The staged spectacle border

“Do you golf?” » Coming from Professor Kenneth Madsen, who got me used to wandering the desert in search of border markers, a bag on my back and a notebook in hand, the text was surprising to say the least. “I’m in Eagle Pass,” he adds. Everything is explained, I replied.

Indeed, the small, quiet town of Eagle Pass, Texas, has become the toy of political forces beyond it. Because last Thursday, the two presidential candidates — Democratic and Republican — visited the Texas border simultaneously. An unprecedented fact. And these concomitant trips confirmed the obvious: immigration – and by capillary action, the border – is the central subject of this presidential year. For the moment.

For this reason, the Democratic candidate traveled to the southernmost tip of the continental United States, to Brownsville. The Republican was in Eagle Pass, in the park by the river. However, the story goes that it was there, in June 1865, that the last Confederates sank their flag attached to a stone in the Río Grande, rather than abandon it — a story glorified in a film starring John Wayne (The Undefeated, 1969). Their leader (Joseph O. Shelby) gave his name to a park in Eagle Pass, Shelby Park. In Texas, the past is never far away.

Neither does the future. Shelby Park is today once again a battleground, that of the general election coming in the fall. A ground for political confrontation: this public space was taken over at the end of January by the State of Texas and its troopers, ousting the federal forces and denying citizens access to them. The reason ? The “bankruptcy of the federal government”, if we refer to the declarations of Governor Abbott (who flirts with theories of the civil war in doing so).

Shelby Park is also the symbol of an impasse built on political trench warfare. On the Democratic side, it is the emblem, according to the current president, of the derailment of real migration reform due to the MAGA fringe in Congress. On the Republican side, it is witness to “the invasion of Joe Biden”. The reality is that this reform would not have solved anything, in the same way that a political alternation will not reduce flows.

Any measure band aid, in the absence of a substantial and improbable reform, will, as in the past, only contribute to reducing migration figures for a time. Because borders, demarcations of the limits of the State, are in fact globalized, they belong to a continuum which links them to each other, a mesh woven on political, social and climatic events, the policies of States of transit and d reception, financing and structuring of filtering mechanisms, well upstream of the border line. What a real reform of migration policies should take into account – in the United States as elsewhere – to be functional… and humane.

But there. The wind is blowing in the other direction: there will be no large-scale reform. This would require long-term management, far from the electoral demands of the year. Unlikely. Because this week, a poll shows that, for the first time, a majority of Americans are in favor of the border wall — a monstrosity that only shifts, defers and bury flows. This poll also confirms that immigration has supplanted all other concerns of Americans, while “illegal” immigrants (meaning, people who are on American territory without documents – which does not mean that they are not entered legally) represent approximately 4.5% of the population.

The pervasiveness of this issue, thus defined in the political arena, results in the adherence of certain data and the evanescence of others. This is the case with the figures brandished by the Customs and Border Protection of “ encounters » (meetings) at the border. However, these figures also fall within the political sphere insofar as they include — by design, any bureaucracy needing to justify its existence — multiple categories of “encounters”: inflated by the inclusion of legitimate asylum requests, the same people arrested multiple times, arrests far from the border line itself and people expelled again. These figures contribute to these insecurities. While we should distinguish between the “hordes of migrants” that these figures appear to reveal and the very variable realities from one side of the border to the other, the figures make an impression.

Conversely, the projection established by the Congressional Budget Office according to which the country’s GDP will increase by 7,000 billion dollars over the next decade due to immigration alone, seems to be lost in the political abyss without ever being combined with the ambient discourse. .

During an election period, there is no longer much room for nuance, while slogans and clichés prevail – which, moreover, Canada undoubtedly has in mind when it comes to thinking about its border management.

So, on the one hand, the Democratic Party is failing to regain control of the political agenda in an area that does not represent its strength. On the other hand, the Republican candidate has long been paving his way in a space that he has made his own.

The agents to whom Kenneth Madsen asked the question of the accessibility of Shelby Park told him that “the park was closed because of its dangerousness and the proximity of the cartels,” he wrote to me. Meanwhile, on the fourth hole, adjacent to Shelby Park, golfers hit their balls between a container bristling with sharp barbed wire on the banks of the Río Grande and armored military vehicles. “What a paradox! » he texts me again. “What a paradox to be able to access the border line if you have golf clubs, and to be chased away, a few meters further, from the public park. » And to add, ironically, that we are perhaps less vulnerable, armed with a golf club… The border-spectacle has therefore not finished being staged.

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