Intensified criminalization of immigration since the 1990s, aggravated by concerns with terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11, led the United States government to designate the border with Mexico as a source of threats and waging there a series of “wars”: against drugs, against terrorism, and now against migrants and refugees. The wall is a key component of what the Border Patrol calls “tactical infrastructure,” a weapon against those who try to cross into the United States without authorization. Based on ethnographic fieldwork with emergency responders on both sides of the border in Arizona and Sonora, where they rescue wounded migrants as well as fight fires and contain toxic spills that know no political jurisdictions, this talk examines the politics of injury and rescue in the militarized region. Operating in this area, firefighters and paramedics are torn between their mandate as frontline state actors and their responsibility as professional rescuers, between the limits of law and pull of ethics. From this vantage they witness and experience firsthand the negative effects of deploying both the built environment and the natural topography in the name of national security.
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