Border Militarization

The Alliance for Global Justice:  For more information about using this guide, send an email to or call 202-544-9355, ext. 3.


Photo by Daquella Manera

Border militarization kills—as simple as that. The combination of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), a racist culture of fear, and border militarization has created a situation that funnels undocumented workers into the harshest desert terrains. The result: more than 6,000 dead, most from thirst, exposure or dysentery, some shot and killed by the Border Patrol or armed vigilantes. All are casualties of US militarism. We demanded “Troops Out Now!” in Iraq and Afghanistan–we must demand the same for the borderlands.

Unfortunately, there are many willing to compromise on border militarization in order to get some kind of immigration reform. But here in the desert, we find the bodies, we count the dead. That is why the Alliance for Global Justice has prepared this 12-unit Border Militarization Study Guide. We hope this guide will be help people around the country as Congress and the White House consider border policy and immigration reform. It is vital that we educate ourselves and take this struggle to the streets. Without popular pressure, we know what we can expect: half-measures and more troops, weapons and walls.

For the year 2013, immigration reform will be a hot topic.  We must also talk about border militarization, and do everything we can to resist it and end it.

And we must talk about and take action to stop the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a huge new FTA that would include the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) signatories-Canada, Mexico and the US-along with Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Under NAFTA, as bad as it is, any of the member countries can withdraw with six months notice.  The TPP has been described as “NAFTA on steroids” and does not include this option.  The TPP would be the largest FTA in the world.

Molly Goldberg, SF Pride at Work/ HAVOQ

It is the one-two punch of neoliberal FTAs and militarization that leaves our borderlands strewn with the bodies of undocumented workers and their families.  More than anything else, the goal of this study guide is to educate and inspire new activists in the struggle to end the militarization of the borderlands and to defeat the TPP and to repeal NAFTA.  So, no, this study guide is not meant to be a dry and artificially objective exercise in academic discourse.  The goal is action–action to end this cruel War on the Border–a war against workers everywhere, especially the undocumented; against Chicanos and Chicanas and indigenous in their own native lands; against all Latinos who are subject to racial profiling in the name of “border security”; against border communities and culture; against the land.  Each chapter will include an internet action component and will include ideas for action and movement building in local communities.


The Border Militarization Study Guide is an adaptable and evolving project. We have decided to put it out online, rather than publish it in book form, because as conditions and issues change, we will update the material. Likewise, we want to hear from those using the guide—what ideas you have to make it better, what points need clarification, how you are using and teaching it and other considerations you may want to let us know about. If you have any questions or comments, please send an email to James Jordan at or call 202-544-9355, ext. 3.

This guide can be used both for group or individual study. It could be part of a high school or college curriculum. It could be used at neighborhood centers, Sunday Schools, book clubs, union study sessions—anywhere where people come together to discuss the important issues of the day. For those studying as individuals, there is space for online discussion.

The guide is as adaptable as one needs it to be. Some may choose to take each lesson unit by unit, others may combine lessons, and some may skip sections altogether.

We also recognize that students of this guide will have different levels of time and attention to devote to the lessons.  For instance, someone who works 40 hours a week and more, with a family to take care of, will probably not be able to give as much focus to this course as a student at school who has woven it into the semester’s curriculum.  We recommend that students simply take the lessons at the pace and to the extent that makes sense to them.  While teachers in school classroom settings may have requirements for accessing and studying all the material included, for most students, there is no grade, no hard and fast rule about what to study and what can be skipped.  We know that this guide contains a lot of material.  In most cases, it is simply up to the student to decide what to study and what to pass over.

Each lesson includes a Preface, Video and/or Audio Testimony, Feature Articles, Discussion and Group Exercises, Take Action section, Online Discussion Forum, Suggestions for Further Study and a Glossary. Scattered throughout the guide will also be photographs and poetry to augment lessons.

The Study Guide is broken down into the following ten lessons:

NOTE:  The various lessons of the study guide will be released as they are completed. As lessons are published, links will be added to the list below.

  1. Introduction to Border Militarization
  2. Border Repression and Human Rights
  3. Free Trade, Labor and Forced Migration
  4. When the Border Crosses a Family
  5. Border Militarization as Occupation
  6. The Border as Martial Law
  7. Splitting the Land in Two:  Ecological Effects of Border Militarization
  8. Border Culture versus the Culture of Fear
  9. The Border is Everywhere
  10. Border Militarization and Empire


If you are interested in teaching or attending this class in your school, labor union, church or home community, please send an email of inquiry to .

If you would like to study this course independently and want to be able to post comments on the discussion forum at the end of each chapter, please send an email of inquiry to .  Of course, those studying the guide in a classroom setting are also authorized to participate in online discussions.


Thanks to all the many contributors, organizers, thinkers, staff and others who have supported the development of this guide. Especially we wish to thank the three primary organizations behind the effort: the Coalición de Derechos Humanos, the Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras, and the Alliance for Global Justice.

This project simply would not have been possible without the support of the Earlham Border Studies Program and the three interns they provided, who have really shepherded and midwifed this whole thing into being. The word “intern” does not adequately describe what they brought to this project because they were not here just to learn and help out. Indeed, they did more than anyone to develop the concept for this guide and to coordinate all the disparate parts and people and efforts necessary to its completion. Specifically, we would like to express our deepest gratitude to Sophie Kazis, Nasim Chatha and Will Wickham, all of whom are students at Oberlin College, here via the Earlham program.  Even before the Earlham Border Studies interns, there was Duke Feldmeier, of Prescott College, who helped conceive this project.

We also want to extend a special thanks to Chelli Stanley, who produced several of the original videos included in the guide and who has helped oversee the organization of all the video components contained herein.

Click here to watch this short, informative video of a visit to the border by the Alliance for Global Justice Board of Directors to learn about the impacts of border militarization.