This collection of photographs describes the border wall as it slices across the landscape severing lives. It is a story about American destiny gone awry.Since 2007 I have stalked the wall that will eventually run from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. This barrier has hidden in the shadow of saber rattling. What does not appear at first view is the haunting emptiness of a place that was once filled with life.The wall exposes a political act with global ramifications about the U.S. and its neighbors. The wall repels human activity. The landscape is made more barren by the presence of the wall and the absence of native flora, fauna that were previously so much a part of the region’s rich bio-diversity. The photographs make us aware of the new lifeless atmosphere at the border. It is a record of the visible and invisible. Now the wall stands in segments, alone.
Meanwhile the reality of this wall remains. For those south of the border, lives of quiet desperation will persist as will the impulse to chance death in the desert for the opportunity to find a new life on the other side.
To the north some will entertain the illusion of security and separation from those feared as outsiders or enemies, the”others”who have no rights, who have been repelled and denied not only access, but also their humanity.
In 2006, the U.S. government began to build a towering wall along hundreds of miles of border between the United States and Mexico. While border checkpoints have always existed, most of the U.S.-Mexico border has traditionally been wide open. The U.S. southern border is more than 1,952 miles long (3,141 kilometers) and includes mountains and deserts. But the expense of building such a vast wall no longer matters to a country whose values have become skewed.
The U.S. government has spent $2.4 billion since 2006 on a still-unfinished project to erect more than 613 miles (that’s $4 million dollars a mile). To maintain the wall, the government will need to spend $6.5 billion over the next 20 years.
My motivation in documenting this barren and lifeless subject is to try to discover how the United States, which sees itself as the champion of law, rights, and democracy, came to engage in such an egregious violation of human rights. As the images in this book reveal, the border wall is a physical symbol as well as a legal example of a trend in the United States toward exceptionalism and exclusion. This trend began to be formalized during the Clinton administration, particularly through the passage of anti-immigration legislation, and accelerated under President George W. Bush after the 9/11 attacks.
Comparisons with the Berlin Wall, which was 96 miles long (155 kilometers), are inevitable. The American wall, still under construction, is expected to reach at least 1,952 miles in length. The average height of the Berlin Wall was 11.8 feet (3.6 meters), compared with the maximum current height of America’s wall at 25 feet (8 meters). The political comparisons are explored in the essays that accompany the photographs.
The American wall’s planning and design have failed to consider the long-term environmental, social, and economic costs of altering the border with a physical barrier. This wall has also failed its stated purpose, which is to increase the safety and enhance the security of the people and place it is purported to protect.
The plight of people, families, and workers on both sides of the U.S-Mexico border, as well as the environmental impact, need to be discussed and not buried under complex and arbitrary rules about security and the ever-changing political and economic fortunes in the U.S. My hope is whoever views these photographs and reads the essays that accompany them will better understand the implications of the wall and begin that discussion. The wall may prevent movement and physically imprison and separate people, but it must not silence them.