2163 - Empire of Borders: The Expansion of the US Border Around the World w/ Todd Miller
In the jar already sense yes lays gel mitch tuesday august twenty any seven two thousand nine hundred my name sam cedar. This is the five time award winning majority report. We are broadcasting live to tape steps is from the industrial ravaged guadalcanal in the heartland of america downtown brooklyn u._s._a. Why do i sound so energetic attic. I'll tell you why i'm a vacation and i am bringing you. This brand new interview via a the recording technology. We have traverse through time and space to bring you this interview even though no one's in the studio today on the program investigative journalist todd miller's empire of borders how the u._s. is exporting its boarder around the world. It's a fascinating look at the concept of a border and how we projected outward breath also on the program for members. You're gonna get deep archive. Pick from brendon that means something from the show show the first iteration of the majority report on air america back with geneva. 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It's either hosted by myself off or lucy steiner who i know you'll love and every morning we do it even when we're on vacation even when i'm on vacation what kind of idiot does is that idiot stupid. Well what it is. Folks can't help it trying to launch new show uh-huh quick break. We come back empire of borders with todd miller the expansion of the u._s. border around the world be right back. We are back back sam cedar on the majority report on the phone. It's a pleasure to welcome to the program todd miller. He is the author of empire of borders the expansion of the u._s. border around the world. He's a winner of the two thousand eighteen izzy award for investigative. Journalism may have seen his writing in the new york times. Mother jones owns a nation al jazeera english and salon. Tom dispatch todd welcome to the program. Thanks for having me so. There's there's there's two sort of fundamental questions that i want to ask you. I'm trying to figure out which one is the better one to ask i but well let's do it this way. What do we mean when we talk about because you write about essentially border imperialism. What do we mean gene bye. Bye border in this context in how has the concept of the border changed yeah. That's the that's that's that's the big maybe somewhat complicated question but i'll try to <hes> <hes> answer as best as i can on win so one live the one of the things that happen especially post nine eleven was a shift of of the <hes> what the strategy the the strategizing of customs and border protection and department of and than with of the formation of the department of homeland security and if you go to <hes> <hes> one of the <hes> strategist <hes> alan bersin he was on our borders are under the clinton administration us also worked for d h s under the obama administration ministration. He called it. He said we started looking less at lines. Are both that lines i want to i want to stress and then flows of people in other words. The as another are as many c._b. Commissioners have put since then in the end. It's also a strategy papers the border no longer longer. The is the first nor last line of defense meaning that the border on the actual you when you think of the border if you think of the u._s. Mexico border dat is only one layer prominent layer of what the border is but the border actually ripples out internationally and and also there's an interior portion of it and that's <hes> when you when you begin to grapple the question of what the border that's one way to look at it and i could give be some concrete examples of what that actually looks like if you'd like yeah yeah do and and and i wonder well why don't you give us those concrete examples and then we'll talk talk about how much this was theory. How much of a philosophical change does it represent or simply. <hes> <hes> i mean i i'm reminded of that era in the wake of nine eleven where <hes> the the the cry was fight them over there are so we don't have to fight them over here on some level. It sort of feels like it's that same theory which was being employed right yeah i think i think you're absolutely right. It is it is coming from that same basic theory. If you look at the the nine eleven commission report that came out. I believe it was in two thousand and three at one of the things that it's as the quote unquote the american homeland is the planet so the idea of braying the border order out away pushing it out away from the united states to to stop people or items or weapons of mass destruction shen if you will from from coming to the united states long before they even get close to our borders. That's the official justification jason when you when you look at this kind of shift over to this internationalization and i remember well i just wanted to ask you like was there a change. I mean i you know obviously we have a long history in this country of a- vilifying at different times <hes> immigrants prince and exploiting them also i mean obviously <hes> in many ways <hes> structurally we were set up to to welcome them. Was there <music> a fundamental change in the sort of philosophical perspective of immigrants that needed to take place. I mean just as i say like fight them over there era as opposed to over here. They're immigrants. They're they're not terrorists. They're not an invading army. Their their potential immigrants grants. I mean was there. Was there a a concurrent change in the philosophical perspective of immigrants point yeah i would. I would say that that's correct especially when you look at the post nine eleven <hes> shifts a- actually one person called it a massive paradigm shift as far as c._b._c._p.'s concern but it in that comes this this viewing <music> of immigrants it through the lens of the <hes> you know of the post nine eleven reality for example when you are c._p._r. C._p._r. Customers a border protection didn't even exist <hes> when two thousand two thousand one in september eleventh two thousand one it was formed after that and when it was formed its priority mission was stopping web <hes> terrorist critical terrorism weapons of mass destruction from crossing u._s. borders so you have you have the setup of c._b. If you look at the budgets going out of two thousand eleven to present the budget started needed increasing and and historically unprecedented ways and the justification was a terrorism justification was and and so you get all these budgets is coming in you have all these resources going into the two to building a border apparatus a border and immigration apparatus my do ice immigration and customs forcement was created also in two thousand three so all these resources going going into this long under counter-terror justification but yet as you say <hes> what we have what the the what they're what these sorts of new <hes> this this apparatus satis impacting who this impact apparatus is impacting our in fact mostly immigrants immigrants coming from from particularly latin america the americas but even over all around the world but under a kind of terrorism justification so if like following border policy we in the two thousands for example you see this kind of <hes> you know what is what is coming you know. Are there terrorists coming across order. You know all this sort of rhetoric of of of terrorism that sort of thing the budget scoring up but yet there's not one incident ever of of a person at least that we know about a person that's affiliated with a terrorist organization has no by the u._s. Government from cross crossing the u._s. border and so you have has built up and under the certain post nine eleven rubric but it's it's mainly the arsenal is aimed at the immigrant and so so the emigrant so basically you know you have the kind of anti immigrant sentiment. That's that's kind of behind the veil that it's interesting using because it it extensively right. It's like a hidden threat that exists in this group of people that we weren't aware of before that ultimately ultimately doesn't exist and the the fallout from creating that threat almost supersedes now the original proposition that existed did <hes> in that regard and we should say the southern border right. You're you're talking about the southern border man. I remember there was the millennium bombing <hes> the annual or or i think that's what i can't remember. Come came in <hes> through canada or there's an attempt like in seattle or somewhere around there. I think yeah up in that. I can't remember exactly the details details but that is correct as nineteen ninety nine so is pre pre deatilas right and that's the one incident that has brought up if you if you if about terrorists coming across the u._s. border than millennium <hes> on bomber and i go ahead okay well no and that was right and that was that was done prior to the apparatus that we have now okay so you were going to mention some so we have the situation asian now where we have projected the border and really in some ways sort of vaporized it as a geographic distinction and almost created like some form of i guess repellent or just sort of like a force field that we project out based upon where we see flows of people coming. Can you give us like some of those tangible examples you were talking about. Yeah sure <hes> one one example example and this might have been. I worked the story. That really prompted me to look into reading this book. I happened in two thousand and ten when the big earthquake hit haiti and i did a a an article for knock law on on what how would you know what was happening. As far as immigration was concerned and and <hes> what what i found out almost immediately was that the united states sent sixteen coast guard cutters basically ships right up to the haitian shores and they also sat a supply plane <hes> over haiti which was flying low and with the on the voice of the ambassador of of <hes> of haiti to the united states he was talking to pray all saying asking people not to leave the country the not to leave haiti in your mind you there's over. Three hundred thousand people were killed with the matter quake there. There's over a million people displaced and so the idea of the border of expanding the elastic border going right up to the shores of haiti. <hes> <hes> was really really was was actually quite surprising to me and i and i've been studying you know borders particularly u._s. Mexico for quite a while and on so that that was is a prominent example how quickly a border could be this not in a static position it could be mobilized to move and on also to add there was detention bad setup in in guantanamo bay by the company geo group that was at the this displacement upheaval and migration patience so that's that's one example <hes> and then after that that's i i did go to puerto rico. Maybe two years later in two thousand twelve on and of course puerto rico's u._s. Territory on and i was studying the border patrol and puerto rico which is again. It's two thousand miles from the mainland and i was surprised at the on the west coast of puerto rico all the green stripe vehicles that i normally see where i live in arizona tucson arizona and <hes> and and i was loud you know i didn't i knew that there was border patrol there but i didn't realize how extensive their the patrolling of the west coast puerto rico and mind you. The west coast is looking out onto the mona straight and across the mona straight is the dominican republic so i find out later that the border patrol can goes fires ars of mona island which is about thirty two miles from the dominican republic and literally you know pretty much patrolling the coast of the dominican republic like almost as close to san diego tijuana okay so i have. I have two questions regarding that. The first is is the sovereignty question like how what what allows a foreign government in this case the the united states government to enter into haiti airspace. I guess i don't know i mean maybe there's no provision for this at all and and basically really announced to the haitian people like stay here what what what allows for in international amid. Maybe they're in international waters when we send all these cutters there to presumably intercept <hes> refugees at that basis. I guess if we're in international waters autres. We're in international waters but certainly flying over the country in saying stay where you are. How do i mean can countries just do that. Can canada send military planes over the united states and just start announcing like hey we want you guys to i don't know by more maple syrup or or something. I mean like what what what is involved in terms of. Do we have a treaties for this. How do we get away with that. Yeah that'd be interesting to see canadian canadian at the canadian. Air force are sent their planes over the united states. I bet you can you imagine kind of media coverage style again. I mean that's it's like it'd be sort of a problematic. I mean do we have permission from the hague. Government the the haitian government to to cross the the <hes> <hes> the the country and say stay where you are. I mean that's that seems problematic to me yet. It's i do believe you're correct. On the the the plane was a supply pointing so technically it was part of the united states aid mission to haiti post earthquake so <hes> but obviously it was being used as an for another reason a home a quote unquote homeland security reason on the the coast and i believe the coast guard cutters were able to get there are allowed to patrol quote unquote allowed to patrol an international water so they i believe they were able to get up right up into where the the technical international boundary as coming off the haitian coast which i might. I think it's about ten miles <hes> so they are kind of prowling around around the the haitian coast in international waters expecting people to leave on and then quite frankly you know like as you're canadian example on the kick. The candidate example really underscores yeah. I mean what other country could possibly do that a man you know that's there's a a certain kind of bravado earn. I guess aggressiveness in policy that the united states you know has shown over many many years and continues to show like the that that that the united states is long considered latin america the americas the caribbean to be its quota backyard <hes> that it can dan. Do you know pretty much whatever it pleases and those places and this seems to be another example of that. The kind of border extension you see is is is is an example of that i mean and and and i mean at one point right that has to infringe enj- upon sovereignty unless we have some type of i guess <hes> treaty or something to that effect and maybe that there's examples of that in other other places uses let me ask you this that when when there's a situation like the <hes> the haitian earthquake and we had <hes> i'm not sure how many tens of thousands of haitians that we allowed into the country under temporary protected status <hes> status program that i don't know how many of those people will now have been sent back to haiti under the trump administration. I would imagine significant numbers have not all but the the the idea that we want to intercept people before they can actually reach the u._s. Territory therefore we don't need to put the men to the asylum system is that the theory or is at the the idea of that's definitely a theory that's that's out there and the idea yeah or even the the stated mission as far as the pushing out of the borders and that's how often officials speak about this is to intercept people long before they reached u._s. Shores so that's so so the idea of stopping people way before they get there if they and then in the haiti case while they would be detained in in in one time obey right in cuba technically <hes> and <hes> you know and the state and you could make the same case are right now how for what's going on on the mexico's border with guatemala <hes> where you know many many people from guatemala on sal sal salvador honduras are are crossing that more and more fortified border in that that border has been fortified help with <unk> with plenty of help from the united states on in the longest <hes> including doing trainings of mexican immigration agents of mexican can police have mexican army setting resources to mexico from biometrics biometrics lake <hes> <hes> fingerprint digital fingerprinting machines jeans and facial recognition to motion sensors they have black hawk helicopters down there from the united states <hes> and and this kind of fortification of the mexican southern border which on which has been happening actually for quite a while but really really ramped up in two thousand fourteen when mexico geico announced the what they call the southern border program and then i it's been ramped up even more under this kind of cooperation between the donald trump administration and uh-huh andres manuel lopez over door administration so you see you see this this this this ramping up the stopping of people long before they get to the southern border many as we know from central america silence seekers so there's a lot of theories out there will this is stopping people who are asking for asylum long before they get to the u._s. borders to be able to do that and we should make clear when they get to the u._s. Border if they touch u._s. Soil they are then statutorily torah qualify. If they're seeking asylum they they statutorily qualify for some type of adjudication process assess right and and that's the that's the idea we were hearing stories that <hes> you had <hes> <hes> custom border officials who were preventing people entering from the southern border to actually go to appropriate <hes> border control all border crossings with the hopes of like preventing them from from from qualifying for essentially that that that status that you get when you're seeking asylum right and that's an to as is on evolves this kind of cooperation. The united states has with mexico <hes> so mexico's agreeing. You know this kind of remain in mexico <hes> program. I guess you call it that we see the border right now and as you say right let the legal processes of people step on u._s. soil than they have to you know than there has to be a credible fear your examination and a asylum process initiated <hes> and <hes> so it does seem like this pushing out of the border whether it be on on the even on the northern border of from with the united states and mexico are way in the southern border or even further because you can go down to guatemala honduras and you see this county building up this these ripples of borders are these layers of borders that go further and further onto the south <hes> other so you can you can definitely look at it through the lens of stopping people from getting to the us border for that purpose of of asking for asylum and it's not just we're not just doing this in the western hemisphere right. I mean we are there is a an analogous mechanisms for for places that are in no way contiguous <hes> with the with the united states that is correct on i like in the <hes> empire borders i i went all over the world i went to on the border between jordan and syria for example and <hes> <hes> investigated you know millions and millions tens three <hes> three hundred million dollars. The united states was giving to jordan <hes> <hes> to build up its border with syria and iraq and through and they gave a contractor raytheon corporation so there's a important point that private companies are often often involved in all of this as well <hes>. I went to the the kenya on where the kenya like jordan. I don't <music>. I'm not sure if shorted will kenya's one of the twenty three countries around the world where there's a customs and border protection attache and the embassy so that goes to show you like akao supposed to be happening what is happening between the syrian jordan the jordanian border that implicates u._s. us u._s. immigration so as <hes> as <hes> the so there's been a massive amount anna immigration coming from from syria <hes> <hes> this this sort you know a refugee crisis that probably araya were the worst in the world perhaps <hes> and <hes> the under the the the the jordan re really stresses the idea first of all of of terrorism so they are on really stressing stressing the antiterrorism counterterrorism entertainers and there was a there was an incident in. I believe it was two thousand fourteen at one of the ports of entry and jordan that involves on isis i believe and they pretty much shut down the border from there but already the united states was really helping <hes> jordan build up its its border order was syria <hes> the even though jordan jordan itself at has taken in many many refugees about one point five million in different camps apps on but when you talk to when he talked he la on and i was able to talk to pretty high up officials who enjoyed it or who who told me what the purpose of the strategy is and it's it's jordan serves as a kind of geopolitical on <hes>. It's a strategic geopolitical location in the middle east on as far as <hes> maintaining. I guess what would be a status. Quo a status quo of <hes> in a place where you know the united states has has has many interests as everyone knows especially with its excursions orrock and other places so we six so if i understand you correctly the calculus is not a national security one or at least not a direct one insofar ars that we anticipate some of those refugees may be <hes> terrorist or people who are <hes> you know <hes> interested in doing us harm erma whatever the the construction is. It's more that we are invested in halting the flow of various. I guess immigrants who are political entities entering into a country because it will destabilize the country in some way or destabilize the relationship with the united states that it has with that country yeah <hes> i would like. I guess there's a couple ways to look at it. There's <hes> when you look at the america's <hes> and the the border and the pushing out of the borders and you have lots of examples of stopping people before they get to the united states actual border but but but when you start going overseas and they about on you know situations like jordan and <hes> another place as many other places than it's i think it gets imperative to start looking at what are u._s. Interests in those areas are what are on is disease. Boarder is aboard as border order around the u._s. Territory but is there also mortar round u._s. Interests and i think that basel along the lines of what you're saying like oh it's in the u._s. Interests that jordan is not too stabilized on for whatever reason rae or for whatever what reasons that the united states wants its footprints foot in the middle east <hes> and that that sort of thing so so immigration our immigration policy is used as a way hey to at times an end in and of itself and at other times. It seems a means to some other end yeah yeah. That's that's. I mean yeah. You almost have to have a louis. No there's there's the strict exam. The strict definition of immigration controller immigration listen enforcement would be but then there's this more loose almost i would say imperial on structure under which it falls and it can be used in many different ways including on for u._s. Interests abroad well. Let's talk about that notion. Because the my senses your book describes an imperialism that is i guess i mean we hear different sort of variants on on imperialism right like this is a software imperialism or it's more sur surgical or you know. Give me your sense of how our immigration policy so our immigration policy policy has obviously domestic implications but it also has these these broader international ones basically basically a define and describe for this notion of of border imperialism or imperialism via an extension of malleability of borders not so much in giving up territory but in some ways taking territory right was a <hes> so yeah so the idea of if porter imperialism and if you will on the the when you look around the world in different places on if you follow you know u._s. Policy for example <hes> anywhere really around the world <hes> tear you know iraq is a good example for the middle east or you know the israel palestine as well on but also also if you look in central america <hes> the such you know the long processes of u._s. Militarism the economic models that have been shaped <hes> <hes> economic policy in places like guatemala el salvador honduras that really have privileged u._s. Corporations going way back to united fruit company. You know ruled in guatemala and honduras those sorts of things that have marginalized many many many people <hes> <hes> and then if people are to stand up to those sorts of situations well then the iron fist comes down and central america you the the words of the conflicts of the nineteen seventies nineteen eighties really show show that the dictatorships that were sponsored by the united got it states or even you know the coups that were instigated by the united states so one of the things that you see you know when you have a policies <hes> you know throughout the world that that on can cause upheavals that can <hes> really marginalized people that that could create a lot of people in dire situations of poverty or create help at least impact different situations the violence that people are in and then there's going to be a certain amount of blowback or even a lot of blowback on in a were and that sort of world of the dramatic inequality rate when you look at you know when to go back to the kind of one percent versus the ninety nine percent on sort of paradigm the the the in order for a status quo where you know the wealthy keep getting richer the the poorer maintained their status <hes> to keep a status quo <hes> like that intact will there has to be a whole kind of system of control and i think that's where you know. The kind of analysis or the conceptualization of the of the global board apparatus has to be seen and then on top of that you have to look at the ecological obstacle situations that are happening especially as the globe pizza and different places are getting more and more impacted by droughts and sea level rise as an extreme weather and that sort of thing that exacerbate situations of you know if you're poor and you're guatemalan drought happens and you don't you. Can't you know your crops will then you're. You're screwed really you have to you have to think of something. I mean there's there's obviously like a huge parallel here with the way that <hes> some people describe our carsl state as our police force is basically mopping up up <hes> the problems created by the inequality and perhaps racism that we have in society that <hes> creates a segment of the population the election that will need to be controlled because they've been <hes> exploited in left out of the upside to our society exactly. I think you hit the nail on the head there. Well go ahead. Go ahead. No please just yeah. I think there's gots. That's exactly what this kind of apparatus is doing and it's important you know like dimension that assad only like the lines signs of division and and halting the movement of people from one place to the other but if they do do that like if somebody does cross a line of division than their illegalized legalized and then maybe thrown in the karsh allstate as well right they're they're in. They're in prison. They're detained. You know like the the the examples of the prison camps that we've been seeing are that indefinite detention by immigration and customs enforcement or the full <unk> forced expulsions the people from one place to the other enforced family separations that all that involves so yeah. I think that's all you know in this this whole like to keep the system the status quo of system that we have in place intact. That's what's going to happen. That's how you control charlet empire of borders the expansion of u._s. border around the world todd miller will put a link to your book at majority dot f._m. Thanks so much for your time today. I really appreciate it yeah. Thanks for having me on that person to go st get sue wong aw i'm blowing kid because put it shores though the option no you don't get the blow briggs. Just search <music> sakes aches apo- <music> you you wait. Save the school you uh-huh.