Has any of us wept?

It is a landscape often written off as a “wasteland” that is inherently “hostile”—without recognition that it has, in fact, been made to be hostile. Violence does not grow organically in our deserts or at our borders. It has arrived there through policy.

Meissner’s damning admission—that the loss of hundreds of lives on America’s doorstep each year was not enough to cause the government to reevaluate its policy—reveals the extent to which the desert has been weaponized against migrants, and lays bare the fact that the hundreds who continue to die there every year are losing their lives by design.

When the Border Patrol demands recognition for saving lives, it’s as if firefighters were asking to be thanked for putting out a blaze started by their own chief. To characterize the Border Patrol as a rescue operation is to gloss over a pervasive culture of callousness and destruction: while I indeed worked alongside some deeply compassionate and honorable agents, I also witnessed coworkers scatter migrant groups in remote areas and destroy their water supplies, knowing they’d never be held to account.

If our understanding of violence and death along the border can become something visceral, then we may begin to feel, deep within ourselves, no matter how far we live from the border, that what happens there is profoundly unnatural. By collapsing the distance that separates us from the border, we might push back against the idea of its inherent violence, against the unceasing negation of its culture and people, against its continual transformation into a hellscape designed to repel migrants.