meeting with Alan Bersin in Marfa Sector
- Upon invitation by Bill Brooks, PR officer for the Border Patrol in the Marfa Sector, local border "activists" were invited to meet with Alan Bersin, Asst. Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security for International Affairs and Special Representative for Border Affairs (aka "the border czar" and, as soon as he is confirmed by the Senate, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection), so that he might become acquainted with the region. Six of us attended. This is my individual report and may differ in tone or substance from reports made by others at the meeting.
Our meeting with Mr. Bersin followed a meeting he held with local mayors and county judges.
The Border Patrol officers and Mr. Bersin took the roles of gracious hosts. Mr. Bersin also played, in part, the role of facilitator to a new era of Border Patrol relationships within the region which would help local people increase trust in their Border Patrol and become joint problem solvers with them.
Mr. Bersin opened the meeting describing himself as prepared to listen. He did listen, to each of us, responding repeatedly with the same two-part message, couched each time in slightly different words: "The world changed on 9/11" and "working together on a local level we can usefully open dialog even though we do not always agree; we can find common ground."
This message was used to draw a picture of a sharply delineated border but a border that does not necessarily include a wall and one that might possibly even include some solutions for allowing pre-approved workers from Mexico to cross at other than Class A crossings. No details; details would come from community members working closely with the local Border Patrol; the sector chief spoke of putting community members in a short-term community border patrol academy program; by sharing the Border Patrol vision of what is "a realistic world", we could help make it realistically secure.
Mr. Bersin offered a vision: if we want to join together to solve the problems of sundered river communities, decreased homeland security through destabilization of eastern Coahuila and Chihuahua through closed Class B crossings, and decreased tourism due to so many boots on the ground, we can work with a responsive Border Patrol.
The lessons I heard for activist groups:
Essentially, if you feel your homeland is more secure with a militarized nation and believe that the world changed on 9/11, this meeting bodes well for effecting border policy changes on at least a small scale, developing positive relationships with Border Patrol officers, and inventing local alternatives to more border wall. A reasonable inference to be made at the meeting was that working with the Border Patrol offers the best chance to be in on the action and bring thoughtful community-created change to the borderlands.
However, if you see the border wall as but one element of increasing militarization of our nation's economic and social fabric, you will probably not sleep more soundly as a consequence of this meeting. You may imagine drones taking over border security and border patrol officers becoming a sophisticated sort of federal community policing force.
I have no doubt Mr. Bersin understands the nature of militarization and that protest of militarization is at the heart of border activism; he chooses to believe (along with Presidents Bush and Obama) that militarization is necessary in our new world. Mr. Bersin made it clear that when the words "the world changed on 9/11" are intoned, all rational thought must defer to militarized solutions.
My personal lessons:
(1) This meeting's greatest benefit may be in helping identify our personal dividing lines: the busyness of developing local relationships with which to solve problems can be awfully near, but is not identical, to resisting militarization of our nation. So where do our individual energies go? The lines are not, I think, in the same place for each of us. But, wherever they lie, there appears to be unending work before us.
(2) The world did not change with 9/11. We must remember that 9/11 was used to change our world.