Migration & Culture/Koptiuch
Nogales Fieldtrip Reports

Jessica Dalske
Time to See the "Other"

There are many images that can come to mind when given the phrase "US/Mexico Border", but without an opportunity to see firsthand what is going on, one could still not imagine it accurately.  The phrase itself indicates US as the "first" world by naming it in the specific order.  Even on the "other" side most people named it US/Mexico respectively, ranking the U.S. as superior even when there is much disgust for the way it handles this situation.

Leo Chavez discusses how of "U.S. News and World Report" from the 70ís and 80ís views the immigration at the border as a problem.  One article in particular, displays a "war zone" which I was fortunate enough to witness.  He describes the scene of border patrol agents guarding the US side with a plane flying overhead.  Today the scene is just as militarized but updated.  Border Patrol officers "stand their X" in several station strategically setup to survey the area on both sides of the border, waiting for the criminal "other" to make an attempt to cross.  The agents maintain their posts and can sit for quite sometime protecting us (but from what?).  "All the elements of surveillance are seeking the same target", was the description Chavez gave, but somehow 25 years later we are still surveying the "Other".

Who is the "other", behind the wall?  Do we perceive them as dangerous enough that we must use this excessive force?  If so, what are we afraid the "out of control illegals" will do? The people in Mexico are small and large families working to sustain life with the only sense of quality provided by family.  They work for "US" for low wages.  They cannot leave their homes for fear of losing anything thing may have, including their home.

Chavez states "our two countries have a mutual economic relationship that requires people to move from one side of the border to the other". After visiting, and yes I was free to leave, the border I see a different side of the mutual relationship.   I believe that his statement is correct but that many Americans do not understand that they have created that border.  Immigrants from Mexico are pulled to the U.S. for work and the pushed back to Mexico.

I was fortunate to stay longer, and encountered a second experience of crossing the border different from the first with my classmates in a big "white" van.   This time it took 2 hours to cross the border into the U.S.  My friend was questioned by the border patrol officers regarding her papers and asked to show them.  She produced them and the officers allowed us to go on, but it was not the same at the second checkpoint (similar to km 21 in Sonora, Mexico).  We were put through an extensive interrogation.  At one point it was necessary for me to show my student ID (in addition to all the other forms of ID I had brought along) as proof to what I do in Phoenix.  We had a sleeping child traveling with us and her papers were shown as well.  Was it possible they thought we had taken her from Mexico?  Again, I wonder whom they were protecting?  I was glad to see that even though blonde, English speaking and obviously "white", that they took the time to question me.  I had for the first time a taste of being unwanted in the land of the free and the home of the brave.


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