(THIS ARTICLE IS MACHINE TRANSLATED by Google from Norwegian)
When I have rarely visited people living in gated communities – it has been primarily in Metro Manila and Mexico City – I've wondered each time how one might want to live in a place where armed guards block access to one's own home. Where one's guests must submit to inspection and show ID and write their name on a list to visit.
Of course, you get used to it if you choose to label it yourself, but I never would in life. Choose it, that is, and hardly ever get used to it if I was forced to. Men with guns don't make me feel safe, and inspection makes me feel criminal and powerless against arbitrary sanctions.
This is how many people do it in the US-Mexico border, and they have not chosen to live in anything that others have turned into a war zone – where private and public property, public access roads and nature reserves are cut by checkpoints, fences and cinquefoil.
Ten years of militarization
Donald Trump has made himself (unluckily) noticed with many things, but his statements about Mexico, Mexicans and the border wall he wants his neighbors to the south to pay for have been a recurring theme. Nevertheless – contrary to what one might be led to believe – it is not Trump's ingenuity to build that wall.
In fact, there are already fences and walls in the southern United States, not least in Texas and Arizona, the states that share the longest border with Mexico. How it affects the locals on the American side, describes the new book Fencing in Democracy. Borderwalls, Necrocitizenship, and the Security State.
The two anthropologists Margaret E. Dorsey and Miguel Díaz-Barriga moved in 2008 to the Texas-US border – Dorsey himself was born in southern Texas. This was when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) started building walls along the border, even with the statutory right not to respect the country's other laws. It was under President George H. Bush, and the brick building and associated militarization of the local area did not stop under Obama, on the contrary.
I Fencing in Democracy Dorsey and Bíaz-Barriga follow the local population where about 90 percent identify themselves as Mexican-Americans or Latinos, but have been U.S. citizens for generations. These struggle to preserve their civil society, their land, their property, their local culture and their rights as citizens of the United States, while DHS is cutting the borderland without much regard for civilian access to natural resources, reserves and public infrastructure.
Physically cut off
Dorsey and Bíaz-Barriga use the term "necro-citizenship" to describe the process by which some citizens are rendered unjustified and ruled through violence and death. Or simply threatened to be physically cut off from the nation if they do not submit to what a narrow power elite has, on a mildly debatable basis, defined as the nation's interests.
As when Thomas Tancredo, a congressman and elected in Colorado – who, contrary to what Trump apparently believed, does not border Mexico – in the spring of 2008, said to a rallying assembly in Brownsville, Texas: "If you don't want a fence between you city and Mexico, then I suggest you build this fence around the northern part of your city. ”
Resistance to border walls has been systematically voiced as an expression of ignorance
and lack of solidarity with the rest of the United States.
Building the boundary wall north of Brownsville would, in practice, move the border 20 miles north of the Rio Grande (which is today's official U.S.-Mexico border) and cut off a city of 180.000 residents from the rest of the nation.
South Texas residents, despite their extensive and close cultural, economic and family ties to Mexico, are perceived as at least as patriotic as the rest of the United States population. Texas is one of the states with the most enrollment in the Army, and they carry their veteran identity with pride. Yet the borderland's inhabitants, the authors show, have repeatedly been portrayed as suspicious (non) citizens with suspicious "multicultural" attitudes, especially when they have spoken out against the utility of building fences and walls between the United States and Mexico.
Limitless exercise of power
Although Dorsey and Bíaz-Barriga are anthropologists, it is not their fieldwork descriptions – which are unnecessarily personal and far too informative – that are Fencing in Democracys strength. It is their analysis of the struggle of local civilians and local authorities against federal politicians, military people, and authorities that makes abstract narratives about spillover violence in argument for boundless exercise of power in the border country.
Stopping drug traffic – and undocumented migration – to the United States from the south were the primary official reasons for building border walls, sending hundreds of military units to the border country and sprinkling it with drones, video surveillance, checkpoints, automatic license plate readers and other technological-military hardware. . Nevertheless, despite significantly more deportations and deaths related to the migration system, undocumented migration has continued – while the level of drug-related violence and deaths in the United States has continued to rise over the past decade.
Building border walls, sending hundreds of military units to the border country and flooding it with drones, video surveillance, checkpoints and more
Although borderland residents have facts on their side, their resistance to border walls has been systematically voiced as an expression of ignorance and lack of solidarity with the rest of the United States. As Reynaldo Anzalduá, who traces his family in southern Texas to the 1750s, felt compelled to explain during a hearing at the House of Representatives in Texas:
"I understand what illegal migration and anesthesia smuggling is, because I worked for 30 years as an American customs officer at the border [...]. That is precisely one of the reasons why I am against this wall [...] because the real problem is the demand, the demand for illegal foreign labor, the demand for illegal drugs. That demand is in the US. "
Although violent and drug-related crime is dramatically higher in metropolitan cities from Washington DC over New Orleans to Chicago, it is the borderland that is defined as – and transformed into – war zone. Not by drug crime, but by authorities and politicians. And it is the people of the border country who are living with the consequences: being deprived of their democratic rights, in both the abstract and the practical sense.