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The Evolving Border

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Paul Ashby has a good piece on what is happening with US-Mexican relations, particularly around the border: business and capital is integrated to cross the border smoothly while the border itself is increasingly militarized to keep what the U.S. doesn’t want coming in to stay out. And that requires American policing to extend well into Mexico:

In this context, what might be called the NAFTA-land security project, whereby Mexico is pulled into the defense of the U.S. “homeland” and the NAFTA economic space, is crucial. Mexico is tasked with improving U.S. border security by tackling “threats” before they reach U.S. territory, thus further protecting the “21st Century border” that is heralded in the Mérida language. Its most visible human consequences are for Central Americans moving through Mexico. Spurred by the child migrant crisis in the summer of 2014, Mexico is now deporting migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers (the distinctions between these three categories are not clear cut) at record levels.

The United States is deeply involved in this effort, reflecting what cables obtained through Wikileaks suggest is the long-term aim of having Mexico participate fully in the U.S.’s border security regime. It seems very likely, for example, that U.S. pressure preceded the most active intervention by the Mexican state on this issue ever seen: Mexico’s Plan Frontera Sur. The result of U.S. collaboration and aid, that initiative has effectively cracked down on the movement of migrants from Central America. The efforts of the U.S. to integrate Mexico into its policing regimes for North America are in this way bearing fruit.

These efforts give the Obama administration the opportunity to crow about reduced unauthorized entries into the United States, but, tragically, human rights abuses at the southern border have occurred at shocking levels. A Washington Office on Latin America report indicates that migrants face intimidation, robbery, and sexual assault from Mexican state agents. The report also describes the routine denial of legal rights to Central Americans fleeing violence and persecution as they seek asylum and safety. In other words, the 21st Century border initiative’s “smartness” appears to rely on Mexico’s use of some pretty blunt instruments to screen for unauthorized human traffic, long before individuals enter the United States’ sovereign perimeter.

This is the new reality of U.S. border security within the North American economy, and it’s a reality that will likely survive the racist zealotry of Donald Trump. The U.S. contiguous borders are set to remain permanently securitized spaces where “positive” interchange is facilitated while “negative” interchange – as defined by a U.S. state that considers immigration, drugs and terrorism its targets – is challenged and deterred. Mexico will act as a buffer space in this system, a policed territory for people desperately trying to escape violence and economic hardship.

This sounds fine for Mexican capitalists. It does not sound good for the average Mexican or the migrating Central American seeking to escape drug violence in their own nations that it in no small part fueled by the United States.

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