I just found a good interview with Todd Miller, author of Border Patrol Nation. I take issue with what he has to say about “neoliberal economics” at the end of the interview, but I think he’s right on for the rest of it. Here are a few of my favorite nuggets:
I think the whole official framing around border policing has to be challenged. The word “border security” is state speak and implies that a border build up is to protect “us” from something heinous, a terrorist, a criminal, something less than civilized.
Only a few years ago, StrongWatch was only selling its wares to the military. But now things have changed. StrongWatch is now just one example of many companies – including such monoliths as Raytheon, Boeing and Lockheed Martin – who are turning their attention to this border enforcement market that, according to one projection of the Homeland Security and Emergency Management market, will reach as high as $544 billion by 2018. As the StrongWatch vendor told me at the end of our conversation, “We are bringing the battlefield to the border.”
In Border Patrol Nation, I document a number of instances that could seem as if they were a part of an area under a state of exception. I describe people pulled out of cars and handcuffed, as gunmen crouch with their rifles pointed. I describe a Native American man pepper-sprayed by agents, pulled out of his truck and knocked briefly unconscious with a baton. I describe instances of home invasions and the Homeland Security tactic of the early morning raids, pounding on people’s doors while they are still asleep, and handcuffing people who are still in bed and disoriented. In a way, you can describe the United States as a country in a constant low-intensity wartime posture, and if you fit a certain profile, if you have a certain skin complexion, an accent to your tone, are from a particular place in the globe, if you are associated with certain communities, or even carry certain political ideologies, you could be easily targeted by this enforcement regime.
In the early 1990s, there were less than 4,000 US Border Patrol agents. Now there are approximately 22,000. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the parent agency of Border Patrol (and now the largest federal law enforcement agency at 60,000), didn’t exist. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, now at 20,000 agents, didn’t exist. The types of border and immigration enforcement programs that these Homeland Security agencies have, with their “force multipliers,” more than 650,000 state and local police nationwide – didn’t exist.