- Jump It, Climb It, Dig It for the Environment: Meddling with Trump’s Border Wall
the rhythm of cross-border life
The underlying forces of border undoing, border construction, and border negotiation, as well as the spatial consequences of these swings, are at the center of contemporary debates about borders and globalization. As suggested by Sassen (2008), borders are not merely territorial edges but complex institutions, which are wrought by the conflicting forces of border reinforcement and border crossing. Also, beyond their world-configuring function, borders produce spaces beating to the rhythm of cross-border movement of people, goods, and ideas that produce collective identities and communities (Balibar, 2002). These borderscapes contract, expand, and thicken in response to the balance between debordering and rebordering impulses, and change their territorial configuration depending on which forces are exerting the greatest influence at a particular moment (Brambilla, 2015).
The wall proposed by Donald Trump, in contrast with the George Bush, Bill Clinton, and even Barack Obama walls, congeals a process of rebordering that has its origin in a policy of securitization that is unique for its ignorance of the border reality and its overtly xenophobic impulse. Narratives that represent the border as dangerous or a threat, and that depict Mexicans as rapists and criminals, are clear-cut indications of a huge and growing disconnect between Trump and borderlanders.
lines, gaps, and spaces
Conventionally, international borders are seen as instruments for the enforcement of national sovereignty and control. Seen in this way, the main function of borders is to regulate the movement of people and things, with little consideration of their consequences on local communities, human and otherwise. From this view, borders are lines that can be transmogrified into the crudest tool for state-sponsored partition and fortification (Dear, 2013).
Notwithstanding their separating functions, borders are punctured, penetrated, and traversed by people, things, and nature through gaps that break the continuity of the proverbial line in the sand. At certain locations, border enforcers open gates allowing [End Page 258] people and nature to flow into their side—provided they surrender to inspection—while they police the forbidden stretches of the borderline from real or imagined trespassers. The border, then, becomes a sifting tool, manipulated to separate the “good” flows from the “bad” ones.
But few borders are merely a boundary between nations. Because they were delineated after human communities settled in a territory, or superimposed over indivisible ecosystems, or because they hardly function as political lines of separation, borders are lived as transborder spaces. Transborder spaces are territories that get their essence from the boundary itself, and from people and nature interacting across the boundary. Therefore, cross-border spaces exist because of and in spite of the border. The border, then, turns into a connecting tool, enabling living transborder spaces. The proposed wall would unnecessarily violate this living, breathing border environment inhabited by millions of people and hundreds of nonhuman species, without delivering the promised gains in national security.
the trump wall and the border environment
“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”—Aldo Leopold
Of course, human families are already torn apart by the existing fence, while the Trump administration pursues family separation as an immigration deterrence strategy. This tragedy will only grow worse if the wall is extended along the full border line. But the proposed border wall would also be an ecological disaster. The U.S.-Mexico border shares a dozen cross-border rivers, as well as groundwater aquifers, wetlands, desert forests, and habitats for multiple endangered birds and mammals. The Trump plan would extend the existing approximately 800 miles of fences and barriers on the border between Mexico and the U.S. by an additional 1,283 miles (Greenwald et al., 2017), potentially traversing some of the most biodiverse ecosystems in North America, including Big Bend National Park, Tijuana River Binational Estuary, and protected areas like Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and Organ Pipe National Monument in Arizona and the adjacent Pinacate Biosphere Reserve in Mexico. Of 800 animal species affected by the projected border wall...