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Hello From The Borderlands

by frank news
December 11, 2018

Today the President of the United States said he would shut down the government if the border wall was not funded. In July frank spent a month in El Paso, Juarez, and the surrounding towns and cities listening to the border voice for a deeper understanding of our immigration system and border. Locals offer a nuanced perspective in an otherwise stagnant conversation. Below are a few pieces with great insight.

1) Border Thinking: Exclude or Relate? By Josiah Heyman

Josiah Heyman is Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for Interamerican and Border Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso. He has worked in the U.S.-Mexico border region as a scholar and activist since 1982. Most recently, he co-edited The U.S.-Mexico Transborder Region: Cultural Dynamics and Historical Interactions.

In radically distinguishing between “inside” and “outside,” borders simplify each side. The inside is treated as a singular, cohesive entity. This often identifies insiders (archetypically, white citizens) with safety, well-being, and righteousness. The good but also vulnerable self is protected inside a powerful cover of nationhood—symbolically a safe home, as in “homeland security.” Sources of danger—especially unpredictable, mortal, and non-white ones—are relegated outside. In between the two is the perfect border that surrounds the home, protects from all danger, and filters in only good people and flows. The threshold of the home is particularly at risk. As the anthropologist Mary Douglas noted many years ago in her book Purity and Danger, people and things that stay inside conceptual distinctions and boundaries are ordinary, but those that cross such boundaries are impure, powerful, and dangerous. Perfect border visions are compelling drivers of politics because perfection of containment is desirable, but can never be achieved.

2) Immigration Crises: View From The Borderlands by Kathleen Staudt 

Kathleen (Kathy) Staudt is a retired political science professor living in El Paso. Her most recent book is titled Border Politics in a Global Era: Comparative Perspectives (2017).

Here in the borderlands, our vantage points offer frontline vision for how Washington DC policy hits practice, particularly the demagogic policies and cruel practices. We have had our share of marches, protests, and emergency outreach to vulnerable people exposed to the illegality of border guards refusing to accept asylum-seekers. Family separation and a "zero tolerance policy" in 2018 have roused the conscience of people nationwide. I am elated, even relieved when I see pictures of both borderland and heartland people and their evocative signs: “no family separation,” “this is not America,” and so on.