For The Intercept, I traveled to Del Río to investigate the spectacle of force in response to the arrival of thousands of mostly Haitian-born migrants. Weeks after people began to cross the Rio Grande and Border Patrol agents detained people outside, and under a bridge.
“Overwhelmed” was the word repeatedly used by federal, state, and local officials to describe Border Patrol agents, who officials said were caught by surprise and unable to address the influx of Haitian migrants.
My investigation focused the massive military and law enforcement response.
But the arrival of Haitians was anticipated, and much of the chaos that ensued seemed preventable with basic planning and logistics. But in the scramble to contain the media crisis, the U.S. employed tactics that set off a cascade of repression and violence on both sides of the border. By allowing the situation to reach critical levels, federal officials created conditions that made a militarized crackdown seem inevitable, making criminals out of people asserting their right to seek asylum.
According to Del Río’s mayor Bruno Lozano, Texas governor Greg Abbott requested authorization to conduct mass arrests for criminal trespassing. “It would have caused mass chaos,” he said during an extensive interview.
Read the piece here.
In the weeks prior to the massive deployment in Del Río, law enforcement agencies and elected officials used the misery under the bridge as a prop to make a political statement, creating what I call Border Theater. In 2018, I analyzed the workings of Border Theater, its expression and racist, violent roots for The Baffler.