The militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border was always a bipartisan effort, with symbolism that’s useful to both parties.
Months after COVID-19 reached the United States — as the economy stumbled to a halt, businesses shut down, and “non-essential” activities were suspended — construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall not only continued, but intensified. RV parks and motels in communities like Ajo, Arizona, and Columbus, New Mexico, teemed with workers from across the country. “We need the Wall more than ever!” President Donald Trump tweeted in March, implying that more steel fencing in the desert would somehow keep the coronavirus from sneaking in from Mexico, which at the time had few documented cases. Citing “grave public health consequences of mass uncontrolled cross-border movement,” Trump seized the opportunity to complete his administration’s evisceration of the United States’ asylum and immigration system.
For decades, politicians on both sides of the aisle have supported controlling the border and policing the undocumented.
For nearly 10 years, I have worked as a volunteer with No More Deaths, a Tucson-based community organization that provides humanitarian aid to people crossing the remote Borderlands of southern Arizona. I have watched in horror as Trump doubles down on the tired nativist trope of the diseased other — the undifferentiated immigrant mass, bringing drugs, terrorism, illness and all manner of savagery and contagion into the country. I have witnessed an escalation in state-sponsored border violence, and my friends and fellow aid workers have been arrested and charged with crimes by federal prosecutors. But this kind of racist fear mongering, like the violence and repression that accompany it, is not new in American politics. For decades, politicians on both sides of the aisle have supported controlling the border and policing the undocumented.