Gilberto RosasSep 12, 2023
The El Paso Massacre, Resurgent White Nationalism, and the US-Mexico Border
Johns Hopkins University Press 2023
On August 3, 2019, a far-right extremist committed a deadly mass shooting at a major shopping center in El Paso, Texas, a city on the border of the United States and Mexico. In Unsettling, Gilberto Rosas situates this devastating shooting as the latest unsettling consequence of our border crisis and currents of deeply rooted white nationalism embedded in the United States.
Tracing strict immigration policies and inhumane border treatment from the Clinton era through Democratic and Republican administrations alike, Rosas shows how the rhetoric around these policies helped lead to the Trump administration's brutal crackdown on migration—and the massacre in El Paso. Rosas draws on poignant stories and compelling testimonies from workers in immigrant justice organizations, federal public defenders, immigration attorneys, and human rights activists to document the cruelties and indignities inflicted on border crossers.
Borders, as sites of crossings and spaces long inhabited by marginalized populations, generate deep anxiety across much of the contemporary world. Rosas demonstrates how the Trump administration amplified and weaponized immigration and border policy, including family separation, torture, and murder. None of this dehumanization and violence was inevitable, however. The border zone in El Paso (which translates to "the Pass") was once a very different place, one marked by frequent and inconsequential crossings to and from both sides—and with more humane immigration policies, it could become that once again.
Gilberto Rosas is an associate professor of anthropology and Latina/o studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of Barrio Libre: Criminalizing States and Delinquent Refusals of the New Frontier.
Alize Arıcan is a Society of Fellows Postdoctoral Scholar at Boston University and an incoming Assistant Professor of Anthropology at CUNY—City College, focusing on urban life, futurity, care, and migration. You can find her on Twitter @alizearican.