The Secure Fence Act of 2006 called for the creation of 700 miles of high-tech, militarized wall along the US-Mexico border. This included “unmanned aerial vehicles, ground-based sensors, satellites, radar coverage, and cameras,” which effectively turned the borderlands into a warzone. The language used in the Act itself lumps “unlawful aliens” alongside mentions of “terrorists” and “narcotics,” implying that Latino/as who enter the United States are inherently just as dangerous. President George W. Bush’s remarks upon signing the bill included phrases like, “We must face the reality that millions of illegal immigrants are already here,” evoking a sense of paranoia towards the “other.”
This type of rhetoric is not new–for centuries, American political leaders have framed the immigration debate as one of national security, while dehumanizing the people that they deem “the enemy.” Ever since the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, federal legislation has continuously used language that racializes Mexican and Mexican Americans. In recent years, phrases like America’s “broken borders” have become increasingly commonplace in political discourse. Though this rhetoric is often associated most closely with political firebrands like Donald Trump, there is nothing new to this type of xenophobia towards Latin America.