The dark side of globalization at the US-Mexico border

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Bellarmine students visit the border wall in Arizona (The Courier Journal)

Shadows cast by the U.S. border wall provide cover for worlds of exploitation, suffering and death. Extending north and south, fiefdoms of drugs, human trafficking and violence have emerged from thriving narcotics and gun markets, harmful immigration policies, and prejudice. We should be honest enough to acknowledge our connections to the misery.

For three years Bellarmine University has supported an immigration course that includes a trip to the border. This year, a group of honors students spent spring break peering into these shadows to better understand why the zone separating the U.S. and Mexico is awash in blood, from wounds old and new. Knowledge is especially important as changes in immigration policies intensify the highly politicized debates that follow these issues.

Beyond the profound moral questions raised by such conditions, we should think about what is going on here geopolitically. Social scientists have identified the emergence of narco- and necro-states, the former run by powerful and ruthless cartels, and the latter the result of policies and practices that mean significant groups of underprivileged people are more likely than others to be subjected to violent death or good-as-death conditions.


The existence of transnational boogeymen is not especially novel information. But the degree to which violent groups operate with virtual impunity – outside the controls of sovereign states – should stop us in our tracks. A more serious question is whether this represents the dark side of globalization and a glimpse of a future most would not care to see.

There is increasing evidence that immigrant farmworkers in the U.S. are falling under the control of cartels, as they extend their interests in smuggling and gun-running. Cartel-controlled workers are isolated and exploited in the fruit and marijuana industries of states such as California, Oregon and Washington. In the more traditional business of illicit drugs, fentanyl – the cartel product du jour – is a most deadly specter haunting the shadows, which fall over too many Kentucky homes.

Click here to read the complete original article by Francis T. Hutchins in the Courier Journal