Solid, absorbing reportage on the government’s racist and constitutionally questionable notions of border security in the post-9/11 world.
Independent journalist Miller takes a critical look at the U.S. Border Patrol from several angles, looking at the agency’s operations near Tucson (where he currently lives) and Niagara Falls, N.Y. (where he grew up), as well as El Paso, Detroit, Tampa, New Mexico and even South Carolina. When most Americans think of borders that need sealing, they tend to think of the southern one. Since its formation in 1924, however, the Patrol has had its eyes on the northern one as well. It was through Canada that many Chinese immigrants evaded the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. But since the apprehension of Ahmed Ressam, the would-be “Millennium Bomber,” in 1999, and especially since 9/11, the Patrol, its funders in Congress and others in the security-industrial complex are focused warily on the north. As one specialist put it, of the 4,000-mile border Canada and the U.S. share, “only 32 of those miles are categorized as what we say are acceptable levels.” The war on terror has brought about a boom in the security industry as the government has poured billions of dollars into Homeland Security, and the resultant expansion of the department’s power has had an effect on the older, equally fraught politics inspired by the southern border. Miller sensitively explores the effect of border insecurity on Mexican-Americans, including one unfortunate member of the patrol whose mixed sympathies cost him a promising career, and of the agency’s brutal subjugation of the ancient Tohono O’odam people, whose nation has been forcibly divided to keep those on the Mexican side of the border out of the Arizona side.
An unsettling but important read.