Reading Between the Lines: Need to Know’s “Crossing the Line” Suggests a Reexamination of the Border Patrol’s Culture – Rachel Stonecipher
In 2012, a series of PBS investigations into Border Patrol abuses corroborated years of humanitarian volunteers’ reports, finding that the agency’s institutional culture cultivates a climate of medical neglect – and sometimes outright harm – toward migrant detainees. In July 2012, the PBS show Need to Know aired the second installment of its U.S.-Mexico border series “Crossing the Line,” an investigation into abuses of migrants in Border Patrol custody. The program reported that agents in the Tucson Sector, the busiest of nine regional divisions of the Border Patrol on the U.S.-Mexico border, have been accused of thousands of physical, verbal, and sexual abuses against migrants who are usually deported before they can report the crimes. “Crossing the Line, part 2” focused on the problem of poor treatment during detention, while Part I addressed agents’ excessive use of force. In light of my own research with humanitarian volunteers, the two programs prove the frequency and injuriousness of abuse. Although PBS stops short of claiming that the Border Patrol’s “war on illegal immigration” actually promotes harm against migrants, to some volunteers’ dismay (including my own), “Crossing the Line” effectively conveys that abuse is an institutional problem that takes direct and indirect forms – including impunity.
Hearty congratulations to AccessDenied contributor Rachel Stonecipher, whose recent piece “Shattered by Security: The Impact of Secure Communities on Families” has been awarded second prize in the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center’s 2012 Student Prize Competition For Excellence in Writing to Advance Social Justice.
The prize, named for the renowned author of the monumental anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, “recognizes outstanding writing by U.S. high school and college students that motivates positive action for social justice.”
Stonecipher is a senior double-major in Anthropology and Film & Media Arts at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. After college she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in anthropology with a focus on medical anthropology, im/migration and health, the anthropology of experience, and public anthropology. She is currently engaged in the second phase of a two-year research project on the practice and experience of migrant advocacy work on the U.S.-Mexico border, supported by the Engaged Learning program at SMU.
“Shattered by Security” is Stonecipher’s second contribution to AccessDenied. An earlier co-authored piece, “Call It a Crisis: Confronting Public Health Risks on the U.S.-Mexico Border,” was published last August. Her third contribution, a reflection on her participant observation with the NGO No More Borders, which provides water and emergency medical assistance to migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, will be published shortly.