for a monitoring agency of authority on the southern border. I wasn’t as engaged in those. All I kept thinking about was the officer’s stance and posture as “authority figures”. With communication being 80% nonverbal, Body language tells me almost everything I need to know about a person. These guys were the “John Wayne” types I’d seen before in the military experience. And everything I tried to avoid becoming. The belt grabs, the creases in the pants, even the way their boots were laced. I had seen it all before, none of it was new to me. For better or worse (most likely the latter) it was necessary, it was a psychological tactic to presume the assertion of authority in any particular situation. It’s like the cinematic equivalent of the Robocop’s “I am the law” but body language. The government training instills that in people, in order to create uniformity and precision. But sometimes it creates a lack of humanity.
And while the fact still remains that no department of the US Government serves the purpose of being an instrument of social change, there is still an expectation that humanity is not lost while executing ones’ duties.
The drive down the border was an interesting on multiple levels. From a tactical standpoint, there was a massive discomfort to be literally between the two border fences. The make shift wall created from the Vietnam era surplus Huey pads and the state of the art fencing and wall put in place over the last 10 or so, years. Although technically speaking, both walls are inside the US side of the political border line by roughly 10-15 yds, if something was to happen, we’d be stuck in the middle of nowhere with no support and no way to get back on the other “inside” of the state of the art fencing.
The geographic terrain was quite interesting as well. There were several major changes in elevation, from high mesas and steep hillsides for the 5-10 miles of fencing we traveled which leads right out into the Pacific Ocean. The amount of communities and occupied spaces literally up to the make shift Huey pad fencing was also surprising. There’s a clear normalcy to this that seems quite unnerving. People are literally living and occupying space right up to the fencing, which in some bizarre measure, technically would make them US residents, seeing how the fencing is anywhere between 10-15 yds. inward of the actual boundary.
For some perspective, there have been fences along the border with Mexico for more than a century. They just weren’t designed to keep people out. Strung with barbed wire, the first ones were erected to segregate American and Mexican cattle. The federal government didn’t start putting up pedestrian fences until 1990. The first one was built in San Diego where the number of apprehensions was approaching 500,000 per year. The fence started at the Pacific Ocean and continued several miles inland. Sixteen years later, when Congress passed the Secure Fence Act, the wave of migrants trying to sneak across from Mexico was beginning to recede. But in the years following the attacks of September 11, 2001, the specter of jihadists toting bombs across the desert and the more routine threat of Mexican drug gangs moving tons of product north provided the impetus to build what is there now. The U.S.–Mexico border could a co-dependent region with communities on both sides profiting from a daily exchange of goods and services, with a hybrid culture of food, music, and commerce, where members of the same family live on both sides, and businesses relied on an international clientele. Instead is a melting pot of tense commerce, capitalistic greed, contention, swirling with fear, historical judgement, political agendas & rhetoric, and inherent biased on both sides of the boundary.