Throughout our week along the U.S.-Mexico border, I was constantly reminded of the need for collaboration across movements and for intersectionality within movements. At Casa Mariposa/No More Deaths and People Helping People, there were advocacy signs and materials that focused on border-issues, but there were also activist materials focused on other issues seemingly unrelated to the border. There was support for the Black Lives Matter movement, environmental movements, indigenous movements, and intersectional feminist movements. But these other movements are not disconnected from the injustices and abuses of power that we witnessed along the border. Black and brown bodies are disproportionately policed along the border, in U.S. cities, and everywhere across the country. Like the U.S.-Mexico border, both urban and rural police departments in the U.S. are becoming heavily militarized, resulting in the unjust deaths of black and brown people.
Cultural and environmental issues are both a result of the border fence and border militarization. The border fence disrupts the movement of people across these arbitrary political lines. For example, the people Tohono O'odham Nation, which encompasses parts of the U.S. and Mexico, must travel hours to an official border crossing to visit family and friends who may only live a couple of miles from them. Despite being a sovereign nation, the U.S. government has tied up granting Border Patrol has unlimited access to sovereign Tohono O'odham lands with funding for basic infrastructure projects, thus coercing the Tohono O'odham people to accept this militarized presence. Additionally, the Tohono O'odham people are not able to enter or leave the Tohono O'odham Nation Reservation without passing through a Border Patrol checkpoint where agents with assault rifles accuse and interrogate them.
The environmental problems tied to border militarization and the fence are multiple. The border fence disrupts the natural migration of wildlife across the U.S.-Mexico border. But the fence does not stop other environmental problems created through political processes, which are tied to the militarization of the border. NAFTA and the militarized border work together to keep laboring bodies in places where wages are lower and environmental regulations are more lax and less enforced. This exposes these laboring bodies to industrial contamination in the workplace and at home, while creating the illusion that somehow industrial contamination in one place cannot travel past a barbed-wire fence.
Border militarization is tied to intersectional feminist issues through the gendered experience of migration. Migrant women are more likely to experience sexual assault during their journey north, and are more likely to experience multiple marginalization, labor abuses, and gendered discrimination should they make it into the U.S. Drawing on the work of Bell Hooks and other important feminists of color, the militarized border and all of the political and economic power that back it up remind us that we cannot escape their consequences until we dismantle the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. No justice, no peace.