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(DV) Nevins: Boundary Enforcement and National Security in an Age of Global Apartheid







Boundary Enforcement and National Security
in an Age of Global Apartheid

by Joseph Nevins
July 18, 2006

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Speech given at a fundraiser for La Coalición de Derechos Humanos, Tucson, Arizona, July 7, 2006. 


Thank-you to Kat Rodriguez, Isabel Garcia, and the board of La Coalición de Derechos Humanos for inviting me to be here this evening. It is a real pleasure and honor to join you all, and have the opportunity to share some ideas. 


Shortly after I arrived in Tucson in late May to spend the summer, I was listening to Margo Cowan speak, and she described southern Arizona -- given the level of immigration policing and its effects -- as a "war zone." Around the sound time, I heard Guadalupe Castillo categorize the region as an "occupied territory." 
It is easy to write off such characterizations as hyperbole, as the exaggerations of activists trying desperately to win support for their cause. But I want to take them seriously, and see where they lead us, because I actually think that they have a lot of merit and are politically -- in addition to analytically -- valuable. They help us understand what many have called global apartheid -- something I'll talk about a bit later -- and point toward ways we can combat it. 
In thinking about the border region as a war zone, I don't mean one in any sort of literal sense. There are not contending military forces in combat. But nor do I mean it merely in a rhetorical or figurative sense. That said, the rhetoric and ideology of war is, and has long been, an important component of the making of the U.S.-Mexico boundary. 
The ideology and rhetoric of war goes back to the very origins of the U.S.-Mexico boundary, of course. Southern Arizona and the border region are the result of a literal war -- the U.S.-Mexico War of 1846-48 -- and the subsequent military campaigns of pacification U.S. authorities waged to subjugate the indigenous and Mexican populations unwilling to acquiesce to the new American order. 
As is often the case with war, many on side of the aggressor cast it in what they deemed to be high-minded principles. As Walt Whitman proclaimed around the time: "Miserable, inefficient Mexico -- what has she to do with the great mission of peopling the New World with a noble race? Be it ours to achieve this mission!" 
The outcome of that mission was the effective theft of what was more than half of what was then at least nominally Mexican territory, and a large number of killings and widespread dispossession of the indigenous and Mexican populations. What was taken away was not only land but all the rights that go along with it, like the right to move, live, and work within. The theft was an inextricable part of the process to Americanize what is now the U.S. Southwest. 
Once that occurred, the rhetoric changed. It was no longer about taking what should be ours, but about protecting what belongs to us. Thus, the rhetoric shifted to matters of territorial security, and law and order. In the run-up to Washington's launching of the infamous Operation Wetback in 1954, for example, one INS official characterized the influx of unauthorized migrants from Mexico to be "the greatest peacetime invasion ever complacently suffered by another country under open, flagrant, contemptuous violations of its laws." 
In the late 1970s, during the height of the Cold War, former CIA director William Colby stated that unauthorized Mexican immigration was a greater future threat to the United States than the Soviet Union. "The most obvious threat," Colby warned, "is the fact that ... there are going to be 120 million Mexicans by the end of the century. ... [The Border Patrol] will not have enough bullets to stop them." 
Such hyperbole was not limited to government officials, but also appeared in respectable, mainstream media outlets. In it May 2, 1977 issue, for instance, Time magazine report described the situation in the borderlands as follows: 


The U.S. is being invaded so silently and surreptitiously that most Americans are not even aware of it. The invaders come by land, sea and air. They fly commercial and private aircraft; they jump ship or sail their own boats; they scale mountains and swim rivers. Some have crawled through a mile-long tunnel; others have squeezed through the San Antonio sewerage system. No commandos or assault troops have shown more ingenuity and determination in storming a country that tries to keep them out. 


It was in this political-rhetorical context that we saw the beginnings of the U.S. border region's militarization in its contemporary forms. 
As Timothy Dunn argues is his landmark book, The Militarization of the U.S.-Mexico Border, 1978-1992, much of Washington's approach to the border region since the late-1970s has been modeled on the Pentagon's low-intensity conflict doctrine, the essence of which is the establishment and maintenance of control over civilian populations. In addition to war-like rhetoric, it involves here in the border region all sorts of military technologies: increasing numbers of night-vision scopes, walls and fences, underground sensors, and even pilotless drones -- like the Pentagon uses in Iraq -- as well as an ever-growing force of armed personnel. These are employed in the name of the war on drugs, the war on crime, and now the war on terror. 
The security justifications have only intensified since the September 11, 2001 Al Qaeda attacks. As indicated by the proliferation of U.S. government hearings -- and public discussion and polling within the country as a whole regarding the U.S.-Mexico boundary -- the vast majority of the U.S. population perceive the international divide as a protector, and a necessary one, against external threats. In a world of growing "flows" of people, goods, and ideas across boundaries, the potential for threatening forces to enter national territory, we are told, is greater than ever. Tom Tancredo, a Republican congressman from Colorado and the author of the recently released In Mortal Danger: The Battle for America's Border and Security, for instance, stated in February that "Yes, many who come across the [U.S.-Mexico] border are workers. But among them are people coming to kill you and me and your children."  And then there are the likes of nationally syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin who, in her book, Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores, recommends, among other measures, the deployment of armed National Guard troops along the U.S. boundaries until there are at least 100,000 new Border Patrol and interior enforcement agents ready for deployment. 
While relatively few express views in as hysterical a fashion as Tancredo and Malkin, many share their general view that the insufficiently "hard" nature of the international divide is cause for national insecurity and necessitates a strengthening of the boundary in terms of enforcement by U.S. authorities. This is a view held in common across what is admittedly a very narrow political spectrum -- especially in terms of immigration and boundary enforcement -- here in the United States. As a result, most Democrats and Republicans share the notion that a strong boundary equates with security and that the United States has a right and obligation to build-up the boundary to protect us from menaces emanating from abroad. 
Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, in late-April, for example -- only two-weeks after attending a huge immigrant rights march in New York City at which she seemed to wholeheartedly embrace the marcher's goals -- called for additional border walls "in certain places" along with high-tech "smart fencing," while suggesting that Israel's barrier might serve as a potential model.  Meanwhile, the "moderate" Senate bill -- the counter to the Sensenbrenner bill -- and one deemed acceptable by the Democratic establishment calls for 370 additional miles of walls and fencing and 500 miles of vehicle barriers along the U.S.-Mexico boundary, in addition to 14,000 more Border Patrol agents over the next six years. The Sensenbrenner bill, by contrast, would require 10,000 additional Border Patrol agents over five years, and 700 miles of additional walls and fences. Thus, while the Senate and House bills diverge significantly on matters of legalization of status of those who are already present in the United States, on matters of boundary and immigration enforcement they differ little. Most important, they share an implicit perception that those beyond U.S. territorial boundaries are potential threats. In this regard, Democratic establishment's position on the border is similar to its position on the criminal war in Iraq: the Democrats can wage the war better and more effectively. The war itself isn't the problem, we're led to believe; it's the management. 
All this helps explain why it appears that many Democrats now seem willing to abandon (at least for the time being) components of the so-called immigration reform legislation having to do with legalization, and embrace the "border first" initiative and its exclusive focus on fortifying boundary and immigration enforcement -- as if that's what the U.S. government hasn't been doing for the last 20 years since the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act, or IRCA, in 1986. 


While the security risks that allegedly threaten the United States via its territorial boundaries -- especially the one between the U.S. and Mexico -- are numerous, the most important ones, at least as judged by the words of government officials, members of Congress, and media pundits, are would-be terrorists who enter the United States without inspection. They insist upon this despite the fact that U.S. authorities have caught exactly zero terrorists crossing the southern boundary. While physical security, in the face of would-be terrorists and, to a lesser extent, everyday violent crime committed by unauthorized migrants, seems to be the primary cause for concern, a significantly broader conceptualization of security is also very much present.

In talking about what he perceives as the insufficiently guarded nature of the U.S.-Mexico boundary, for example, J.D. Hayworth (R-Arizona), one of the leading forces in the House of Representatives championing ever-greater levels of boundary enforcement and author of the just-released Whatever It Takes: Illegal Immigration, Border Security, and the War on Terror, states, "One thing we understand about the nature of this problem is that is that it transcends all others -- our national security, our economic security, the future of Social Security -- all of these issues -- healthcare, education -- all tie into this issue." 
A rhetoric of security vis-à-vis immigrants and the territorial boundaries of the United States has a long history, one that goes back to the very first piece of immigration control legislation in the United States, the Alien Act of 1798. In this regard, the novelty of post-9-11 boundary-related rhetoric lies not so much in its general substance, but in its specific forms. However, even in the case of terrorism -- to say nothing about street crime -- rhetoric linking it to highly racialized outsiders, U.S. territorial boundaries and unauthorized migrants, long precedes 9-11. 
That migrants are constructed as geographically -- in addition to socio-politically -- outside helps explain why fears about terrorists and criminals from abroad translate into a focus on territorial boundaries to a much greater extent than fears about purveyors of violence from within the United States. Consider, for example, the case of Timothy McVeigh, who, on April 19, 1995, bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 167 people and injuring hundreds more. McVeigh was not from Oklahoma City, nor even from the state of Oklahoma. Indeed, he crossed state boundaries to commit his crime. Had such movement been restricted, it might have been more difficult for McVeigh to do what he did. Nonetheless, his horrific act did not result in any attempt to restrict movement across state boundaries within the United States. The reason why is clear: he was a U.S. citizen (and a native-born one) with the right to unimpeded travel across national territory. He was not an outsider. He was a white male and a military veteran. He was -- in terms of the dominant perception of what an American looks like -- one of "us." Thus, his crime did not involve a perceived geographical transgression even though movement across space was a key element of his act. Given this perception, territorial security -- at least one conceived in any way similar to that applied along the U.S.-Mexico boundary -- is not the response. In the case of threats -- real or imagined -- emanating from south of the border, however, they are perceived as being primarily territorial in nature and thus necessitate a response involving a build-up of physical boundaries. In other words, the territories from where these dangers come are seen as inherently threatening. It is hardly a coincidence that these menacing areas happen to be places where wealth and income is significantly less than that accumulated in the United States and where the populations are largely non-white. In that regard, the divide and conflict is one between 
a civilized first world and a barbaric third world. 
Antagonistic relationships between the so-called first and third worlds go back to the making of the modern world economy and the origins of nation-states. The conquest of what is today the U.S. Southwest, the dispossession of the indigenous population, and the settlement of the area by the conquering power was part of this process.  And like all single events, it was unique. But it was also a manifestation of a much larger process, one that began with the rise of European imperialism in the 16th century. At that time, levels of socio-economic development across the world were generally equal. In fact, Europe, in many key ways, was, in terms of political-economic development, behind China, what is today Pakistan and northern India, and parts of West Africa, among other regions. In five short centuries, however, there has been a radical reworking of the global economy, resulting in the creation of great wealth for some, and a mixed bag -- at best -- for most, and outright misery for many. 
Seventy years before the start of the U.S.-Mexico war, in 1776, Adam Smith published his famous book, The Wealth of Nations, and wrote about this problem. In it, he celebrated the "discovery" of what he called America and Europeans' figuring out the route to India via the sea around the Cape of Good Hope. He also rejoiced the linking of distant parts of the world through ties of commerce and investment, and the accumulation of great amounts of wealth as a result. But Smith also decried the detrimental impacts of these developments, and worried about the indigenous populations -- those on the receiving end of European expansion. 
"What benefits, or what misfortunes to mankind may hereafter result from these great events, no human wisdom can foresee. … Their general tendency would seem to be beneficial. To the natives however ... all the commercial benefits which can have resulted from those events have been sunk and lost in the dreadful misfortunes which they have occasioned." 
Perhaps the most "dreadful misfortune" that these developments have helped to bring about or, at least, lay the foundation for, is massive global socio-economic inequality, which has grown dramatically over the last few decades. 
According to a 1998 report by the United Nations Development Program, the global gap between rich and poor is growing. In 1960, the 20 percent of the world's population who lived in the richest countries had 30 times the income of the world's poorest 20 percent. By 1995, the ratio had reached 85:1. In 1995, the world's 225 richest people had a combined wealth equal to that of the annual income of 47 percent of the world's people. The three wealthiest people had assets that exceeded the GDP of the 48 least developed countries. And within most countries, levels of inequality have also grown significantly, with countries like Mexico and El Salvador among those with the greatest disparities. 
Such inequality helps explain why over one billion people do not have access to potable water and almost eleven million children across the globe die every year due to malnutrition and diseases -- phenomena that are preventable given the abundance of resources in our world, but that are also inevitable given the unequal distribution of and access to these resources. A manifestation of this inequality -- and something that helps to reproduce it -- is the ability or lack thereof to move across international boundaries. Those with little income and material wealth are denied the right to cross many national boundaries, while those with wealth and security travel with ease. In this regard, boundary enforcement reflects and simultaneously creates insecurity -- especially for those on the less privileged side of the divides between rich and poor. 
On July 10, 2001, readers of The New York Times viewed a photo that demonstrated such insecurity. The front-page image showed two beach-goers sitting under an umbrella in Tarifa, Spain looking off in the distance at the dead body of a would-be unauthorized immigrant—presumably from somewhere in Africa -- washed up on the shore. Entitled by the photographer as "The Indifference of the West," the Times' caption stated that the two people were waiting for the police, suggesting that someone -- perhaps the beach-goers themselves -- had called the authorities in response to the tragic scene. Regardless of whether "indifference" or intervention in the form of calling the police were on display, the photo captures brilliantly and painfully the unequal access to particular nationalized spaces experienced by people across the globe. For the beach-goers, arriving at Tarifa was most likely a relatively easy experience -- even if they were from outside of Spain -- because of their socio-economic status and other geographically informed privileges (one of which relates to their ability to move across global space). For the dead migrant, trying to reach Tarifa by traversing the treacherous Strait of Gibraltar was literally a death-defying activity. 
Who has the ability to move without hindrance across global space and who does not is perhaps the starkest example of the apartheid-like conditions embodied by the statistics of socio-economic disparity. 
Almost two years ago, the New York Times unintentionally yet powerfully illustrated how this works. In a lead article on August 13, 2004, entitled, "In Pursuit of Fabulousness" in the "Escapes" section of the paper, the New York Times introduced its readers to "the new St. Bart's," a reference to St. Barthelemy, the tiny Caribbean island in the French West Indies that serves as a lavish get-away destination for many of the global rich and famous. 
But this place is better than St. Bart's, we learn from the Times. In addition to having more favorable prices, "It's so close," explains Margarita Waxman -- only 3 ½ hours by plane from New York City. Margarita, a SoHo resident and just retired from a public relations job at the upscale jeweler, Bulgari, flies back and forth monthly. At the time of the article, she had recently paid $3 million for four acres of beachfront for a new villa there, instead of in the harder-to-get-to St. Bart's, where she has often vacationed. 
Mikhail Baryshnikov, the ballet star, also has a vacation home there. It is located close to the sprawling Southern Greek Revival beachside abode of his good friend and native son, Oscar de la Renta, in the same town where the fashion designer and singer Julio Iglesias are partners in a luxury resort and club. Prices there range from $310,000 for a three-bedroom villa away from the sea to several millions dollar for property on the beach -- such as Iglesias's home, a six-acre Balinese compound. 
"There's so much building going on," gushes Amelia Vicini, a fashion editor at Town & Country magazine, who was born and raised in the tropical paradise. "Every time I go home, I am amazed. The winter season is crazy, full of people -- celebrities, A-listers, everyone." 
This hot location is the Dominican Republic. "Until a few years ago, the Dominican Republic had a reputation as second-rate, and affluent shoppers for second homes largely stayed away," the Times explained. "Then, in the early 90's, developers . . . began attracting attention with luxurious gated communities on the water." 
Only one day earlier, the Times ran an Associated Press article on the inside of the main section about a different type of water-related escape involving the Dominican Republic. Entitled, "Dominicans Saved From Sea Tell of Attacks and Deaths of Thirst," the piece recounted the horrific experiences of about 80 Dominican migrants fleeing the poverty in their homeland. Having paid $450 each -- about a year's income for most Dominicans -- they tried to sail clandestinely to Puerto Rico so that they would be then able to fly to the U.S. mainland free of immigration controls. 
The engine of the small wooden boat died two days after its departure from the coastal village of Limón. By the next day, the vessel's water and meager food supply -- chocolate, peanuts sardines, and some coconuts -- were depleted. The passengers began to panic. 
Two lactating women reportedly dripped their breast milk into a bottle for passengers to drink. Another told of eating his tube of Colgate to survive. The boat drifted at sea for almost two weeks. People began dying on the fifth day, their bodies thrown into shark-infested waters by those still living. Many jumped overboard in desperation, and drowned. Forty-seven ended up perishing on the voyage. Another eight died of dehydration after Dominican authorities rescued a total of 39 people. 
In a follow-up article on August 16, the Times describes the homes of the majority of the inhabitants of one of the villages of many of the migrants as being made of "lashed-together pieces of tin." Attempts to flee from such poverty to a better life in the United States had increased over that last year in the context of a severe economic downturn in the Dominican Republic. 
Such unauthorized crossings have a long and deep history given the intense migratory ties between the United States and the Dominican Republic. And so do migrant deaths. 
A May 12, 1998 report in the Los Angeles Times, for example, spoke of "human bones littering the small shoals and islets between the Dominican and Puerto Rican shores" as a result of crossing-related fatalities. In November 2003, the U.S. Border Patrol estimated that, over the previous three years, nearly 300 people had either died or vanished while crossing the Mona Passage between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. And another 164 U.S.-bound migrants had reportedly died or disappeared elsewhere in the Caribbean during the same period. 
In the late 1990s, the economy of the Dominican Republic was growing at a fast pace. But the economic expansion did little for the poor and middle class, many members of which also attempted to make the perilous journey. By the time of these New York Times reports, that expansion was long-gone, unemployment stood officially at 16 percent, the rate of inflation was 32 percent, and the Dominican peso had lost half of its value against the U.S. dollar over the previous two years, resulting in a doubling of prices during that period. In addition, the country's electrical system was a mess, with electricity typically only available for a few hours a day. 
Little of this profoundly affects the lives of rich Dominicans or the affluent foreigners eagerly buying up the country's prime beachfront property. As an envious real estate agent from St. Bart's explained, "You can be a king in the Dominican for very little money." Or, as Margarita Waxman effused, "There's a quaintness about it. It has all the beauty of St. Bart's, only more bohemian." 
If, as Stuart Hall and Ruth Wilson Gilmore have argued, racism is the fatal coupling of power and difference -- fatal in the sense that it shapes one's life (and death) circumstances -- the reporting on the Dominican Republic in the New York Times exposes one of the faces of global apartheid. It is one in which the relatively rich and largely white are free to travel and live wherever they would like and to access the resources they "need." Meanwhile the relatively poor and largely non-white are forced to subsist in places where there are not enough resources to provide sufficient livelihood or, in order to overcome their deprivation and insecurity, to risk their lives trying to overcome ever-stronger boundary controls put into place by rich countries. As in the case of non-whites in Apartheid South Africa, they have fewer rights on the basis of their geographic origins -- something they have no control over. 
Such deaths are increasingly common in border regions between the privileged and less well-off as the boundaries between rich and poor, stable and unstable, become increasingly fortified. 
On January 10 of this year, twenty-four Haitian migrants suffocated to death while hidden in a truck. They were crossing clandestinely from their poverty-stricken homeland into the Dominican Republic where presumably they hoped to live and work "illegally" as hundreds of thousands of their compatriots do. 
Several days later, upwards of 60 migrants from strife-torn and economically devastated Zimbabwe drowned in the Limpopo River that serves as their country's southern boundary. Reportedly, the migrants had formed a human chain by holding hands to protect each other as they waded across the swollen river into neighboring South Africa. Nonetheless, the strength of the current swept them all away. 
Countless Zimbabweans live and work without authorization in South Africa. While some are able to bribe border guards to enter the country, the vast majority take a more risky path -- first, by braving the waters of the Limpopo where, in addition to occasional swells, crocodiles, poisonous snakes, lions and hippos frequently kill crossers. The migrants then have to scale three layers of razor- and barbed-wire fencing, which is electrified (albeit at "non-lethal" levels). 
The deaths of unauthorized migrants crossing the boundaries that divide the relatively rich and poor, and the insecure and the safe, happen far more frequently along the geographic edges of the United States and the European Union (EU) than they do in places like southern Africa or on Hispaniola -- the island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In the case of unauthorized crossings between north Africa and Spain, for example, the Association of Immigrant Moroccan Workers in Spain, estimates that more than 4,000 migrants lost their lives between 1997 and early 2004. Just this month -- on July 3 -- Moroccan border guards fired on a group of 70 migrants who stormed the six-meter-high fence between Morocco and Melilla, an enclave of Spain, a residue of colonialism, in North Africa. At least 8 more migrants were seriously wounded by razor wire. On the same day, Moroccan authorities found the bodies of 21 people off the coast of the Western Sahara -- and have discovered 9 more since -- who drowned when their boat capsized while trying to reach the Spanish Canary Islands; another 40 or so individuals are still missing. And the inter-governmental International Centre for Migration Policy and Development estimates that about 10,000 people lost their lives in the Mediterranean in 1993-2003 while trying to reach Europe. As and we well know, along the U.S.-Mexico boundary, it is conservatively estimated that more than 3,800 migrants have lost their lives over the last ten years while trying to cross into the United States.  This is one manifestation of the "collateral damage" of the border wars, ones that entail the building of walls like those championed by Hillary Clinton. 
This parallel between Israel's barrier and those of the U.S.-Mexico boundary drawn between by Clinton is an interesting one, and more appropriate than it might appear at first glance. Despite the emphasis on national security, Israel's barrier is first and foremost about maintaining and advancing an occupation, about furthering dispossession. As Guadalupe Castillo has pointed out to me, it flows from and creates a state of siege in minds of the occupiers, a state of mind that translates into ugly facts on the ground that transform places into zones of constant surveillance. Occupation denies the humanity of those it seeks to control, repel, and sometimes subjugate. It denies communities and peoples their historic rights and relationships. It is something that violates fundamental notions of human rights, involves the taking of land, and the construction and maintenance of an unjust political-economic order that is based on a relationship of domination and subordination. It also requires military-like force for its maintenance -- whether in the Western Sahara, Iraq, the Palestinian territories, or here in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands -- given that many people refuse to accept the injustices that occupations inevitably involve. 
The human impact of all this goes beyond the deaths and is typical in terms of what one finds in wars of occupation. Over the last decade in the United States alone, many thousands have been imprisoned for violating the laws of the occupying forces, hundreds of thousands have been deported to their countries of birth, and countless individuals have been denied the right to unite (and often reunite) with their loved ones on this side of what is presented as a security divide. 
The territorial and social divides that harm people are not only between countries, but within. The undocumented status of many migrant workers increases their vulnerability to exploitation and mistreatment by employers. According to a study carried out by Kate Bronfenbrenner at Cornell, for example, 52 percent of companies in the United States where union drives are taking place threaten to call federal immigration authorities if the organizing campaign involves unauthorized immigrants. As a result, unauthorized workers are less likely to challenge their employers and the conditions of labor than they might were they properly documented. More broadly, given their stigmatized and often criminalized status, unauthorized immigrants enter into compromising situations to avoid law enforcement officials, a situation that increases their overall political and economic vulnerability. While immigration and boundary controls fail to prevent large numbers of migrants from entering places like the United States, they have the effect of categorizing immigrants as individuals with fewer rights, to define the status of people -- as subordinate -- once they are in the United States. As such, migrants who succeed in crossing still have to deal with the indignities and insecurity associated with being "illegal"—from divided families to the threat of deportation and the types of socio-economic exploitation that their non-legal status facilitates. Such an outcome dovetails with the reproduction of the race and class disparities across global space that the metaphor "global apartheid" captures. 
Racism is about, among other things, double standards -- double standards on the basis of one's socio-geographic origins. And the most obvious form of racism is hostility which ideologically creates a hierarchy of peoples in which those close to the bottom of the ladder are seen as less than human. There is a very long and deep history of this in the West toward non-whites. Here in the United States, such animus -- in terms of immigrants -- has focused most persistently on people from Mexico and, more generally, from Latin America.  It is impossible to separate the deeply rooted stereotypes associated with this racism from support for measures favoring more restrictive measures against immigrants -- legal or "illegal." The focus on the border and unauthorized immigration is part and parcel of a more general restrictionist sentiment, one rooted historically in notions of undesirable "Others" who have typically been non-white, non-English-speaking people from relatively poor countries. Thus, while many unauthorized immigrants come from Canada, Ireland, and Poland, the dominant image of the "illegal" (and almost exclusively so) is the former "wetback" -- an unauthorized entrant coming from Mexico. This is not to suggest that any and all positions championing immigration and boundary restriction are racist, but merely that racism is an important factor informing restrictionist sentiment on a collective levels.  
That said, overt racist sentiment has declined significantly in the United States and the West over the last century. Nevertheless, racism -- as  manifested by a set of outcomes that grants some peoples sufficient livelihoods while denying it to others -- lives on. Perhaps the most important way it lives on is through structures, through structural racism. This involves the deeply entrenched patterns of socioeconomic and political inequality and accumulated disadvantage that correlate to "race" and "color" as conventionally defined. Given this, rather than concerning ourselves with the worldviews behind particular practices, we should focus on outcomes. Clearly, those from relatively wealthy countries are able to migrate and become citizens of the migrant-receiving country with far greater ease than those who come from less privileged countries, located largely in the so-called global South. Their ability to migrate and take up residence in another part of the world (presumably a location that provides greater levels of security than the area from where one migrates) is, to a highly significant degree, determined by an accident of nature. That accident of nature is where one is born or to where one traces his or her origins, a characteristic that is permanent, and that one cannot change. These factors of chance profoundly shape the resources to which one has access, the amount of political power on the international stage one has, where one can go, and how one lives and dies. This is the essence of racism. Given this and the fact that we live in a world of deep inequality, there is little question that boundary and immigration controls contributes to outcomes that are apartheid-like. We need to call it this not simply because it is correct, but because it is a moral outrage. By undermining its moral legitimacy, we can make it politically unacceptable. And like apartheid in South Africa, it is something we must challenge head-on -- just as we must challenge head-on the "wars" and occupations that help maintain and enhance this apartheid. 
In his very moving and instructive book, Embracing the Infidel: Stories of Muslim Migrants on the Journey West, Behzad Yaghmaian introduces us to a woman named Ferial, a highly resourceful Iranian migrant -- one without papers-- subsisting in Paris. Yaghmaian recounts a discussion they have on the origins of global wealth and poverty. He insists to Ferial that wealth and poverty are not natural, that both are the outcomes of the inequality embedded in the so-called free-market system. "The unnatural borders lead to poverty," he tells her. "They keep people in deprived zones, and limit their mobility and their ability to benefit from the fruits of nature. Like borders, poverty is manufactured." 
He then lets Ferial offer her worldview on boundaries and related matters, one that Yaghmaian seems to share, "I did not cross illegally. Borders are illegal. They are not natural. Crossing them is my right. Doing what is my right is not illegal," she states. 
"The earth equally belongs to everybody," Ferial asserts. "It is not for the French, or the Iranians. Borders are created by power. Wealthy and powerful countries draw a line around them and declare they own that part of nature." 
As we well know, nature knows no boundaries and, despite our clinging to them, we cannot reduce human relations to bounded territories either. When we do so, violence results in that the boundaries deny people the right to move to the places where there are resources -- whether they be jobs at decent wages, sufficient food, refuge from repression, or love -- resources people need to realize their basic human needs. 
Very recently we were painfully reminded of this. There was a story in the Tucson Citizen by Claudine LoMonaco about Antonio Torres Jimenez, a long-time Tucson resident. Some friends from his hometown in Guanajuato, Mexico who now live in Tucson found his body in the desert last Thursday. He had perished the previous Sunday while trying to return to his home here. He had been a permanent resident, but several years ago he was stripped of his legal status because of an administrative-violation. He had had to return to Mexico after the death of his eldest daughter to be with his wife and other children. But he stayed there too long, and thus lost his green card. Dependent on his construction job here in Tucson, he continued to come back and forth. 
Such a tragedy is what we see increasingly in the border regions that divide and bring together rich and poor, the safe and the insecure, the first and third worlds, the white and non-white. Whether they occur along the boundaries between Morocco and Spain, South Africa and Zimbabwe, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, or the United States and Mexico, they are totally unacceptable. But even more unacceptable are the socio-economic differences that underlie and bring about these deaths and all the other forms of suffering and indignity that people must endure simply because they were born on the wrong side of the boundaries that make up the unjust world order in which we live. While allowing freedom of movement and residence will not by itself eliminate these injustices -- just as the end of legal apartheid in South Africa has not led to the end to that society's deep race and class disparities -- it will at least permit people increased opportunities to realize livelihoods of dignity and, on a collective level, to organize to combat injustices with full civil and human rights. 
Stories such as that of Antonio Torres Jimenez are heartbreaking. And given the number of these stories and experiences, and the weight of the ugly forces that bring them about, it is easy for those of us who want to bring about a very different world to feel depressed, overwhelmed, and disempowered. 
In her beautiful book about the Guatemalan resistance, Bridge of Courage: Life Stories of the Guatemalan Companeros and Companeras, Jennifer Harbury quotes Gaspar, a guerrilla with the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Union, as he responds to Jennifer's sadness brought about by his story of suffering: "So our stories have made you sad, you tell me. Yes, this I can understand, my friend, but tears are not the right response. For every painful story there is one of beauty, one to learn from. ... You must never forget the art of enjoyment.  Otherwise the pain of survival will crush you." 
On the same day that Antonio Torres Jimenez perished in the desert of southern Arizona, a baptism of a healthy, beautiful two-month-old girl took place at the cathedral here in Tucson. She was born in the desert to a woman from Guatemala who was crossing with two other women. The two women stayed with the mother during and after the birth, helping her to cut the baby's umbilical cord with a nail clipper. Because they stayed with her, the Border Patrol was able to apprehend them, and returned them to their homeland. 
It's important that we tell ourselves this story, and others like it. To overcome feelings of despair, we need to remind ourselves that border regions can and often do bring out the best in many: kindness, generosity, and solidarity. And we need to fully support organizations like Derechos Humanos because it embodies and reproduces these qualities. By playing key roles in groupings such as No More Deaths and The Coalition to Bring Down the Walls -- in addition to its very important work in the community in defense of civil and human rights for all -- Derechos Humanos is helping to write the script for a new story, one in which apartheid, domestic and global, in all its ugly manifestations is something of the past. 
¡Que viva la Coalicion de Derechos Humanos! 
Joseph Nevins is an assistant professor of geography at Vassar College. He is the author of Operation Gatekeeper: The Rise of the "Illegal Alien" and the Making of the U.S.-Mexico Boundary (Routledge, 2002) and, most recently, A Not-So-Distant Horror: Mass Violence in East Timor (Cornell University Press, 2005). He can be reached at: jonevins@vassar.edu.

Other Articles by Joseph Nevins

* The Mass Killings in Indonesia After 40 Years with John Roosa
* Washington Backs Indonesian Military Again
* Mass Murderers and Double Standards of Justice
“Tiger Force” and the Costs Of Forgetting US Crimes in Vietnam
* Beyond the Myth: Remembering Jimmy Carter, the President
* Border Death-Trap: Time to Tear Down America's Berlin Wall