Blood on the line: resistance, empire and repression at the border

Text from a flyer distributed at the May 2nd (2009) demonstration in front of the county jail in Phoenix.

Submitted by Juan Conatz on February 8, 2012

The border fence is a result of three factors, inextricably intertwined: the expansion of capitalism, global war for empire and the desire of common people to organize their own lives free of the first two.

In 1854, the ratification of the Gadsden Purchase settled a border dispute stemming from the American invasion of Mexico seven years earlier (the “Halls of Montezuma” reference in the Marines battle hymn pays tribute to the occupation of Mexico City). With the war over, Southern capitalists and slavocrats turned their greedy eyes west, hoping to expand their trade and the slave system. Mountainous northern Arizona was deemed too difficult for a railway, and so the US purchased from Mexico the region that now encompasses southern Arizona. Thus the border moved, splitting both Mexican cities like Nogales and native peoples' traditional lands.

During this time, the border remained open and people moved relatively freely back and forth. A surveying team in the region left stone piles every couple miles as they traveled, delineating on the land a line on a map generally deemed meaningless by the region's inhabitants, who were keen on constructing their own lives free from such interference. In fact, the first physical barrier wasn't built between the two countries until 1918, when US war hysteria led to the Battle of Ambos Nogales.

Paranoid about a German-backed invasion from Mexico, the US deployed forces to Nogales. When a man crossing the border refused inspection by US troops, it quickly degenerated into open warfare, with American soldiers exchanging fire with Mexican troops and ordinary Mexicans fed up with the degrading treatment routinely meted out by US border guards. The resulting bloodshed left three US soldiers dead and hundreds dead and wounded on the Mexican side, including the mayor of Nogales. As a result, the US built the first chain link fence dividing the two countries.

Since then, as Capital and the State expanded their domination of the region, that fence has grown, even though our resistance to it has continued. While American Capital has become increasingly free to travel to Mexico, sucking the wealth into American banks, people have fought for their right to cross the border on their own terms, free from regulation. Tribes divided by the border have struggled to maintain their historical right to cross and migrant workers have voyaged back and forth in search of work and visiting family.

And, of course, millions of white Americans have crossed for vacations and to set up second homes, something that is largely unremarked by mainstream American society. Indeed hundreds of thousands of Americans live in Mexico, many of whom never register with Mexican immigration agencies. In the US, the freedom of white people specifically and American citizens in general – and the rich of all nations -- to travel to Mexico is considered a birthright, the spoils of war. Meanwhile, the legitimate desire of other people to do the same is criminalized and regulated.

Nevertheless, the right of all humans to travel wherever they wish, whenever they want is elementary to being a free person. As an obvious impediment to that, it is therefore our position that not only should the border fence be stopped and dismantled, but that free movement of all people should be encouraged. All people now held for “immigration” violations should be immediately freed and those already deported should be allowed free travel back if they so desire. All facilities for immigrant detention should be closed and leveled without delay.

Originally posted: May 2, 2009 at fires never extinguished