According to a new series on The National Geographic Channel, the United States is involved in a “Border War” with Mexico. However, Mexico has not declared war on the United States nor has the latter on the former. Why then would the creators of a supposedly factual and accurate depiction of life at the border advertise the situation as a war? Perhaps the extensive use of emotionally-charged images, action-movie-like clips, and fiery narration in the trailer for this new series is used simply to gain viewers. The exact details that constitute a war are debatable, but is it acceptable to advertise this situation as war and depict the Mexicans as the negative force while portraying the Americans as the crime-fighters needed at our border as seen in this trailer?
This is not the first time the situation at our border has been referred to as a “border war.” A newspaper article was published in The Nation on November 12, 1990 entitled “The Mexican Border War” written by Miriam Davidson.
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It discusses the intolerance of Mexican immigrants in America, especially near the border. Also, a documentary called “Border War: The Battle over Illegal Immigration,” written and directed by Kevin Knoblock was released in 2006. This documentary follows five individuals involved with illegal immigration and the border. Grant it, these titles are eye-catching and interesting, but the question of whether or not this situation is actually a war, in the universal sense of the word, is still questionable.
The trailer for the series “Border Wars” depicts the jobs of U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents and officers working at the border between the United States and Mexico. The Americans in the trailer are depicted as heroic and brave—riding helicopters, carrying guns, using medical equipment, catching criminals, and basically keeping the peace—while almost every non-American is wearing handcuffs, handling drugs, or being searched by American officers. The trailer does not give viewers a chance to judge for themselves. It breeds hate against the Mexicans, portraying them as criminals and blaming them for the “border war” that is supposedly happening. However, criminals make up only seventeen percent of immigrants crossing the border, according to the article, “No ‘Typical Days for Border Patrol” by Heather Trujillo. This is not what the trailer for “Border Wars” shows. The trailer ignores the eighty-three percent of the non-criminal Mexicans that cross our border simply looking for a better life, but those people are necessary if the show is going to be an accurate depiction of the situation at our border and of the Mexicans themselves.
Images of guns, weapons, and handcuffs are frequent in the montage of clips. This trailer illustrates a war-like situation, reflecting the series title, “Border Wars,” but does it reflect what is actually happening there? People are dying. Violence is a constant concern. Drug and human trafficking is occurring. The question is: do these things alone qualify the situation as war?
The majority of lives of Mexicans crossing the border are claimed by the desert heat and treacherous journey into America. In fact, an article by Sanjeeb Sapkota and others entitled “Unauthorized Border Crossings and Migrant Deaths” states that in a semi-recent study, environmental heat exposure was the leading cause of death, accounting for 61.1% of immigrant deaths with the next highest being only 8.1%, which was vehicle crashes. The gun-wielding agents with the advanced technology from the “Border Wars” trailer are not hunting down and killing illegal immigrants like some kind of action movie as implied by the video. The real defender, the major deterrence of illegal immigrants, is the barren wasteland they must cross to come to America.
The United States / Mexico border conflict is not without other casualties, however, and the jobs of the border patrol agents are by no means un-heroic. Reports of agents being murdered are numerous. Foxnews.com, usatoday.com, and nydailynews.com all have articles about murders and usually the investigations following. The job is dangerous and these people put their lives on the line daily.
As for the majority of violence at our border, an article from USAToday.com calls the United States and Mexico “Allies in a border war.” The author, Navarrette, asserts that both sides are responsible for the increasing violence at our border, and he has this to say after spending time in Mexico: “Mexicans think it is ironic that Americans are being warned to stay away from the border out of fear of drug violence. The Mexicans I spoke with say that the closer they get to the U.S. border, the more they fear becoming a casualty of that violence, and they blame the U.S.” Both sides fear the other, at least to a certain extent, and both groups blame the other. If the situation at our border is to be considered a war, I agree with Navarrette in that the United States and Mexico are allies, and not enemies, in a drug war at our border.
Why then would a reputable newspaper, documentary, and television station as well as other unmentioned media, call this situation a war? These titles involving the words “border war” easily grab the attention of an action-loving audience. Portraying the Americans as heroes and crime-fighters also gathers viewers. The explicit goal of the “Border Wars” trailer, for example, is to advertise a new and exciting series, but it also implicitly manages to portray Mexicans as criminals. Perhaps this implicit agenda is not intentional. Some people may not even notice how poorly the Mexicans are being depicted, but it is unfair nonetheless.
The violence endangers those on either side of the line and creates animosity between the two nations whose border has become a dangerous battlefield. The fault lies with both the United States and Mexico, and it is unreasonable to place the blame solely on the Mexicans. If war is characterized as declared and armed conflict between two groups, the United States is not at war with Mexico. The situation at our border must be addressed because of the violence that is mounting, but it should not be advertised as a “Border War.”