Photo: Construction of border fencing in New Mexico last month.
By Mike Talavera
In a letter leaked yesterday, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper informed Congress that the Trump administration would be taking $3.6 billion from deferred military construction projects and investing those funds in over 100 miles of new steel barriers along the border with Mexico in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico.
The longest strip of proposed new “primary pedestrian fencing” is a 52-mile stretch starting in Laredo, Texas and running along the Rio Grande river. In the letter, Esper writes that these projects are necessary to support the US military in responding to the national emergency declared by Trump in February, which called for armed forces to be deployed at the southern border.
“[The projects] will reduce the demand for [Department of Defense] personnel and assets at the locations where the barriers are constructed and allow the redeployment of DoD personnel and assets to other high-traffic areas on the border without barriers,” Esper writes.
According to Trump, the national emergency was declared to stop “an invasion of our country with drugs, with human traffickers, with all types of criminals and gangs,” and the border wall, which started as a campaign promise, has served as the flagship of his reactionary anti-immigrant policy.
Some critics have fixated on Trump’s rhetoric as inspiring an influx in racism and fascist mass shootings like the one in El Paso last month (the shooter’s manifesto also used the word “invasion” to refer to immigration), but the militarization of the border precedes Trump’s presidential term. It is the ongoing transformation of the US-Mexico border into a war zone that has brought out the most backward elements of society.
In the years after President Ronald Reagan made hiring undocumented immigrants illegal in 1986 by signing the Immigration Reform and Control Act into law, Border Patrol began constructing modern border fencing, typically made of steel or concrete and ranging from 10 to 20 feet in height.
By 2000, approximately 58 miles of fencing had been erected, mainly in urban areas, and in 2006 Congress passed the Secure Fence Act, which mandated another 700 miles of fencing along the US-Mexico Border. During President Barack Obama’s first term the mileage of border fencing doubled.
Imperialism makes trouble wherever it goes, and the wars waged by US imperialism in Latin America over the past few decades (both overtly and covertly) and the ongoing economic domination of the region have forced the masses there to flee their home countries. The number of immigrants living in the US has quadrupled from 9.7 million in 1960 to 44.4 million in 2017. Nearly half of those today are from Mexico or other parts of Latin America.
The militarization of national borders seeks to divide the international proletariat and peoples of the world, not only between the US and Mexico but also in places like Hungary and the settler-colonial state of Israel. Despite the efforts of reaction, the masses have always found ways to surmount and circumvent these barriers and will continue to do so until they are finally destroyed along with US imperialism.