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The Big Business behind the US-Mexico Border

By: Malgorzata Lange - @MalgoLange - Apr 1, 2015, 1:14 pm
Como en el lado oeste del muro de Berlín, en el lado sur del muro EE.UU.  México han surgido el arte y la ironía (Taringa)
The southern side of the US-Mexico border wall is a place for art and grim humor. (Taringa)

EspañolSenator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is already known for his controversial legislative proposals. So perhaps it’s not surprising that the launch of his campaign for the presidential ticket began with an earthquake, with reality mirroring an Alfred Hitchcock script. The rumblings of imminent disaster are likely to only increase.

With the objective of seducing the electorate, the senator asked them to “imagine a president that finally, finally, finally secures the borders” and puts an end to illegal immigration. For Cruz, secure borders (we might ask, secure for whom?) are fully controlled and sealed borders. Perhaps he imagines the Mexican border walled up with 2,000 miles of impassable double ramparts, patrolled by innumerable guards and CCTV systems, and monitored by buzzing drones and helicopters overhead.

The price tags of huge political ego-trips like these are usually massively inflated. But to paraphrase comments made by Shikha Dalmia last week, the costs of “stupid plans” are more disproportionate than we might think.

Where Dalmia adds up the astronomical proportions of governmental spending as a whole, I want to explore one aspect of the spending in question: namely, the hefty profits made by contracted firms.

The effectiveness of the border wall continues to be questionable, and the increase in spending in the interests of “border security” has failed to translate in any decrease in immigration, something noted on repeated occasions by the US federal government and the Committe on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives.

In the same way, the Secure Border Initiative Network (SBI-net) was suspended in 2011 after six years of operations due to inefficiency and high associated costs. The many examples of costly but useless initiatives include the failed integration of radar systems under the ominous name of Vader.

Despite all of this, the idea of a walled frontier continues to be our principal tool for dealing with illegal immigration. The symbolic force and illusory security that the image of the wall offers are still surprisingly valid. Proposals to close the border to the south come and go, always bringing with them an increase in fiscal spending. Why is this the case, given that the wall has proven itself to be a poor solution?

There’s a very powerful reason. On the one side, we have the money that the government is willing to collect and spend in the name of security and improving the domestic economy. On the other, there are those who are ready to absorb that expenditure in the form of massive profits. Governmental spending is translated into the income of those who reinforce the border.

Even a cursory look at those subcontracted companies concerned with border security is enough to illuminate Cruz’s chilling plan to forge an impermeable border at all costs.

The private business (linked to politics) behind the wall is enormous, and proportional to the desperation of those who seek to cross the border. We can only imagine with fear what “100 percent operational control” would look like.

The would-be president’s fantasy is disturbing, but it has the backing of the big industries linked to defense and security related products and services, from the producers of steel, barbed wire, and guards’ uniforms, to giants such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop, and General Dynamics, to mention only a few.

With all the involvement of businesses and lobbyists in the ongoing process of fortifying the frontier, and the enormous and ever-growing flow of financial resources, it’s unlikely that the impetus towards walling up the border will ever diminish. The wall will continue to grow out of all proportion, because of the hugely powerful and hugely compromised political and economic interests involved.

The focus is now not on the wall as against illegal immigration, but on the wall as a huge investment project to build long-term security. Witness the latest offerings on show at the Border Security Expo: from cacti with hidden camera to an oppressive array of security technology, the unholy alliance between industry and repressive border controls goes beyond even the wildest fantasies of Senator Cruz.

Translated by Laurie Blair.

Malgorzata Lange Malgorzata Lange

Malgorzata Lange is a native of Poland who lives in Santiago de Chile. She holds degrees in political science and international Relations, and is a PhD candidate at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. She is also a radio panelist on international politics issues. Follow @MalgoLange.