In late February, I drove to the Trump Wall in Sasabe, Arizona. As soon as I was parked, a green-striped Border Patrol vehicle, stationed a quarter of a mile away, crawled up the dirt road towards us. Shortly in front of us, a dystopian sign saying “No Trespassing” fluttered in the wind. It was cold when I got out of the car with my 5 year old son, William. The wall in front of us, 30 feet high with steel bollards, was imposing indeed as it trembled slightly in the wind. Through its beams we could see Mexico, a broken panorama of mesquite hills surrounded by a blue sky.
The Homeland Security vehicle soon stopped next to us. An agent rolled down his window and asked me, “What are you doing? Joyriding? ”
After I laughed at a word I hadn’t heard in years, the agent informed us that we were in a dangerous construction zone, even though this part of the wall had been built four months earlier. I looked around. There were no bulldozers, excavators or construction machinery. I wondered if the lack of machines reflected recently inaugurated Joe Biden’s campaign promise that “no further foot“Trump’s wall was going to be built.
In fact, that’s why I was here – to see what the border looked like at the beginning of the post-Trump era. President Biden had begun his tenure with strong promises to reverse his predecessor’s border policy: families who had broken up would be reunited, and asylum seekers previously forced to stay in Mexico were allowed to enter the United States. Given the Trump years, the new administration’s proposals sounded almost revolutionary.
And yet something else bothered me when we drove away: everything looked the same as it had for years. I have been coming to this section of the border since 2001. I have seen its gradual distortion during the most dramatic period of border fortification in the history of this country. There was an influx of border guards in the early 2000s, followed by the construction of a 15-foot wall (Senator Joe Biden) in 2007 elected for), followed by multi-billion dollar high-tech surveillance towers courtesy of contract with the Boeing Corporation.
Believe me, the forces that have shaped our southern border over the decades have been far more powerful than Donald Trump or any single politician. It was widely claimed during the 2020 election that by abolishing Trump, the United States would create a more humane border and immigration system. And that was a certain truth, but a clearly limited one. Beneath the theater of partisan politics remains a troubled border industrial complex, a combination of ingrained interests and relationships between the US government – particularly the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – and private corporations that have received very little attention.