Last Friday, Feb. 5, Professor Reece Jones, Associate Professor at University of Hawaii at Manoa, spoke at the Spring Colloquium in the Elliot University Center Maple Room.
Jones talked about his research and upcoming book, “The Violence of Borders.” He focused on the U.S.-Mexico border, explaining the reason for it and how it could negatively affect international relations.
The geography professor told the story of a 15-year-old Mexican, Sergio Hernandez, and his friends who crossed the border into the the U.S. When a border patrol officer saw them, the boys ran back to the Mexico side; Hernandez, however, was caught by the officer.
The officer decided to fire his gun three times at the boys, who, in trying to help Hernandez, threw rocks at the officer.
“The bordered fence is not effective.The U.S.-Mexican border simply does not need to look like this,” Jones said.
He spoke about the unnecessary existing bordered fence between the U.S. and Mexico, stating that it would not work against a military invasion because of missiles, tanks and the recognition of the U.S.’s sovereignty.
An image of the fence was compared to that of the border between the U.S. and Canada, which is simply a white line upon a road.
Jones discussed how the transformation of a line on a map could be seen as a security zone. The rise of illegal immigration from Mexico led to the Security of Fence Act (2006) under the Bush Administration.
Six-hundred seventy miles of fencing was created, which Jones compared to the Berlin Wall.
Although there was a study that showed the reduction of immigration in that area, Jones noted that it simply moved to the other areas.
He believes some of the rise in military action for the borders are for political reasons.
“Although there is a perception that there was some golden period in the past where borders were secure, historically they have been open, and not well-guarded” Jones said.
He explained how for most of the 21st century, the only reason most countries would have a fortified wall was because they were in an ongoing war, such as the one between North Korea and South Korea before the peace treaty in the 1980s.
The way in which the border has been kept created a place of violence and instigation for migrants and the countries.
The difference between the borders in South Asia, Pakistan and others is that the militarization of the border is not a response to a military threat from Mexico but instead is focused on stopping the movement of civilians.
Jones estimated that about 10 years ago, 90 percent of migrants were not coming for illegal purposes with the current number being about 80 percent.
The U.S. government allows a first-time offender attempting to cross the border illegally to only be tried as with a misdemeanor.
The second is a felony charge. Meaning the “criminalization” is more so created by a change in the government’s definition.
Jones talked about the idea of the free trade agreements and globalization in the sense that borders as a whole are a contradiction.
He noted that borders allow for low wage labor. Creating more stringent borders stops the movement of people, which leads to civilians in certain countries working for extremely low wages.
Noting the recent Syrian refugees and the reasoning as to why there was such an immense coverage, the associate professor stated that it is was because of visibility.
Jones stated it was harder for governments and people to ignore migrants when the deaths are drastic and immense.
The difference between deaths on the shores of a beach and the Austrian migrants who died in a truck are enough to gain publicity for one and not the other.
He believes borders and denying immigrants entrance stems from irrational fear.
“The growth in border patrol, increase in funding, use of technology and the implementation of military tactics have transformed the Mexican border into a violent security space,” Jones said.