The Southern Border is “The New Ellis Island”
If nothing else, we could all agree on this point. There is a prevailing narrative about the U.S. border and it is false and it is dangerous to border communities.
There are untruths out there about our border region that ultimately make it difficult for entrepreneurs to conduct business, for religious communities to serve as they see fit and for local and federal law agencies to keep the public safe. But these untruths also make it difficult for anyone to seek out rational policies for the border.
Together or independently, many of us had already tried to promote rational border policies. So far, those efforts have been stymied by rhetoric and political grandstanding. We see the evidence of this when Texas Gov. Rick Perry tries to underscore his political position that the border is not secure by saying that a car bomb has gone off in downtown El Paso. Despite this statement being completely false, it was quickly and widely reported. The sad fact is that the car bomb story, however false, fits the media and political narrative about life at the border.
We could all agree that we cannot just aim for impacting policy discussions. We have to start at the stories people are telling about us — the border narrative. And we came together as border community members and religious communities, border academics, local elected officials and law enforcement to face this challenge.
The Border Network for Human Rights asked representatives from all along the border including religious communities, border academics, local elected officials and law enforcement to gather a group of their peers to write a new narrative of the border. These documents represent each sector’s new vision to challenge the current, prevailing narrative.
It’s our belief that the border is a window into the future of the U.S. This is not just a demographic argument. We believe that policies tested at the border will one day make it into the interior. Whether those are policies of criminalization and militarization or policies of community development and the protection of peoples’ human rights remains to be seen.