On Friday January 21st, we met AFSC staff Benjamin Prado who guided us on a hike through the Border Field State Park, Imperial Beach, Friendship Circle and other parts of the San Diego-Mexico border. The border between Imperial Beach and Las Playas de Tijuana proved to be less intimidating than what many of us expected. The border was built out of wood and had huge gaps between each wooden pole that could easily fit a person. Benjamin explained to us that the fence extended itself far into the ocean, but most of the poles in the water are no longer there, as “nature has a funny way of getting rid of things it doesn’t like.” As we approached the fence, we noticed how easily we could confuse people from the Mexican side of the border with the people on the U.S. side. Since we were walking in a large group, someone from the Mexican side could have easily passed the border and joined our group. Though there were border patrol officers in surveillance, the border did not meet our expectations. Benjamin mentioned that you could easily contrast the interest of the people from both sides of the border just by looking at the density of people in each side of the beaches. The U.S. side of the border was empty; from the Mexico side, a family waved at us.
Throughout the tour, Prado presented 200 years of history describing the U.S.-Mexico relationship that had led to today’s situation of the border. While under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the U.S. and Mexico agreed to open borders, land and water rights and respect language and culture, U.S. has violated all of these agreements; the U.S. now strictly regulates the border, the Hoover Dam has closed water flow to Mexico, and California’s Prop 227 has ended bilingual education programs. Benjamin described the 1994 NAFTA agreement as “a death sentence” for many Mexicans. Statistics show that the militarization of the borders has not stopped migrants and in fact significantly increased migration as well as induce human-trafficking. The identification of immigrants without documents as “illegal aliens” and “criminal immigrants” dehumanizes this group and thus justifies policy-making without the consideration of their lives. Mexico’s modernization that NAFTA promised did not result. Prado suggests that there must be a change in Mexico’s economic policy as well as in the level of U.S. consumption so that people do not need to migrate in order to make a living.
U.S. Customs and border Protection—Securing America’s Borders
The US Government Accountability Office: Secure Border Initiative Fence Construction Cost