The Border is Everywhere



This photo was provided by Raul Alcaraz Ochoa, and shows his arrest after he crawled under a Border Patrol vehicle to stop the deportation of Rene Meza Huerta. Meza had been stopped by an officer of the Tucson Police Department and in accordance with Arizona’s sb1070, TPD checked his immigration status and called Border Patrol agents. Meza was arrested while his six US citizen children were only a block away.

“What happens in Arizona is going to come and happen to you….They plan to do more damage to our communities.”  These words of warning were spoken by Isabel Garcia, co-founder of Tucson, Arizona’s Derechos Humanos Coalition.

Are they true?  The largest workplace raids by the Border Patrol have both occurred far from the US-Mexico border; throughout the country, state and local law enforcement have taken up practices of racial profiling as part of a “crackdown on illegal immigration”; and every day, it seems, we hear new revelations about government spying on citizen and non-citizen alike.

The evidence seems to suggest that already border militarization and the criminalization of undocumented workers have opened pathways for increased surveillance and the erosion of civil rights across segments, throughout the entire country.  Border states such as Arizona have provided testing and proving grounds for technologies and practices that extend into every facet of life in the USA, including “drug balloons” and blimps, virtual fences, drones, and all kinds of the latest “security” apparatus.

It takes neither genius nor astute observation to see that both anti-immigrant hysteria and “the War on Terror” have been used to justify a steady stream of lost rights and lost privacy.  The growing assault on civil liberties  coincided with border militarization and border wall construction that in turn coincided with the passage and implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  The events of 9/11 began an even more rapid erosion of liberties and growth of militarization.  Much of that has been focused on the border with the impetus to “stop terrorists” crossing into the US illegally.  The only problem is…none of the terrorist attacks that have occurred in the US have been carried out by undocumented persons.  Think about it:  name a single “terrorist attack” in this country that has NOT been committed either by a US citizen or someone who entered the country legally.  The undocumented workers who cook our meals, clean our houses, landscape our yards, take care of our children and elderly, pick the vegetables we eat…they only thing they’re guilty of is trying to take care of the rest of us, not do us harm.

The truth is that the main reasons behind border militarization and criminalization have little to do with any endless, so-called War on Terror or with a desire to actually stop the immigration of those without papers.  Besides the raw, bald-faced racism that motivates border militarization and anti-immigrant hysteria, there is another primary factor:  controlling excess populations displaced by neoliberal agreements like NAFTA while making sure that a steady stream of workers make it through to provide a source of cheap labor with diminished labor rights. And while the degree may be different, US citizens and legal residents are also suffering similar ill effects of these agreements.  Our rural families are dislocated by the failure of family farms and many a formerly industrial center has become a ghost town because of factory closings.  Is it all that difficult to imagine that the mechanisms of repression aimed at the undocumented would also be turned against the rest of us?  Border militarization, for profit jails and increased criminalization are templates for the management of displaced and impoverished members of our own citizenry, as well as the infrastructure to control the dissent that all this surely breeds.  Perhaps it is time for all of us who are US citizens and legal residents to realize that we have every reason to ally ourselves in solidarity with our undocumented sisters and brothers rather than those of the 1% and the political status quo who continue fanning the flames of racism and repression.

Graph showing the growth in numbers of Border Patrol Agents–from the Washington Post.


Officers of the New York State Police operate a joint DUI checkpoint with members of the US Border Patrol. Photo provided by Dr. Lori Ghertner.

The mechanisms of racism, population control and profit have been expanded into the nation’s interior.  We hear about Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids in states like Iowa and Mississippi that are the largest workplace raids in US history.  Programs like Secure Communities and 287(g), as well as state and local laws passed in places like Arizona, Alabama and Georgia have turned local police into agents of immigration law.

We urge those studying this guide to pay special attention to the primary materials provided.  We start off with a short video that gives an up close view of racial profiling in action: a US born citizen being questioned about his citizenship because he was engaged in the suspicious activity of “driving while Brown”.  This is followed by a powerful article, Arizona Everywhere–an eye-opening analysis by No More Deaths activists Geoff Murphy that is a wake-up all for all of us.  We also include two more videos, each about ten minutes long. They are Checkpoint Nation, discussing the expansion of border enforcement; and Face the Truth:  Racial Profiling, which talks about anti-Latino and anti-immigrant racism within a larger context of racism against people of African, Muslim and Middle Eastern heritage.

The poet John Donne has told us that “No man is an island”.  True enough–we are all connected, and we all share borders among us.  To paraphrase and reinterpret the closing lines of his famous poem:  Don’t ask for whom the Border Patrol patrols–it patrols for thee.


 Detroit Border Patrol Racial Profiling Incident Video




Arizona Everywhere: Immigration Policing and the United States’ Expanding Borderlands 

By Geoff Boyce.  … Close to six million people live near the U.S. / Mexico border alone, while urban conglomerations along the nation’s east and west coasts represent the largest population corridors in the United States. In total, were one to map out the entirety of the U.S. Border Patrol’s 100-mile jurisdiction, it would cover close to two-thirds of the nation’s population, and the entirety of the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, New Jersey, Florida, Hawaii, and the country’s island territories (including Puerto Rico) – along with substantial portions of California, New York, Michigan, South Carolina, Louisiana, Texas, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Washington, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Vermont. Although, historically, U.S. border enforcement has been concentrated along the country’s southwest border, it is rapidly expanding into areas of the country where the Border Patrol in the past had only nominal presence.  Read More…


VIDEO: Checkpoint Nation

“What happens in Arizona is going to come and happen to you….They plan to do more damage to our communities.” – Isabel Garcia, Co-founder the Derechos Humanos Coalition




VIDEO:  Face the Truth:  Racial Profiling Across America


“One of the things that I’ve noticed over my 21 years of law enforcement is a historical relationship of racial profiling with African Americans…you now start seeing it with immigration. It’s starting to pour into other communities. And so you get this same feel…talking about immigration enforcement and the laws in Arizona.” Doctor Tracie L. Keesee, Division Chief, Denver Police Department










  • If two-thirds of the US population is within 100 miles of a land or sea border, do we have a reasonable concern that Border Patrol operating procedures relating to immigrants will be applied to the rest of us?
  • Policies to criminalize and stigmatize migrants began in 1993-94 under the Clinton administration. The 9-11 attacks were still many years in the future. While 9-11 obviously accelerated the process, to what do we attribute the pre-9-11 changes?
  • What financial/business sectors benefit from tighter border enforcement? What affect is this likely to have on immigration reform? on expansion of criminalization to the general population?
  • Arizona’s anti-immigrant and racial profiling law sb1070 was written by owners of for-profit private prisons, and Arizona’s largest state expenditures are those spent on the prison system.  Privatized immigrant detention centers are making huge profits off criminalization of the undocumented.  Is there any reason for non-immigrants and people living away from the border to fear new kinds of criminalization and the expansion of private prisons into the interior?  Do you think it likely or unlikely that the criminalization and incarceration measures aimed at immigrants might be adapted for legal residents of the US?
  • Are recent Iraq or Afghanistan war veterans appropriate candidates to be armed Border Patrol officers? If not, why not? If yes, why yes?
  • For those living away from the US-Mexico border, have you seen an increase in border and immigration enforcement activities in your region?  Have you seen examples of local police enforcing immigration law, or collaborations between local police agencies and the Border Patrol?  For those living near the border, have you seen an increase in border law enforcement and militarization?  How has this effected you?  Do you feel a loss of basic rights and privacy in your daily life as a result?