Academic journal article Borderlands

Redrawing the 'Imaginary Lines': Exceptional Space in an Exceptional Time

Academic journal article Borderlands

Redrawing the 'Imaginary Lines': Exceptional Space in an Exceptional Time

Article excerpt

Introduction

1. Shortly before the 'real' state of emergency that occurred with Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, which was not immediately declared even after it occurred, two state governors in the American Southwest declared a preemptive 'state of emergency' of their own. The difference was that in the latter, the action was ostensibly intended to stem the flow of migrant bodies from 'outside' into the territorialities over which they presided 'inside', so as to maintain the illusion of an unambiguous polity. In doing so, they released millions of dollars of federal monies to their aid, which was then used to impress upon local municipalities the 'need' to govern their jurisdictions in line with the policy of the state in which they operated, while also setting the stage for HR-4437, the draconian anti-immigration bill supported by Republicans. Opportunistic events of this order are certainly nothing new--they build on the considerable hysteria that has persistently recurred in the United States over migration from Mexico into the Southwestern border-states, which in the past has led lawmakers to such lengths as California's 'Proposition 187' (Shapiro, 1997). Like the more recent bills, 'Proposition 187' essentially denied migrants the right to basic human services such as healthcare and education, while effectively turning public servants of all kinds into border patrol agents and infinitely pluralizing the locality of the 'border' itself.

2. Until recently, the events of September 11 2001 had meant that such hysteria did not need to be 'inspired', for it had always already been at the forefront of the American public consciousness. Hence the only minimal opposition to the declaration of a 'state of emergency' like the one enacted by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Arizona Governor Janet Napalitano in Summer 2005. Under these emergency powers, the two governors set the stage for the wave of anti-immigrant sentiment over the course of the next year, as well as the unprecedented convergence of Latinos and other immigrants of both documented and undocumented status (Campo-Flores, 2006: 30). By attempting to force local city governments to abide by their command to stop the 'dangerous criminal activities' they imagined taking place in these political zones of indistinction--which from the vertical point of view, are essentially ungovernable--the two governors attempted to replace what was really contingency with the veneer of necessity. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger also backed this move, even suggesting that he not only proudly supports such extralegal paramilitary 'citizen' groups as the Minutemen, but also that he would consider doing the same in his own state, thereby positing again the 'necessity' of emergency powers. In order to fully understand the political developments that unfolded with the 'Day Without Immigrants' actions (ranging from boycotts to marches to strikes) nearly a year later, however, what is most interesting about these moves is the way that the bordertowns themselves reacted to the sudden hysteria. An article from the Los Angeles Times illuminates the perspective of one small town on the Arizona/Mexico border with particular force:

On the front lines in Douglas, senior government leaders, federal agents and many residents are hard-pressed to identify the emergency conditions. Borane said the city of 15,000 was in generally good shape and had learned to live with the annoyances that accompanied the flow over the border. Crime has been dropping, and the city hasn't recorded a homicide in a couple of years, Police Chief Charles E. Austin said. Women in town say the streets are safe to walk at night. Though the city's downtown has faded and some stores are vacant, huge new retail outlets are adding employment and a tax base. The city, which is 90% Latino, is far more dependent on trade with its sister city, Agua Prieta, than the rest of Arizona, Borane said. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.