What if we re-imagined the US-Mexico border wall as architecture? Read more about the project in this week’s Design and Violence blog post. 

[Ronald Rael (American, b. 1971), Virginia San Fratello (American, b. 1971). Borderwall as Architecture: Teeter-totter alternative border solution. 2014. Dimensions and materials variable. Image courtesy of Rael San Fratello] 

The image…is of Carlos La Madrid, 19…shot in the back three times…and killed by a U.S. Border Patrol agent March 21, 2011 on the U.S. side of the border wall in Douglas, Ariz. His mother, Guadalupe Guerrero, who lives in Tucson, has become an outspoken figure on border violence in her attempt to seek answers and justice…


An investigative report that matters: Apparently 17 million pounds of marijuana has been confiscated by the U.S. Border Patrol between January 2005 and October 2011, the Center for Investigative Reporting reports. The lede on the ABC News story on the matter? “If you’ve always wanted to roll a spliff the size of the Washington Monument, the Border Patrol may be able to help.” I, for one, salute the Washington Marijuanament.

(Spotted this via firthofforth but had to post separately because OH MY GOD THE GRAPHIC)

Border violence is a prohibition problem. Just as we did for Al Capone and his murderous colleagues 90 years ago, our drug laws have created the battlefield on which tens of thousands are dying. By doggedly hanging onto marijuana laws that make criminals out of our children while our leaders proudly consume wine at state dinners, we have created an illegal marketplace with such mind-boggling profits that no enforcement measures will ever overcome the motivation, resources and determination of the cartels.

The Fence

The border the United States shares with Mexico is nearly 2,000 miles long and contains numerous natural and man-made barriers. The construction of the fence, the most significant man-made barrier in North America, started in 2006, has cost more than 3 billion dollars and spans around 700 miles (1,126 km).

This photo is part of a series titled “The Fence,” by Reportage photographer Charles Ommanney. You can view an exhibition of this work at the Leica Store in Miami through July, with an opening reception next Friday, May 29th at 7:30pm. Visit the Leica Store website for more info.

No human being held by United States authorities should ever be exposed to hunger, extreme temperatures, physical or verbal abuse, or denial of medical care.

Sen. Barbara Boxer said in a press release announcing a new bill to ensure humane detention conditions at Customs and Border Protection facilities. 

In November, we reported that immigrants apprehended near the border sometimes are held in what they, as well as some Border Patrol agents, call las hieleras, or “the freezers.” 

Now, Sen. Boxer is proposing a new bill that would implement standards for Customs and Border Protection facilities, such as adequate climate control, potable water, access to toilets, access to medical care and special treatment for pregnant women.

More details on the proposed legislation here.

In El Paso, residents aren’t waiting for Congress to fix immigration

EL PASO, Texas — As 2013 drew to a close, volunteers for the Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR) fanned out into El Paso and the surrounding communities to collect stories of abuse and mistreatment by law enforcement officials. The annual effort seeks to establish accountability for officers working along the El Paso sector of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Amid the steady stream of complaints that rolled in, Fernando Garcia, the organization’s director, noticed a conspicuous absence of grievances against Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department. “I said, ‘This cannot be,”’ recalled Garcia. He extended the campaign for two weeks and told volunteers to focus on finding any potential complaints against Border Patrol, an arm of CBP. But once again, volunteers found no verifiable incidents of abuse.

Read more

(Photo: Tom A. Peter)
'Ludicrous' to ban Canadians from U.S. for smoking pot, says public safety minister
'We obviously need to intensify discussions with border authorities in the United States,' says minister

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says Canadians slapped with a lifetime ban on entering the United States for telling a border guard they have recreationally smoked pot is a “ridiculous situation” that needs to be addressed.

“We obviously need to intensify our discussions with our border authorities in the United States, including the Department of Homeland Security,” Goodale told CBC’s Power & Politics host Rosemary Barton.

“This does seem to be a ludicrous situation, because, as you say, not only is the state of Washington, but three or four other jurisdictions in the United States have legalized marijuana,” he said.

Goodale was responding to the case of Matthew Harvey, who has been excluded from the U.S. for answering truthfully when the U.S. Customs and Border Protection service asked if he had ever smoked pot recreationally.

“They said that I was inadmissible because I admitted to smoking marijuana after the age of 18 and before I’d received my medical marijuana licence,” he said.

For the rest of his life, Harvey and other Canadians in his position must now apply for advance permission to enter the U.S. as a non-immigrant. The travel waiver, which costs $585 US ($752 Cdn), is granted on a discretionary basis, which means it may be good for a year, or two, or five, depending on the discretion of the approval officer.

When the waiver expires, Harvey will have to apply again and pay the fee, again, which is going up to $930 US ($1,195 Cdn) later this year.

Continue Reading.

Watch on


Conan helps to patrol the US-Canada border in style.

From Late Night with Conan O'Brien.


Slate’s photo blog, Behold, profiles Getty Images photographer John Moore and his work on immigration and border-security issues, which he has focused on since 2010.

Moore said he approached the project with the intent of looking at the issues “in as many ways as possible.” He said he explained the point of his project to immigrant communities and those in migrant shelters around the United States as wanting to put a human face on the issue; many decided to participate. He photographed a variety of people, including older men who were recently deported after living in the United Sates for many years, Cubans seeking asylum, and transgender people. He also tried to focus on families who had assimilated into American society.

Read more from the profile and see John’s work on
Border Agents Harassed My Family, Forced Me to Delete Recording, 'Because'

Our trip to Quebec was lovely, thanks. Returning to the U.S., not so much.

At the Jackman, Maine, border crossing into the United States, I get interrogated about what I have in my car. And not just the three juicy Canada-bought clementines, either.

“What is your relation to these children?” brusquely demands the young border guard who examines my two daughters’ passports and my own.

They do have their mother’s last name, and they do look somewhat Asian. I’m white. Maybe he’s curious. So I don’t give him any lip.

“I’m their dad.”

“Where is their mother?”

“At home, I guess.”

“Do you have a letter with her permission for you to travel with them?”


“I wasn’t aware that I needed any such thing,” I say. “Are you telling me I do?”

He clearly doesn’t appreciate even that tiny bit of pushback.

“Never mind. Follow me into lane one, please. We’re going to have to search your vehicle. Please give me your driver’s license.”

I hand it to him, then park the car in the area he indicates.

“Now please get out of the car and follow me inside.”

I grab my iPhone off the dash, hit the record button, and tell him politely: “For my protection, officer, I’m now recording what’s happening.” He stays silent. I step out of the car, and without warning, he physically attacks—that is, he wrestles the phone from my hand, twisting my arm in the process. I’m stunned.

“Officer, I do not give you permission to take my phone.”

“I don’t need your permission!” he barks. “Get inside and sit on the bench. With your kids.”

He disappears. With my phone.

Inside the building, I ultimately get a lecture from two other border patrol officers—friendlier, but not by much—about why recording is not allowed.

“If you upload it or share it in any way, people are going to know what kinds of questions we ask,” one of them says.

That makes no sense, I say. “As a journalist, I can tell the world, in writing, what questions you ask. In the U.S., anyone has that right. That’s certainly not against the law. What’s the difference between that and recording the conversation?”

A moment’s hesitation.

“Officer safety and security.”

I consider it. Might be fun to turn the tables for a moment, and use the argument of the typical surveillance enthusiast against them.

“If you all behave professionally, I believe you have nothing to worry about, and I don’t see why being recorded should faze you.”

‘Officer safety’ strike me as a nonsense. They’re all wearing name tags. I could identify them in writing, in public, and that wouldn’t be an intolerable affront against safety and security. Why would a voice recording be any different?

Now, to my surprise, my oldest daughter pipes up, in her sweetest voice. She’s 11.

“Why are you telling my dad this?”

I stare at her, wondering if, for her own good, I should tell her to zip it.

The answer from one of the guards is unexpected: “Because!”

What in the world? Who’s the child here?

My daughter doesn’t hesitate. In a soft but clear voice, she tells the two uniformed men, “'Because’ is not a reason.”

Holy crap. I am suddenly swelling with pride. But take it easy, kid, I think—this is not your fight. I gesture to her that it’s all right. She sits back down on the bench.

Then I fill out a customs declaration, as requested, and am resigned to letting my car get searched…for no reason that I’m aware of, unless it is that, ten minutes earlier, I hadn’t smiled ingratiatingly enough.

But the guys now have other plans.

“We’ll need you to delete from your phone what you just recorded.”

I think about it. Is this leverage, maybe? “If I do, are we free to go?” I ask.

Surprisingly, the answer is yes.

They retrieve my phone.

I take a chance and delete the recording while one of the officers watches closely. I figure that if I ever need to retrieve the footage, I’ll find a software expert who knows how.

To his credit, the officer wasn’t lying. I promptly get our passports and my driver’s license back.

“Welcome home,” he says, perhaps brightening at the prospect that I will soon be out of his life. The feeling is mutual.

My daughters and I roll away, in our unsearched car—having ultimately posed no greater threat to the United States than the unthinking importation of three clementines, contraband that the border patrol professionals have bravely confiscated and discarded.

I’m sure they’ll rest easy tonight, and so can you.