Posts tagged with "US-Mexico Border":
In one of the most remote stretches of the United States–Mexico border, a different kind of border crossing has emerged: A remotely managed mash-up of new document-processing technology, rowboats, and donkeys.
The Boquillas Port of Entry (POE) does not have the large processing volume of a typical port on the Southwest U.S. border with Mexico. In high season, the crossing will process a couple of hundred visitors a day; no vehicles are allowed. Most days only a few tourists pass through.
For years, the U.S. government shuttered the remote crossing, citing security concerns after 9/11. Only after National Park Service rangers and teams of scientists expressed a need to reconnect across the binational divide did the port reopen in 2013; a new processing facility was also constructed to manage the minimal security concerns.
It is hard to imagine a less likely area for illegal entry. The crossing is hours from the nearest large city, in Big Bend National Park (BBNP), land controlled and managed by the National Park Service (NPS). The surrounding landscape is majestic, but foreboding for those on foot, with steep canyons, ravines, thick vegetation, and the Rio Grande providing a host of formidable natural barriers. Park visitors are warned of the dangers of heat stroke, exposure, and dehydration, even in mild months.
The binational imaginary here is pervasive and persistent. BBNP is part of the most expansive and biodiverse desert region in the U.S., and shares a transnational ecosystem with natural preserves on the Mexican side. Here, the two nations seem knit together by the river valley, and diverse advocates on both sides voice strong opposition to the proposed expansion of the International Border Fence through the region.
In the early 20th century, landscape architect Albert William Dorgan imagined transforming this land into an International Peace Park, a hyperbolic simulacrum of the real and imagined opportunities latent in border space, complete with replica frontier towns and hydroelectric power. Even in this idyllic proposal, national security concerns crept in—a scenic motorway for tourists was proposed, with a double use to support expedited military deployments.
While cultural affinities remain, the binational dream of a joint international park has faded in the midst of stark juridical differences and philosophies of land management on the two sides of the river. In the U.S., the NPS manages and enforces the conservation and protection efforts. While the Mexican land enjoys protected status, it is mostly privately owned, and is allowed to maintain traditional land uses. Communal land (ejidos) transforms the territory through farming and agricultural water use.
The remoteness of the area, coupled with strong ecological and cultural affinities, has produced unlikely cross-border partnerships, enacting an exuberant transnational territory despite calcifying juridical barriers. Longstanding agreements, in place since the 1960s and more recently amended, have allowed both U.S. and Mexican firefighting services to cross the international boundary within a “zone of mutual assistance”—a ten-mile swath on either side of the border—when property or lives are threatened. Select Mexican nationals form a crew of experienced firefighters—Los Diablos—with permission to work within U.S. territory. Supported by the Park Service and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), they set controlled burns to rid the banks of the Rio Grande of invasive plant species. BBNP has a “sister park” partnership with two adjacent protected areas in Mexico, and park officials travel through the Boquillas POE to share conservation techniques. The reopening of the port has helped park officials to connect more often and more directly, avoiding long detours through “narco territory,” perilous regions with high cartel activity.
The border crossing station is itself supported by an unlikely partnership. The port of entry falls under the purview of the Big Bend Sector of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which happens to have the most “border miles” of any sector on the southwest border with Mexico. Unlike other POEs, it is the first to not be managed on site by U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) agents, but by an NPS ranger. CBP remotely manages the site through nearby mobile patrols of border patrol agents stationed in the park, capable of collapsing on the site in short time if needed. Sensing technology and nearby checkpoints further limit unauthorized movements.
When we visit early on an August day in 2017, we wait for the port to open. It is only open certain days at certain hours. A park ranger warns us that if we do not make it back by the time he closes the port, we will need to stay in Mexico for the night.
Down a short, winding path from the POE, surveillance cameras and a wake of turkey vultures monitor a boat launch, while a small rowboat grandiloquently named the Boquillas International Ferry shuttles a few travelers at a time across the Rio Grande for a $5 round-trip fee. The river crossing is easy, relaxed—the 30-foot journey over in under a minute. Once in Mexico, visitors can travel by burro, taxi, or on foot to the former mining town of Boquillas del Carmen, about a mile away.
The town is welcoming, but sleepy in the early morning and August heat. Visitors are rare this time of year. Children ride burros to the crossing in hopes of a busier afternoon. When it's time to return, we need to work to get our passport stamped, waking the Mexican customs official and asking that he open the office to complete the processing.
According to a press release in 2014, issued on the first anniversary of the new international crossing, the “state-of-the-art” border crossing employed “cutting-edge technologies” to secure this new outpost, building on the “already robust border security in the area.” As we reenter the POE, this technological infusion is evident, if awkwardly executed. Two kiosks with document scanners are wired into an old-school telephone receiver. Fingerprint scanners, like those now common at airport customs processing facilities, provide secondary ID confirmation. The telephone rings, and a Border Patrol agent located five hours away in El Paso asks a few questions and welcomes us to the United States. If there is robust security here, it is in the untold sensors, cameras, and field agents invisible from this unassuming ranger station.
As congressional committees call for “advanced unattended surveillance sensors” and other managerial landscape technologies to more intensely control the most remote stretches of the Southwest border, the un-monitored border will become an even more distant memory. Clandestine human movement will be discovered less through formal checkpoints and more through distributed networks of mobile, responsive patrols, hyper-managed by a constellation of federal, local, and private actors and technologies.
At Boquillas and a dwindling number of other crossings maintaining an informal atmosphere, generational customs survive by striking opportunistic alliances with emerging security officials and technologies.
The Boquillas crossing can be seen as an experiment in “unmanning” the border, a retreat from generations of border security dependent on human, face-to-face contact in dedicated brick-and-mortar facilities as an essential fail-safe to controlling cross-border migration. As sensing capability improves, buoyed by biometrics, unmanned vehicles, and surveillance technology, we can imagine these encounters of authentication and enforcement taking place even further afield, rendering physical installations and human actors unnecessary.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
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.
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.
"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.