June 20, 2013
Living in a Constitution-Free Zone
Posted on Feb 7, 2013
By Todd Miller, TomDispatch
Matthews peers at him, and finally says, “Yes, I played soccer with you.” They haven’t seen each other since high school. They briefly reminisce, two men who grew up together along the St. Clair River before all those expensive surveillance towers with infrared cameras and radar went up. Although Matthews and the CBP agent were once friendly, although they lived in the same small town, there is now a boundary between them. Matthews struggles against this divide. He pleads: “You know who I am. I grew up here. I’ve been over this border a million times.”
This is, of course, only one of thousands of related stories happening along U.S. borders, north and south, in a universe in which, as anthropologist Josiah Heyman puts it, there are increasingly only two kinds of people: “the watchers and the watched.” And keep in mind that, with only “32 miles” under operational control, this is just the beginning. The U.S. border enforcement apparatus is only starting its migration north.
Matthews’s former high-school acquaintance guides him to the now-familiar room with the counter where three interrogators are waiting for him. They tell him to spread his legs. Then they order him to take off his shoes. It’s hard to take them off, however, when your hands are cuffed behind your back. The two interrogators in front are already shouting questions at him. (“What were you doing in Canada?”) The one behind him kicks his shoes. Hard. Then, after Matthews finally manages to get them off, the agent searches under his waistband.
When they are done, Matthews asks the agents what they would do if he were to circle around, reenter Canada, and cross the border again. The agents assure him that they would have to do the same exact thing—handcuff, detain, and interrogate him as if his previous times had never happened.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.
Copyright 2013 Todd Miller
New and Improved Comments