Who now remembers the classic 1956 sci-fi movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers? In it, alien spores drop to earth in… yes, California (undoubtedly not too far from the Mexican border)… and develop into seed pods that can replicate and then take over any nearby sleeping human being. What a nightmarish film. It certainly scared the hell out of 12-year-old me! What a terrifying, fantastical vision of alien “invasion” and “invaders,” terms that are now as comfortable for President Trump and his base as they were for the murderous Brenton Tarrant in New Zealand recently. In fact, both men used similar terms on the same day. Tarrant posted a 74-page white-nationalist screed in which he swore that his killing spree was “to show the invaders that our lands will never be their lands.” The president, vetoing a Congressional attempt to block his national emergency to build his “great, great wall,” claimed that “people hate the word ‘invasion,’ but that’s what it is.”
Of course, Trump, who has long wanted to militarize the U.S.-Mexico border and raised the possibility of sending troops there in the first days of his presidency (finally doing so last year), has regularly claimed that the citizens of this country face a literal “invasion” of aliens. As he tweeted last October, “This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!” He was then focused on one of the “caravans” of several thousand refugees from various devastated Central American countries who wanted to reach the border safely to present themselves as candidates for asylum here. Significantly — as TomDispatch regular and border expert William deBuys points out today — the cast of “invaders” crossing that border in recent years, like those filling the caravans, has increasingly been made up of parents (often mothers) and children.
In New Zealand, Tarrant’s response to such “invaders” — Muslims, not Mexicans or Central Americans — was to slaughter 50 people, the youngest a three year old, the oldest 78. In the U.S., it’s been other kinds of cruelty, but in both cases, the perpetrators are living in a distinctly sci-fi world in which modern versions of those body snatchers are the norm and, to take but one example, El Paso, Texas, was essentially the crime capital of the United States until it got its border wall. (It wasn’t faintly, but no matter.) So believe me, it’s a relief to leave the Trumpian body-snatching version of the border behind for a moment as deBuys explores what the realities of those borderlands actually are.