Posts tagged with "US-Mexico Border":

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Growing private detention industry threatens immigrants’ rights on the U.S.-Mexico border

The collision of private law enforcement and privately managed immigration enforcement at sites of detention is dramatically altering the landscape of migrant processing and justice—largely to the disadvantage of the detainee.

On Jan 25, President Trump issued an executive order, which, in addition to mandating the well-known “border wall,” directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to “immediately construct […] facilities to detain aliens at or near the land border with Mexico,” to support increased deportations of undocumented migrants. An internal memo circulated by the administration in April called for nearly double the existing detention capacity to accommodate 80,000 detainees on any given day. Twenty-seven new locations had been scouted; 21,000 beds had already been found. With such rapid growth, decisions privilege expediency and cost over the quality of services and care for detainees.

It is highly likely that the new federal detention capacity will be met in partnership with private prison companies. Currently, 65 percent of detainees in the U.S. migrant detention system stay in private facilities run by companies (commonly for-profit) that contract with the federal government. Both commercial contractors and government vendors contributed to the search for detention spaces outlined in the April memo.

The same criticisms that apply to the private prison industry, and which led the Department of Justice (DOJ) to mandate an end to its use in August of 2016, apply to the burgeoning private detention industry. A 2009 report from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) noted that a majority of migrant detention facilities were initially built for use as prisons, and that these structures impose more restrictions than necessary for the detainees. The shared typological features between prisons and detention centers flatten the important differences between criminal sentencing and migrant detention. Where the two intermingle, the distinction between legal and extralegal, private and federal, detention and incarceration is dangerously elusive.

One of the largest private detention facilities in the U.S. is the Otero County Processing Center (OCPC) in Chaparral, New Mexico. The center is part of a 15-acre site that includes the Otero County Prison Facility, which first partnered with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold detainees awaiting rulings in 2003. Residents of Otero County reportedly “liked the business [of migrant detention at the prison facility]—a half dollar a day per immigrant” and agreed to expand the practice, supporting the construction of a dedicated ICE detention facility, the OCPC, right next door, in 2008. Both the prison and the detention facility are operated by Management and Training Corporation (MTC), one of the nation’s largest private corrections companies.

In its early years, the OCPC was known in immigration advocacy circles as “The Hub,” due to the number of detainees who were transferred to the secluded site for processing from out-of-state. This transfer practice reportedly limits detainees’ access to community support and legal assistance otherwise available at the location of their arrest, and places them in jurisdictions known to hand down less favorable rulings.

The architecture of the OCPC clouds important distinctions between immigrant detainee and convicted prisoner to preemptively deny justice and erode the humanity of migrants.

When we visited the OCPC in June 2016, MTC employees emphasized that the center’s architecture is designed to maximize processing efficiency and prevent escape, not unlike a prison. In their language, spaces of intake manage “bodies”—not people. Walls that once ended in drop ceilings have been extended to seal completely to the roof, after speculation that a detainee could access the ceiling cavity.

Much of the staff’s experience is in criminal justice; many have spent time as correctional officers or administrators in jails and prisons before stints at the center. The distinction between civil and criminal immigration violations does not register in our discussions; staff mistakenly refers to detainees as “inmates.” The boundary between incarceration and detention on-site is fluid. The prison next door is used as a failsafe overflow center during overcrowding and operational malfunctions. When beds fill at OCPC, or the kitchen power fails, detainees are sent for up to 72 hours to the federal prison.

Other flattening abstractions permeate the space. Detainees wear color-coded uniforms, which provide a glimpse into their histories with the detention complex. Blue suits are for first-time non-violent immigration law offenders, mostly those picked up after walking across the U.S.-Mexico land border. Repeat offenders wear orange; those with violent or extensive criminal histories wear red. The center staff tells us they prefer dealing with the red population. Ironically, they are easier to manage; their criminal history is seen as an asset. Having spent time in jail, the regulated routine in the center is familiar territory, and they are more likely to comply with orders. To the detainees, as to the guards, it is all part of the same system.

Detention facilities like OCPC are specializing, taking on new roles. Our visit to the OCPC was just after a major transformation: Instead of providing long-term housing for detainees awaiting decisions on their cases, the processing center was converted into a last stop for detainees before deportation. Why? In 2015, DHS issued a report criticizing ICE transfer and deportation practices for presumed inefficiencies. ICE Air Operations (IAO), a shadow network of commercial and chartered flights that shuttles detainees domestically, had not been filling its seats. This report is likely the impetus for shifting strategy in Otero, which has become an overblown departure gate for deportation flights out of El Paso, Texas. When we visited, the typical stay at the OCPC is a mere two weeks, the daily operations consumed by the logistics of travel arrangements, rather than providing legal services and care for those detained. A chart in the offices maps out which detainees have been assigned seats on the three scheduled flights for the week, each filled to their 136-seat capacity.

Sites like Otero continue to contort themselves under changing directives, becoming autonomous islands, one-stop-shops for migrant processing and deportation. A DOJ directive began temporarily relocating federal judges to borderland detention facilities in March in an effort to speed deportation, further exacerbating questions of whether due process is respected in such off-grid locales with limited oversight. Existing teleconferencing rooms have since been repurposed to makeshift courts, while new courtroom space has been added to the OCPC. The wholesale restructuring of the space of migrant justice is just beginning. The construction of pop-up “port courts” is now proposed at ports of entry.

As the OCPC settles into its next-generation of use, it is consolidating even more security functions. Plans are underway to build a shooting range on site to support training for the detention center and prison staff. Guards will no longer need to go off-site to nearby Fort Bliss, thanks to a “bullet catcher” berm encircling the range. In December, DHS reported that private detention facilities—despite continued “documented occurrences of deficiencies and abuse”—will continue to be necessary for the foreseeable future. As a stopgap, the agency suggested positioning ICE wardens at private centers to provide federal oversight and accountability.

As the sites accelerate their transformations from isolated anomalies to quasi-urban, self-sufficient nuclei of privatized federal detention, we call for immigrant advocates and legal service providers to co-opt the logic of their shadow system of airfields, courts, and fly-in judges, grafting a parallel network supporting migrant advocacy on this nascent infrastructure.

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Inside the Border Patrol Academy’s New Mexico facility, where training and real operations can blur

This is the first in a series of reports from El Paso, Texas–based AGENCY, entitled Border Dispatches, an on-the-ground perspective from the United States-Mexico border. Each month, we will explore another “sleeper agent,” a critical site or actor reshaping the diffuse, overlapping binational territory we know as the borderlands.

Over the last decade, our changing national security priorities have contorted federal law-enforcement training sites to respond to new and sometimes contradictory demands. In Artesia, New Mexico, several replicas simulating different areas of the International Border Fence (IBF) are built on the site of the Border Patrol Academy (BPA). The “mock fences” are a minor but instructive example of the material residue created by our nation’s ongoing obsession with the promotion and maintenance of a physical international boundary, a hard line separating the U.S. from Mexico. A close reading of the fences, and the training installation of which they are a part, reveals volumes about the shifting whims of the securocratic territory they both describe and inhabit.

The BPA is on the site of the Artesia Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), one of four national training centers that serve 95 federal partner organizations as well as thousands of other local and international security forces. The site has specialized in providing unique training environments not available elsewhere, including drug and fingerprint labs, and all-terrain vehicle courses. After the 9/11 terror attacks, the site began hoarding grounded jetliners to train air marshals in counterterrorism operations. The site was a good fit for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), capable of supporting both its “priority mission” (counterterrorism) and “primary mission” (preventing illegal entry to the U.S.). The real physical environment of Artesia, and the otherwise-remote site’s particular coincidence with the logistical networks of the CBP, was recast as an invaluable training asset.

In 2004, The FLETC Artesia site was selected as the location for a newly reconsolidated BPA, due to its strategic location near a focus of CBP activity—near hot spots for the eventual assignment of academy graduates—as well as the region’s signature climate and terrain. Artesia lies just four hours from the Southwest border. While seemingly distant from border operations, it is strategically close enough. Many of the geological and ecological features of the site are shared with a large percentage of the territory agents are charged to protect. It is here that the agents rehearse known threats and prepare for new ones, the simulations scripting a generation of borderland encounters to come.

Upon arrival, trainees are issued a fake sidearm, to become accustomed to the relentless presence, bulk, and weight of the weapon. Classes are led by retired USBP agents, and use a technique called scenario-based training (SBT). Training takes place mostly in situ, informed by the simulated physical constructs throughout the site and the desert terrain itself. Simulated checkpoints, barns, and inspection areas for railcars and vehicles are scattered throughout the center to host scripted encounters. In addition to physical training, the center uses Spanish-speaking role players, playing a range of border-crosser types, from harmless asylum-seekers to armed smugglers. Classes are taught in high-risk Spanish terminology.

According to FLETC documents, in 2013 $1.2 million was dedicated to “add realistic fencing and check stations to enhance border patrol training venues” at Artesia. Since 2014, training exercises have included engagements with a “towering, steel” mock IBF that “realistically simulates the field environment.” Six different mock-IBF sites were planned that year, mimicking the various construction materials deployed in the constructed border throughout its length. Each mock fence was to measure 90 feet long, “and will vary in height from 19 feet to 10 feet,” according to the documents. “The materials will mirror what is used on the international border, to include bollard fencing, as well as fencing constructed from landing mat materials.” The staged constructions create backdrops for scenarios culled from the experience of actual agents in the field, including “when assailants are throwing rocks or other projectiles, or subjects are using vehicles as a weapon against the agents near the IBF.” Only four such mock IBFs are advertised as available for training on the FLETC website currently.

In recent years the Artesia FLETC has further blurred the boundary between real and imagined operations when its collection of novice trainees and academic exercises would play host to the endgame of the agency’s ultimate objective—migrant detention. While it appears a simulated detention facility was completed in 2010 for training purposes, a real-world detention center would soon emerge on-site. The training venue proved an expedient solution for federal law enforcement in 2014 when an influx of Central American migrants filled other nearby detention sites. A temporary detention center, holding as many as 672 detainees at one time, was built, conflating the space of border-patrol simulation with the reality of its impact. Ten acres of the site, including existing dorms and classrooms, were converted to serve as medical centers and processing centers, among other uses. Attorneys visiting the site noted the strange proximity of the training simulacra around the detainees’ temporary home. News reports show cribs for child detainees lining the interior hallways of the FLETC trainee barracks.

While residents of Artesia have often shown support for the training operations, and the positive economic impacts trainees bring to town, the reality of detention on-site proved to stress the relationship. Residents, in an echo of the paranoia surrounding the crossing of the IBF, expressed concern about the hastily constructed perimeter security at the facility, noting the ease with which the eight-foot chain-link fence might be crossed by a determined detainee. The temporary facility was closed at the end of 2014. The future of the site, and the blurring of the boundary between real and imagined conflict, remains uncertain. Asked in 2016 by the Roswell Daily News whether the FLETC would ever be used again as a detention site, Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) reportedly answered that chances are “slim right now…but you never know.”

The current administration’s charge of building a border wall requires built mock-ups of the proposed designs in Otay Mesa near the Mexican border. In a way, the practice of sampling potential walls resonates with the sampling of border parts at the BPA, reinforcing a kind of thinking about the boundary as merely a collection of obstructive infrastructural parts devoid of the real-life consequences of blockage and armament. As the duties and performance criteria of the IBF expand to deter and collect more bodies, shifting tactics are indexed and foreshadowed in the space of training.

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The Architecture Lobby calls to resist Trump’s border wall project

The Architecture Lobbyan organization that advocates for architectural workers and for the value of architecture in the general publichas issued a call to for architects to resist the Department of Homeland Security’s recent presolicitation announcement pertaining to the proposed United States-Mexico border wall project. The group is advocating for architects and engineers to participate in a day of action aimed at showing opposition to the project that, the organization contends, exploits the labor or architects and designers “in the service of xenophobia, discrimination, and racism.” So far more than 300 firms have expressed interest in DHS’s pre-solicitation. DHS posted a second call after the RFP was issued last week as Trump's xenophobic campaign steps closer to built validation. The controversial project, a promise which was at the crux of Trump's campaign, could supposedly cost U.S. taxpayers $15 billion to $40 billion—or as Carolina Miranda of the LA Times puts it, "101 to 270 times the annual budget for the National Endowment for the Arts." Architecture and engineering firm Leo A Daly was one of the biggest names on the Federal Business Opportunities' (FBO) preliminary solicitation vendors list, as of Monday, however, since the listing was publicized, its name can now no longer be found there. The Architect's Newspaper today (3/6) learned that Leo A Daly's inclusion on the FBO's vendors list was accidental. A marketing spokesperson for the firm stated while the firm does do security work (such as the Anzalduas Port of Entry in Texas), the listing on the FBO's website was a mistake. Leo A Daly is not interested in working on the U.S.-Mexico border wall project.  Meanwhile, concrete construction firm LafargeHolcim can now be found on the list. The Swiss-French company is America's top cement producer and is primed to rake in a hefty reward if and when Trump's wall goes ahead. The company is also involved in further controversy in the Middle East having recently admitted to "unacceptable" activity in Syra as it paid third parties for help with armed groups around a plant.  New York firm Victoria Benatar ARCHITECT PLLC is also listed as an interested vendor on the FBO. The Architecture Lobby’s call follows. For more information, see the Architecture Lobby website.
WE WON’T DESIGN YOUR WALL A Day of Action by Architects and Engineers March 10th, 2017 – 4pm EST http://architecture-lobby.org/project/notourwall The Architecture Lobby, an organization of architectural workers, calls for a national day of action in opposition to the building of the southwestern border wall proposed by the Trump administration and the Department of Homeland Security. While there are innumerable reasons to stand against the immigration policies of the current administration and this project specifically, this call is motivated by the belief that the fields of architecture, and engineering are fundamentally rooted in a goal to improve our societies by producing structures that render them more just, more equitable, and more beautiful. The southwestern border wall stands in clear and direct opposition to this goal. By participating in this day of action, architects and engineers will make clear not only to the current and future administrations, but also to themselves and each other, that their agency will not be exploited in the service of xenophobia, discrimination, and racism.
The Request for Proposals These concerns have taken on a renewed urgency. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for southwestern border wall (SBW) prototypes to begin the bidding phase of new border wall construction. The proposal is lightning-fast, with the first round of submissions due on March 10th followed by a full proposal from those shortlisted due on March 24th. A design team for the SBW will be selected by mid-April. The DHS site has made public a list of interested vendors that might be good targets for organizing, although we believe most of them to be subcontractors looking to get work after the project has been awarded, and that the largest companies pursuing the project have not listed themselves. A Time to Act We are calling for a 45 minute united action for architects and engineers to leave their desks and walk out to demonstrate our power to withhold our individual agency. The goal of this Day of Action is to encourage a grassroots resistance to this project from and within architecture and engineering companies across the country, coinciding with the closure of the first round of RFPs for the DHS SBW. Additionally we have listed some suggestions and tips on a second page for possible further actions. Take the fight to who you can, where you can, how you can. Share a picture of your empty desks and protest using the hashtag #NotOurWall It Doesn’t Stop There After the Day of Action, we want to hear back. What were the successes, failures, and potential paths forward for us from here? Send reports, photos, statements of support and boycott as a firm or as an individual, and summaries to notourwall@architecture-lobby.org. Note if you would like to anonymize your information or altogether refrain from posting it publicly. We’ll publicize the information on our website. This the first of many steps toward building the solidarity that will make it possible to organize actions against whichever companies make the shortlist after the 10th and are awarded the bid in April.
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ADPSR is calling all designers to submit protest proposals for Trump’s border wall

In the wake of the Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) request for proposals for a U.S./Mexico border wall, design advocacy group Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR) says it doesn't accept the project and has issued a call for architects, designers, and contractors to "add their voices in opposition."

In doing so, the ADPSR has called for those within the industry to submit protest bids to the federal bidding portal, and gear up for legal challenges to the bidding process. Protests will be published online to demonstrate that the profession, in its view, does "not accept the basic premises" of the CBP's RFP. Adding submissions to the federal portal will place your protest on the record, the group said.

The ADPSR issued the following statement in conjunction with their call to action:

Our professions are committed to protecting public health, safety, and welfare, so we are fundamentally at odds with any project that intends to divide, demean, and injure people on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

This project will undermine peaceful international relations between the U.S. and Mexico, and demonstrate a profound mistrust and aversion towards the rest of the world. Professional design practice and human relations are increasingly global. As decent national and world citizens, American designers and contractors must not participate in an ill-conceived and hostile gesture towards the rest of the world.

We must also take stock of the frequent deaths of would-be migrants in the deserts of the border area. This proposed wall, by making the border even more inaccessible, will increase the number of deaths: an outcome that is completely unacceptable and flies in the face of professional ethics and human rights. Designers can not ethically undertake projects that will kill people or cause harm.

This project is completely unnecessary and hugely wasteful.  We must not be scared by the rhetoric of a “lawless” border; in fact, through many successful projects such as Land Ports of Entry, designers and builders have made the U.S. border more welcoming, efficient, and well-controlled. The idea that people from Mexico and Central America crossing remote borders on foot pose a significant public safety threat or are stealing jobs is not supported by evidence.. Participation in the border wall project indicates acceptance of a worldview that smacks of ignorance and racism.

The Department of Homeland Security estimates the wall will cost $21.6 billion dollars. Instead, the billions of dollars proposed here should be used to sustain the infrastructure truly essential to public health, safety, and welfare that has been neglected for far too long. From public schools and community parks to dangerously unreinforced dams and bridges, or addressing the pressing concerns of climate change on coastal cities, or the housing crisis sweeping much of our nation, this funding should be used to connect our communities, not divide them...

We will do not collaborate with hate, racism, fear, or/and violence. We demand investment for the public good!

For those who need help submitting a protest border wall, the ADPSR invites interested parties to send proposals to be submitted via the organization. Files should be .PDF documents and addressed to: borderwall (at) adpsr (dot) org. The group asks to be CC'd on all submissions.

The ADPSR also offers some advice on submissions:

Take time to review the insanely short proposed schedule and identify how this might obstruct a realistic bid that you as a designer might want to submit. Consider submitting a bid to hold a place for this future protest. Review the forthcoming RFP for inaccuracies, biased statements, or anti-competitive features and share these with us at borderwall (at) adpsr (dot) org. We will do our best to raise legal challenges as the process proceeds.

Submissions to the federal bidding portal are due March 31.

UPDATES: AIA pledges to work with Donald Trump, membership recoils. UPDATE: Robert Ivy issues second apology for tone-deaf post-election memo UPDATE: Robert Ivy, executive vice president and CEO of the AIA, responds to post-election memo criticism.
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Department of Homeland Security to accept bids for US-Mexico border wall

For architects still eager to “stand ready” with President Donald Trump’s pledge to build new works of infrastructure, here’s your chance: The United States Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection office has issued a preliminary “solicitation” for proposals to build the president’s controversial border wall between the United States and Mexico. The solicitation, posted to the Federal Business Opportunities website on February 24th, states the following:
The Dept. of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) intends on issuing a solicitation in electronic format on or about March 6, 2017 for the design and build of several prototype wall structures in the vicinity of the United States border with Mexico. The procurement will be conducted in two phases, the first requiring vendors to submit a concept paper of their prototype(s) by March 10, 2017, which will result in the evaluation and down select of offerors by March 20, 2017.  The second phase will require the down select of phase 1 offerors to submit proposals in response to the full RFP by March 24, 2017, which will include price. Multiple awards are contemplated by mid-April for this effort. An option for additional miles may be included in each contract award.
The solicitation was issued the same day the president, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Congress’s (CPAC) annual forum, mentioned that progress on the wall was, “way, way, way ahead of schedule” and just two weeks after the administration began a heavy-handed crackdown on undocumented immigrants in the country. As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump fueled his candidacy with strikingly anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric, promising to forcibly deport the roughly 12 million undocumented immigrants who currently live in the country. It seems now that President Trump, having botched the rollout of the administration’s travel ban against seven predominantly Muslim countries, is turning his attention to immigrants in this country to fulfill those campaign promises. The new focus will surely reinvigorate debate within the architectural profession regarding individuals’ and organizations’ kowtowing embrace of these so-called infrastructural projects. Following the travel ban hullabaloo, the American Institute of Architects issued a statement in support of immigration and international travel. The organization remains silent, however, on the issue of the proposed border wall and on the various other building-related issues the administration is currently pursuing, like increased use of private prisons for federal detentions, including deportation actions. Media reports have indicated that the private prison industry is looking to profit handsomely from recently relaxed regulations against such facilities under the new Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Their use is set to expand vastly under a directive issued that instructs the CBP to expand its detention capabilities from a capacity of roughly 34,000 detainees today to upwards of 80,000 detainees in the near future. Monetary costs for the border wall vary widely, from between $12 to $15 billion according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The CBP recently issued an internal memo pegging the wall’s cost at closer to $21.5-billion. Whatever the cost, the lack of leadership and activism on the part of professional building trade organizations is palpable. UPDATES: AIA pledges to work with Donald Trump, membership recoils. UPDATE: Robert Ivy issues second apology for tone-deaf post-election memo UPDATE: Robert Ivy, executive vice president and CEO of the AIA, responds to post-election memo criticism.
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Enter this competition to design a wall separating Donald Trump from the United States

Adding to the debate revolving around Donald J. Trump’s problematic campaign pledge to install a wall along the US-Mexico border, Reality Cues, an internet-based competition organizer, has announced a charrette aimed at designing a different kind of wall. Good Walls Make Good Neighbors, Mr. Trump asks entrants to simultaneously combine the candidate’s love for bad architecture with his penchant for fortifications. Instead of calling into question the politics, logic, morality, or economics of Trump’s proposal, Reality Cues invites contestants to instead design a wall separating Trump from the rest of the United States. A brief posted to the Reality Cues website includes a collection of images depicting Trump’s private airplane, the Manhattan, Chicago, and Las Vegas locations of Trump Tower, and the Trump National Golf Course, and requires their use in submitted proposals. The brief cites the psychological power of calling for a divisive wall in an era of uncertainty; the competition asks entrants to translate their own angst as they manipulate Trump’s architectures. The brief's provocation is a simple one: “redefine the architectural content (in the provided photographs) or insert architecture of your own to separate it from the rest of the country.” The competition format follows those of earlier briefs deployed by the self-described “public experiment in communication and design” group which aimed to generate ideas around the notion of “Eco-Porn,” a nude photograph of Le Corbusier, and a set of stock internet images. The group, headed by an activist named Archistophanes, aims to “press architects to explore and question the techniques and conventions or tropes upon which (they) rely to communicate ideas concerning space, form, and use.” Regarding the intentions behind the competiton, Archistophanes told The Architect's Newspaper, "The charrette proposal is meant to be a nod to Trump's 'eye for an eye,' reactionary style of responding to criticism. In this vein, I felt it only natural that a bookend to his absurd proposal for The Wall is an equal and opposite wall proposal: between him and everyone else." "I'm more interested in the wall itself and how it represents division and isolationism," he continued. "The charrette is political, no doubt, but how this plays out architecturally will be the revealing aspect of the exercise." A  jury posted to the competition website includes a variety of design and urbanism journalists as well as several designers and architects. For more information on Good Walls Make Good Neighbors, Mr. Trump, see the Reality Cues website. Competition entries are due September 8, 2016, with winners announced a month later.
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The Architectural League of New York announces 2016 Norden Fund winners

The Architectural League of New York has announced two winners for the 2016 Deborah J. Norden Fund travel grants. Claiming the award is Bryan Maddock for A Serpentine Science: Affonso Eduardo Reidy’s Housing Pair and Caitlin Blanchfield and Nina Kolowratnik for Deserted Border Lands: Mapping Surveillance along the Tohono O’odham Nation. As a result, the two teams will receive up to $5,000 annually in travel and study grants. Currently employed as a project designer for Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Bryan Maddock is due to head to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil on the hunt for a "socially responsive and environmentally sensitive housing typology" while looking at the legacy of Brazilian modernist architect Affonso Eduardo Reidy. Using "serpentine" social housing units, Reidy, like fellow compatriot Lina Bo Bardi, strove to unite his architecture with its natural context: dramatic, mountainous topography. Though he died at the age off 55, Reidy aimed to “elevate the working class both physically and symbolically.” Sadly, much of his work—including documents and drawings for unrealized projects—were destroyed by the state as his buildings were left to deteriorate. On his journey, Maddock will survey the landscape where Reidy's structures still remain. In doing so, Maddock hopes to establish an online visual archive of drawings, videos, and text. Reidy’s work “serves as proof that architecture can operate as a fantastic offense for the renewed city," he said. The other winning pair, Caitlin Blanchfield and Nina Kolowratnik meanwhile will head off to the border of Sonora, Mexico and the Tohono O’odham reservation, directly south of Phoenix in Arizona. Here they will analyze various aspects of the border area as more stringent security and surveillance measures are implemented on the sacred lands of the Tohono O'odam Native Americans. Using interviews, a community workshop, and drawings, the two will employ a interdisciplinary methodological approach to examine the “issues of spatial politics in border regions, indigenous rights, and critical landscape discourse.” Blanchfield is the managing editor at The Avery Review, meanwhile her partner for the project Kolowratnik works as an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School for Architecture, Planning, and Preservation.
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Designing the Border Wall?

Recently, Archdaily announced, on behalf of the Third Mind Foundation, a competition called “Building the Border Wall.” Perhaps in response to emerging criticism about the ethical implications of such a call to architects, the competition website later added a question mark to the title, changing it to “Building the Border Wall?” Since the competition was announced, as noted by Archdaily, several other edits have been made to the competition website, creating some controversy about the clarity of the competition’s agenda, the position of the organizers, and moreover, the moral implications of the competition itself. What further raises questions about this competition is the organizers’ insistence that they are “politically neutral” to the issue of building a wall along the border and that wish to remain anonymous. The primary question that this competition raises is: Is participating in a design competition for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border a good idea? The competition echoes, and perhaps has been prompted by, presidential candidate Donald Trump’s proclamations that he will, if elected, begin “building a wall” along the border. While his declaration seems to excite his audiences as if, finally, someone will build a wall, his call to construct a barrier exemplifies the ignorance of the realities along the border where approximately 700 miles of single, double, and triple walls are already built. This is not one single stretch of wall, but still, approximately one third of the 1,954-mile-long border between the U.S. and Mexico has already been walled off. Historically, there have been several approaches to architects engaging in the building of walls. For the most part, architects and designers have steered clear of this issue. In 2006, The New York Times called on 13 well-known architects to redesign the border wall. Architect Ricardo Scofidio commented, “It’s a silly thing to design, a conundrum. You might as well leave it to security and engineers.” Diller Scofidio + Renfro and several other architects declined the challenge altogether because they felt it was a purely political issue, something from which many architects shy away. However perfunctory—and sometimes offensive—many of the proposals were (Antoine Predock suggested a 300-foot-wide hot plate buried under the desert floor to discourage crossings and a massive rammed-earth wall to be constructed in the hot sun by “Mexican day laborers”), some proposals did scratch the surface in recognizing the inherent opportunities of the existing wall as a possible armature for design. In its current state, the wall ignorantly bisects many culturally and environmentally rich places. Therefore, perhaps design offers the potential for the wall to be transformed into a variety of interpretations and applications, ideally ones of benefit to borderland residents. The reality is that the U.S.-Mexico wall in its current manifestation has created a territory of paradox, horror, and transformation on an enormous scale. The wall divides rivers, farms, homes, Native American lands, public lands, cultural sites, wildlife preserves, migration routes, and a university campus. The construction and maintenance costs of wall construction that is called for by The U.S. Secure Fence Act of 2006 have been estimated to exceed $49 billion over the next 25 years. And while recent statistics show a 50 percent drop in the number of people caught illegally entering the United States from Mexico over the past few years, human rights groups put the number of deaths during attempted crossings at its highest since 2006, and nearly 6,000 people have died attempting to cross the border since 1994. Noam Chomsky has said that “the U.S.-Mexican border, like most borders, was established by violence—and its architecture is the architecture of violence.”  It has been suggested by many in the discipline, that architects should emphatically refuse to participate in the design of architecture that promotes violence. For example, in 2013, Michael Sorkin wrote an essay for The Nation calling on architects to refuse to participate in the design of prisons for several reasons: Disgust with the corrupt enthusiasm and extravagance of our burgeoning ‘prison industrial complex;’ objections to our insane rates of incarceration, our cruel, draconian sentencing practices and the wildly disproportionate imprisonment of minorities. Designing spaces of confinement and discipline is also contrary to what most architects imagine as their vocation: the creation of comfortable, humane, even liberating environments. The parallels between prisons and the “border industrial complex” are easy to imagine, but can the design of a wall create humane, or even, liberating environments? Architect Lebbeus Woods offered a different approach toward that end. In his project The Wall Game, Woods concluded that the only way to address an architecture of violence, and in this case he is addressing the Israeli Separation Barrier, was to design a means to dismantle it through a complex set of rules that direct architects and builders on both sides to attempt to create a series of constructions on the wall that eventually force it into an imbalance that theoretically topples the wall. So what are architects to do about the conundrum of the border wall? Do they ignore the issue all together or actively protest in refusal to participate? Do they strategize how design might dismantle the existing wall, or re-think the potential of the existing wall as an armature for correcting problems with it? Should they take on the challenge of designing new walls? Ignoring the issue entirely and designing new walls, are perhaps the most contentious strategies. Wall design and construction will, without question, continue, but should it continue without the input of architects? Does not participating in the design of the wall make architects as complicit in its horrific consequences as does participating in its design? Now that we are aware of the costs to taxpayers as well as the cost in human lives, it is urgent that we take on these questions. Re-envisioning the existing walls as well as walls-yet-to-come as something other than an architecture that exacerbates the violence that institutionalized its presence and transforming the wall into an infrastructure that can be put to work in other ways, is more necessary now than ever before. In its current form, it reflects the inflexibility of an ancient strategy of a wall as a singular means of security. Instead, it could be reimagined not only as a security measure, but also as a productive infrastructure that contributes positively to a borderland ecosystem, breaking the cycle of violence from where it comes. For example, coupling the wall with a viable infrastructure that focuses on water, renewable energy, and urban social infrastructure, could be another pathway to security and safety, both in the border communities and the nations beyond them. According to the United States-Mexico Health Commission, three of the ten poorest counties in the United States are located in the border area, and two of the ten fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the United States—Laredo and McAllen—are located on the Texas-Mexico border. Due to rapid industrialization, communities on the Mexican side of the border have less access to basic water and sanitation services than the rest of the nation. A commitment to multifunctional water, solar, environmental, and social improvements on the border, with the wall itself as the vehicle of delivery, would require that a portion of the vast investment of taxpayer dollars in capital expenditures be maintained. Instead of a future scenario in which walls are dismantled solely in the name of freedom and democracy, the walls designed in response to a much-needed investment in some of the most impoverished and fastest-growing regions in the U.S. might remain, as would our investment in them, to become the armatures upon which the possibilities of a post-border wall world can be grafted. Whether Trump is elected or not, it is time to advocate for a reconsideration of the wall. And rather than an embargo on Mexico, which, as Trump believes, will force Mexico to build it, we must end the embargo on multifunctional design at the border. Advocating for a reconsideration of the wall at the border is not an endorsement for the construction of more walls, nor should it give wall builders a greater reason for building them. Rather, if design—if architecture—can be smuggled into the creation and re-imagining of the border wall now, it will put into place several very important conditions that will affect the future of the landscapes, cultures, and bio-ecologies that it now divides. There is one more strategy that architects should consider if they take on the challenge—if an appeal is being made to tear down this wall, as others have demanded it, then what replaces it in the future must absolutely be designed now.
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In El Paso, architects explore border politics through a temporary installation in a bus depot

To architect Ersela Kripa, "borders are much thicker than we imagine." She and her partner Stephen Mueller (AGENCY) are building on the strong legacy of theory and practice at the US-Mexico border with their students at Texas Tech University El Paso. This fall, students produced FLASH Installation: Architecture at Rush Hour, a daylong "tactical occupation" of an underused bus terminal at the El Paso/Juárez border.  On a map, the US-Mexico border is easy to depict and define. Its implications, however, run deeper and elude precise definition. In Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, Chicana writer, activist, and cultural theorist Gloria Anzaldúa muses on the border's many meanings:
"Borders are set up to define the places that are safe and unsafe, to distinguish us from them. A border is a dividing line, a narrow strip along a steep edge. A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition."
Juárez and El Paso form a binational metropolis. When Kripa and Mueller arrived in Texas this September to teach at TTU-El Paso, they were intent on engaging with the space around them. Housed in an active Amtrak train station, the school's identity is tied to the flow of goods and people across borders. In conversation with AN, Kripa explained that "cross-border issues are a daily way of being" for her students. In her and Mueller's fall studios, students range in age from 20–50, and many work full time in addition to their studies. Around 30 percent of students cross the border every day for school. TTU-El Paso hopes to grow its architecture program around critical engagement with border culture. To that end, TTU-El Paso staged its third Beaux Arts Ball in October. To accommodate attendees, food trucks, and a dance floor, a lightly used bus parking lot was selected for the venue. The theme: "being reflective." Student volunteers erected FLASH Installation: Architecture at Rush Hour to provide a light-filled canopy for the ball and spark conversation around the heavily policed, yet highly porous, border. Apache Barricade & Sign, a local, woman-owned company, lent the studio 256 brand-new, orange reflective traffic barrels for one day. Students spent eight hours rigging them to the bus station's ceiling in a 16 by 16 configuration at varying heights. Below, an installation of 300 ground reflectors marked a temporary dance floor on the asphalt. Why traffic barrels? The temporary structures, Kripa explained, are a "spatial manifestation of a politics of directing flow. It's an extension of politics—infrastructure that enacts the law." The impermanent pieces of transit infrastructure underscore the permanence of the (now redundant) bus canopy. Socially engaged work is the status quo for Kripa and Mueller (hence the name of the interdisciplinary practice they co-founded in 2006). The pair won the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome in 2010. While in Rome, Kripa and Mueller studied the forced movement of the Romani, addressing the Romani's housing crisis amid a city of overlapping networks, real and imagined. The pair hope to re-activate the bus depot annually with their students. "As architects are not only interested in making beautiful space, we at AGENCY feel profound obligation to expose what's happening. We [architects] are well equipped to uncover inequality and injustice." See the gallery below for more images of the installation.