Border Wall / Texas Border Wall

Street Artists jam the border wall

It’s official: the border wall has been liberated!  According to a report posted today by Bryan Curtis on The Daily Beast, on April 1 in McAllen, Texas, street artist Ron English and a group of compatriots jumped out of their car, afixed a wheatpaste piece on the border wall, and drove away.

Famous for culture jamming, a form of guerrilla street art focused on painting over billboards to subvert messages of consumerism and corporate advertising, Ron English has now jammed the border wall.  As Curtis explains, the design points to the futility of our national border policy–and of the clumsy infrastructure our policies have left us with:

The poster was typical English. It featured a two-headed donkey, one donkey head decorated with a U.S. flag and the other with a Mexican flag. If the men had paused to consider English’s message, they might have thought the United States and Mexico are linked by historical destiny, but that mulish policies on both sides had created the current madness.

Yet,  the border wall, as ridiculous as it is, has had chilling and destructive effects on once lively interdependent economies and cultures on both the U.S. and Mexican sides of the wall.  Joseph Bravo, the executive director of the International Museum of Art & Science in McAllen, noted the effects in McAllen:

“All the buildings on the north side of the wall are boarded up,” Bravo says. “All the businesses are boarded up. It was cryptic. There was something toxic. Life had existed, and then the wall happened. Now, everything was dying.”

Crumbling abandoned home just east of Tecate, Baja California, up against the border wall

My observations along the San Diego-Baja California border accord with those of Bravo.  On a recent trip along the Baja California side of the border wall just east of Tecate, we observed dozens of abandoned homes laid out along carefully drawn but unpaved streets, now overgrown with a glorious blanket of spring wild flowers.

A glance at the map tells the rest of the story.  Roads criss cross the international boundary, testifying to a once lively interdependence between residents in this remote area in east San Diego County/Baja California–a mutual exchange that most rural communities depend upon for survival.

The border wall and ramping up of border enforcement on the U.S. side has changed all that.   According to Wayne Cornelius, former director of the  Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California, San Diego, while U.S. spending on border enforcement has quadrupled since 1993,  and the border patrol has tripled in size since 1996, all of this enforcement has done little to deter migrants from their plans to come north to seek work and wages to support desperate families back home.

And rather than make these regions safer, the massive investment in border enforcement over the past 20 years has enabled vicious criminal cartels to take over the border.  Peter Andreas notes in his book Border Games that increased U.S. spending on border enforcement simply poured more cash into an already functioning economic market of guiding people across the border. As risks increased, the costs to cross went up, and human trafficking became big business–driving out family coyotes and opening the door for the cartels to take over.

The drug war has resulted in 38,000 recorded deaths in Mexico since 2006, and the border has never been more dangerous for migrants.

An effective policy?  Hmmm….  You decide.

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