‘Tactical Infrastructure’


Day one. Settling into breakfast in Alpine. The woman in line has a copy of Homeland Security’s “Environmental Assessment for the Proposed Construction, Operation, and Maintenance of Tactical Infrastructure” under her arm. She taps the words Tactical Infrastructure saying, “This is what it’s about.” She is challenging me to decipher the opacity of the words. Tactical, useful. Infrastructure, stuff.

Or maybe she is only tapping the book.

As she is leaving she places the book on my table. It’s nice to have friends.

On the couch, too late at night, I’m breezing through the book with inside covers glazed in a lexicon of governmental acronyms. Again, I feel befriended. I’m told the three wall segments in Marfa Sector — two stretching from the Presidio Port of Entry, the third upriver in Forgotten River territory. I am told again and again, these pitiable three- and four-mile blocks, will be “discrete.”

The proposed tactical infrastructure would be constructed in three discrete sections along the border…

It is the most reassuring language I’ve encountered regarding the Wall, El Muro. River residents have dozens of names for it already: El Berlin Wall, the Great Wall, etc. Others have appropriated the Palestinian’s term for their meandering cement incarceration: the Wall of Hate, Muro del Odio.

It’s easy to forget the statistics on the following page: 15- to 18-feet high; capable of withstanding a 40 mph crash by 10,000-pound vehicle; capable of withstanding “cutting and vandalism”; and “aesthetically pleasing to the extent possible.” It’s easy to forget, with these broken fence sections scattered across the border that huge portions of the river are about to be sealed.

But beyond that are the cameras, sensors, and satellites.Not everyone I’ve spoken with is comfortable with either.

The Fence Act:

    (a) In General- Not later than 18 months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall take all actions the Secretary determines necessary and appropriate to achieve and maintain operational control over the entire international land and maritime borders of the United States, to include the following–
    • (1) systematic surveillance of the international land and maritime borders of the United States through more effective use of personnel and technology, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, ground-based sensors, satellites, radar coverage, and cameras; and
    • (2) physical infrastructure enhancements to prevent unlawful entry by aliens into the United States and facilitate access to the international land and maritime borders by United States Customs and Border Protection, such as additional checkpoints, all weather access roads, and vehicle barriers.

The next day I will drive past the radar “blimp,” a long-time feature just west of Marfa, on my way to the river stretch being targeted in Hudspeth County. Floating quietly on perfect blue with quilted features, it reminds me of the giggling doughboy or some innocuous gummy creature from the land of Anime.

As property owners up and down the river are being sued for their land, it’s only the criminals that need to fear such snuggable surveillance. Only stands to reason.

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