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Peter Bo Rappmund 2012
USA/Mexico | Format: HD | color | sound | 60 minutes

A survey of the physical qualities and metaphysical quandaries of the U.S.-Mexico border. Follows the boundary and its immediate surrounding topography incrementally from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean.—P.B.R.

The Mexico-United States border stretches 1,969 miles and runs from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. With approximately 350 million crossings per year, it is the most frequently traversed international border in the world. The frontier contains natural boundaries, such as the Rio Grande River, as well as a vast tactical infrastructure of man-made blockades incorporating vehicle barriers and reinforced fence. Federal and state governments of the United States use a variety of methods for surveillance and control of the border including aerostat systems, the ATF, DEA, FBI, manned and unmanned aircraft, hundreds of security cameras and ground/motion sensors, the Texas Virtual Border Watch, the National Guard, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard, and the largest law enforcement agency in America, the United States Border Patrol. Citizens of the United States have also mobilized under the efforts of a variety of local militia groups and larger private organizations such as the ABP (American Border Patrol), and the Minuteman Project. Along with the United States presence in the region, the perimeter has become increasingly militarized as the Mexican government continues to deploy thousands of army personnel to deal with drug trafficking and cartel violence along border states.

Beginning near Juarez / El Paso and heading west, the borderline between Mexico and the United States is delineated by stone and steel monuments. The first of these 276 markers was placed by surveyors in 1850 soon after the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe ended the Mexican-American War. These monuments are maintained by the International Boundary and Water Commission, a binational organization responsible for distribution of water between the two countries, as well as demarcation of the land boundaries.

Recent man-made barriers along the border were created through three major undertakings: Operation Hold-the-Line in Texas, Operation Safeguard in Arizona, and Operation Gatekeeper in California. George Walker Bush signed the Secure Fence Act of 2006, helping to install 700 additional miles of barrier. This new blockade has been built stateside as far as one mile inland from the Rio Grande River, often cutting through private property and essentially fencing in owners by restricting travel through only a limited number of gates and thoroughfares.

Long, unbroken stretches of fence act as a dead end for many migrating species along the border. Newly constructed barriers have also been a major factor in pushing illegally U.S. bound immigrants to cross through sparsely populated, non-fenced mountain and desert areas. Although there is no official count of immigrants who have perished while trying to cross into the United States, most estimates from American institutions  (U.S. Government Accountability Office, U.S. Border Patrol) put the toll for the last decade between 2,000-3,000 people. Mass graves have been created to host unidentified migrants who have died while crossing into the United States from Mexico. The Holtville, California paupers’ graveyard holds over 600 unclaimed immigrants, each headstone marked by a single brick.

Screening as part of the program Beyond the Borderline

Venue: Francesca Beale Theater

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