Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Border Politics of la Frontera


Slate's Judd Slivka has an excellent diary of journalistic dispatches from Arizona's border country:
I've been at the border on and off for five years, and the damage only seems to get worse. There is more garbage, more tire damage, more evidence of people. Always, always more trashed landscape.

"Trashed" has a lot of meanings down here. For Mitch Ellis, the manager of the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, which sits right on the border and gets an estimated 2,000 immigrants a night moving through during peak periods, "trashed" means an area three times the size of Boston with enough smuggler roads that you could drive from New York to Omaha, a place where 3,000 of the 9,000 volunteer hours donated to the refuge last year were used to clean up immigrant trash.

For Bill Childress, the director of the San Pedro National Conservation Area, which is a few hours' drive east of the Buenos Aires and protects Arizona's last free-flowing perennial stream, "trashed" means four miles of river where the cottonwood habitat was burned out when undocumented immigrants passing through neglected to douse a campfire, which rekindled when the humidity dropped the next day. It also means that his staff picks up so much immigrant trash they get a special rate at the local landfill.

Link. The nail Slivka hits on the head has this engraved on the side of it: in Arizona, and probably in New Mexico, West Texas, and Southern California, la Frontera is the single most important political issue, affecting not only jobs but agriculture, crime, the environment, education, and foreign policy as well. It was Chicana feminist Gloria Anzaldua who said, "The U.S.-Mexican border is an open wound where the third world grates against the first and bleeds." Will that wound, like Langston Hughes's dream deferred, fester and then run? Or will it explode?

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Image credits: Nogales Border Wall - 3 by detritus, acquired via Creative Commons license.


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