Back at Fordham University, where I earned my MA English in 1998, one writer most graduate students had an opinion about was Stephen King. I mean, EVERYONE has an opinion about Stephen King. But anyone who has decided to dedicate their professional lives to reading and critical analysis–that is, the professors-in-training who pass through English graduate programs–deserve to be heard out. Should Stephen King be part of the literary canon–yes or no?
I am super-excited to announce that on Wednesday, January 20, I am scheduled to interview Allan Winneker, author of Border Line! Border Line is about, to borrow a quote from the novel’s Amazon page, “[t]he dangers facing U.S. Border Patrol Agents while policing our frontier…brought to life in this story of murder, kidnapping and the footprints that drug trafficking leave on the lives of those brave people locked in the battle to protect us.”
Winneker’s novel is intended to honor BPA Brian Terry who was killed in 2010 during a gunfight outside Rio Rico, Arizona.
The U.S. – Mexican Border Fence in Nogales, AZ (2003)
There is no symbol quite like a border fence to demonstrate American opposition to illegal border crossings. The fences in Texas may be different from the ones in Arizona may be different from the ones in California. And yet they all share a uniform message for Mexicans and others hoping to slip illegally into the United States through the Southwest: Stay Out.
Over the years, the international border fence has been both revered and mocked. Those who support a strongly protected border point to fences as a powerful statement of intent. Those who would cross the border from Mexico or those who sympathize with such border crossers, would laugh at the ease with which would-be migrants can extend a simple $50 ladder over a multi-million dollar fence, climb up, hop over and leave the fence behind.
My first experience with an international border fence came when I visited Nogales, Arizona in 2003.
The mid-1990s saw a surge in illegal migrant traffic from Mexico to the United States in part due to a struggling Mexican economy exacerbated by a devalued peso in 1994. On the American side of the border, the result was a series of Border Patrol initiatives conducted along the Southwestern border–including Operation Safeguard in Arizona–intended to tamp down on the flow of illegal aliens through well-populated towns and cities.
These busy areas were attractive to would-be border crossers since it was easy to blend into the local, largely Latino population. As hundreds of new agents descended into metropolitan areas along the border as a result of these new initiatives, however, the only alternative became to cross through remote, dangerous territory such as Arizona’s Sonoran Desert.
The Immigration & Naturalization Service hoped such terrain would discourage mostly Mexican aliens from trying to cross illegally. That hope, however, quickly turned to illusion.
As detailed in my last post, Border Patrol agents use sign cutting to track anyone crossing the international border including migrants seeking job opportunities in the United States or drug smugglers moving their narcotics across Arizona’s Sonoran Desert in the Southwest.
Sign cutting was not devised by American border enforcement. The history of sign cutting dates to a period long before modern civilization, when humans had little in the way of protection from the natural elements. In addition to shelter and fire, food represented the most basic need. Hunter-gatherers would track creatures such as mammoth and elephants for long periods of time.
If there is something Border Patrol agents know, it is a process for tracking border crossers called “sign cutting”. One definition of sign (not mine) is “physical evidence of disturbance by the passing of people, animals or objects.” Sign is one of the most important resources Border Patrol agents utilize to figure out that desert-crossing immigrants or drug smugglers have passed by. And agents had better be good at it. It is their jobs to track and interdict individuals who have crossed into the United States.
Consider the following example from Billy Maddox Takes His Shot.