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The Fence

National Security, Public Safety, and Illegal Immigration along the U.S.–Mexico Border

Robert Lee Maril

Publication Year: 2003

To the American public it’s a 2,000-mile-long project to keep illegal immigrants, narcotics, and terrorists on the other side of the U.S.–Mexico border. In the deserts of Arizona, it’s a “virtual fence” of high-tech electronic sensors, cameras, and radar. In some border stretches it’s a huge concrete-and-steel wall; in others it’s a series of solitary posts designed to stop drug runners; in still others it’s rusted barbed-wire cattle fences. For two-thirds of the international boundary it’s nonexistent. Just what is this entity known as “the fence”? And more important, is it working? Through first-person interviews with defense contractors, border residents, American military, Minutemen, county officials, Customs and Border Protection agents, environmental activists, and others whose voices have never been heard, Robert Lee Maril examines the project’s human and financial costs. Along with Maril’s site visits, his rigorous analysis of government documents from 1999 to the present uncovers fiscal mismanagement by Congress, wasteful defense contracts, and unkept political promises. As drug violence mounts in border cities and increasing numbers of illegal migrants die from heat exhaustion in the Arizona desert, Maril argues how the fence may even be making an incendiary situation worse. Avoiding preconceived conclusions, he proposes new public policies that take into consideration human issues, political negotiation, and the need for compromise. Maril’s lucid study shows the fence to be a symbol in concrete, steel, microchips, and fiber optics for the crucible of contemporary immigration policy, national security, and public safety.

Published by: Texas Tech University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-8


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xii

Part One: A Virtual American Dream

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Chapter 1. A Simple Solution

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pp. 3-23

Perhaps the core implications of Time do not occur until, straining to hear the unintelligible ramblings of the youthful radiation oncologist, we are forced to face down the possibility of our own death. Or perhaps Time’s reminder is the inevitable passing of a parent or beloved friend, or even the family pet, one second romping with the kids, ...

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Chapter 2. Manny’s Disguise Isn’t One

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pp. 34-37

The last thing Manuel “Manny” A. Rodriguez needs on the jet to Memphis is a hard case across the aisle giving him the prison yard stare. According to Manny, these days everything is turned around. Now the lawbreakers have more rights than the law enforcers. ...

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Chapter 3. Anzalduas

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pp. 38-59

There is a rich history to every twist and bend of the Rio Grande/Río Bravo in South Texas and northern Mexico. Although the official history of the region—the version taught from textbooks in Valley public schools—may be better known, another version, one of subjugation and ruthless exploitation, ...

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Chapter 4. Olga Rivera Garcia’s Fence and Omar Sanchez’s Fence

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pp. 60-87

In a stiff wind from Mexico, the banks of the Rio Grande less than one hundred yards due south, the American flag and the UTBTSC university flag pull and groan in unison against the rope anchoring them to the same aluminum pole. Olga Rivera Garcia skirts the busload of visiting Brownsville high school students in her aging golf cart, ...

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Chapter 5. ISIS

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pp. 88-110

So which do you think I should get, the bull or the cow?” asks CBP agent Tony Jasso, turning into the parking lot in front of La Hacienda Restaurant on Old Military Highway. Although completely empty at a little before 2:00 a.m., the parking lot is lit up like a Christmas tree. ...

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Chapter 6. Dubuque

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pp. 111-132

Congressman Frank James “Jim” Sensenbrenner, Jr., chair of the House Committee on the Judiciary, comfortably readjusts his large, tailored frame, then reaches for another piece of candy from the special stash by his right elbow. ...

Part Two: Crossing to Safety

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Chapter 7. More Virtual Fences

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pp. 135-178

In search of semisecret Project 28, a prototype, according to Boeing, Inc., for the virtual border fence, we leave the stifling heat and smog of Tucson for Sasabe, Arizona. Sasabe, pronounced by locals with the emphasis on the first syllable, is a very tiny and very remote border community thirty miles west of Nogales.1 ...

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Chapter 8. CBP Agent Nora Muñoz

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pp. 179-197

CBP agent Nora Muñoz always wanted to be in law enforcement. Since she was a little girl, she wanted to be a beat cop in her own hometown. But it was not her mother, father, or her eventual husband who helped make up her mind about her life’s work.1 ...

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Chapter 9. Juliet Garcia’s Fence and Michael Chertoff’s Wall

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pp. 198-229

You’ve noticed the unique campus we have here,” David Pearson tells me, “the palm forests, the Spanish tiles, the historical restorations, the conversation areas where learning and education are encouraged to take place in informal and formal surroundings. ...

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Chapter 10. Three Different Walls

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pp. 230-257

We wrote it down on a napkin. Remember that?” Judge J. D. Salinas III says to Godfrey Garza, Jr., sitting to his left at a long conference table. The border wall in Hidalgo County, according to Judge Salinas, is the brainchild of their joint doodling. ...

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Chapter 11. It’s Getting Crowded along the Border

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pp. 258-278

As I approach the gated entrance to Peterson Air Force Base outside of Colorado Springs, armed sentries direct me into the far right lane of traffic. I park at the visitor’s center then, feeling the altitude but enjoying the bright sunshine, lazily walk across the asphalt to have my documents checked. ...

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Chapter 12. Crossing to Safety

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pp. 279-300

It is a long, circuitous path from Honeywell engineers gathered around a conference table in Clearwater, Florida, to the towers of Boeing’s Project 28 in the remote Chihuahuan desert outside of Sasabe, Arizona. Scattered all along the way are a number of individuals and institutions with a variety of perspectives, motivations, and objectives. ...

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pp. 301-308

Hurricane Alex, the first hurricane of the 2010 season, slammed into the borderlands in the late hours of June 30th. The category-two storm spared those attempting to cap the British Petroleum oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, site of the largest spill in U.S. history, but thousands in northern Mexican cities and towns, like Matamoros, were not so lucky. ...


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pp. 309-340


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pp. 341-352

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pp. 353-354

I would like to acknowledge the support of my colleagues Rebecca Powers, Joe Heyman, Ron Thrasher, Bob Edwards, Susan Pearce, Ben Sidel, David Griffith, Lorry King, and Arunas Juska. I also benefited from conversations with Genaro Gonzalez, Elena Bastida, Lauren Fisher, Royal Loresco, Tim Vanderpool, Stephen Losey, Rob Johnson, ...


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pp. 355-370

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About the Author

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pp. 383-384

Robert Lee Maril is professor of sociology and the founding director of the Center for Diversity and Inequality Research at East Carolina University. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780896727489
E-ISBN-10: 0896727483
Print-ISBN-13: 9780896726802
Print-ISBN-10: 0896726800

Page Count: 384
Illustrations: 13
Publication Year: 2003