#LoveYourBorderlands, a Photo Essay

February 27, 2018 Elizabeth Johnsen

Insights from The Opportunity Agenda

A person places their hands in the shape of a heart over a sign at the US-Mexico border
Photo by: Imelda Mejia. “Two nations, one community”

Over the past year, we have heard a dominant narrative of our border that is harmful, inaccurate, and misleading. Instead, what we know from our partners who live in the border regions is that our border communities are vibrant. They are made up of growing families, thriving small businesses, exquisite wildlife, and generations of activists and change makers -- communities working together to tell a more accurate and life-affirming story about the land that they call home.

We hope that these photographs, collected and taken by our partners, tell a bigger, more accurate story about our borderlands, and that the talking points help to put forth a positive vision of the border region and what it means to our country.

VALUE:

Focus on the people, culture, and history of border communities and stress that those communities suffer when misguided and wasteful policies cause human rights abuses and disrupt communities.

A father plays catch with his two children
 Photo by: Bill Hatcher. A man plays catch with his sons at their home near the border.

Humanize the discussion. Consider terms like “border communities,” “border region,” and “borderlands.” The border is more than a line, and referring simply to “the border” reinforces the idea that we’re only talking about a wall and how to protect it.

Photo by: Bill Hatcher. A girl of the Tohono O’odham Nation in Sells, Arizona, shows a photograph of local flora.
Photo by: Bill Hatcher. A girl of the Tohono O’odham Nation in Sells, Arizona, shows a photograph of local flora.
Photo by Dan Millis, Sierra Club.
Photo by Dan Millis. Local artists and community members paint a mural in Nogales, AZ.

PROBLEM:

Talk about how current border policies and spending result in violations of our values. We are a country that believes in community, fairness, and human rights. But misguided policies that allocate spending toward drones, walls, the separation of families, and detention facilities do not uphold these values.

Photo by: Osvaldo Ruiz, Border Angels. A couple and their child talks to family on the other side of the border at Friendship Park in San Diego.
Photo by: Osvaldo Ruiz. A couple and their child talks to family on the other side of the border in San Diego. 

Stress that Border Patrol must be held accountable. We need to redirect resources to better training and equipment like body-worn cameras that will help ensure the protection of human rights.

Photo by: Osvaldo Ruiz, Border Angels. Border guards at the border fence in San Diego.
Photo by: Osvaldo Ruiz. Border guards at the border fence in San Diego.

SOLUTION:

Stress that communities need to have a say in decisions that affect them. Underscore that any policy must be responsive to the expressed needs of border residents.

Sample language: “Border communities want safe, efficient, and effective border policies that respect the culture and community of the borderlands.”

Photo by Pedro Ruiz. In January 2017, following Trump’s election, the Overpass Light Brigade joined border community members to send a message over southbound lanes to Tijuana. 
Photo by Pedro Rios. In January 2017, following Trump’s election, the Overpass Light Brigade joined border community members to send a message over southbound lanes to Tijuana. 
Photo Courtesy of Alliance San Diego. An indigenous woman speaks at a “March for Dignity and Respect” in San Diego
Photo Courtesy of Alliance San Diego. An Indigenous woman speaks at a “March for Dignity and Respect” in San Diego

Repeating myths isn’t helpful, even when attempting to discredit them. It’s important to pro-mote truthful stories about border communities instead of providing further publicity to false reports about terrorists, drug cartels, the need for a wall, and so on.

Photo Courtesy of Alliance San Diego. Chalkboards full of visions for what border communities really need, during a “defend DACA” press conference in July, 2017.
Photo Courtesy of Alliance San Diego. Chalkboards full of visions for what border communities really need.

ACTION:

Tell a bigger story about the border region that focuses on the people, culture, and history of border communities, that portrays the region as a cultural and economic hub, home to millions who deserve a voice.

Photo by Pedro Ruiz. In September 2017, at the announcement that Trump was ending DACA, hundreds of San Diegans rallied in Downtown San Diego expressing their outrage
Photo by Pedro Rios. In September 2017, at the announcement that Trump was ending DACA, hundreds of San Diegans rallied in Downtown San Diego expressing their outrage
 Photo by Bill Hatcher. A mother and her daughter take a walk in their hometown near the border.
Photo by Bill Hatcher. A mother and her daughter take a walk in their hometown near the border.