“Border Wall” is a documentary that came out 11 years ago. It’s hard to find. It isn’t in DVD stores, which hardly exist now, and you can only find it for sale online from suspicious sources.
The reason I decided to track down a copy is because it was produced by Steve Bannon, senior adviser to President Donald Trump. I had read somewhere that Bannon worked as an executive producer of documentaries for a while. Among those documentaries he produced, I chose this one, which centers on the U.S. border.
The movie lasts a little over an hour and a half, and it tells the first-person story of five lives negatively affected by illegal immigration.
The stories, recorded in Phoenix, Arizona, are exaggerated and emotive, designed to argue that all immigration from the south is the same and includes drug traffickers, coyotes, thieves and people with no respect for American culture or values.
Lacking any balanced view or context, the stories inevitably generate fear and a rejection of individuals from other countries, especially Mexico. For any American who doesn’t know better, the film inspires rage. In one scene, Latino protesters are shown chanting in favor of “la raza” (“the race” or “the people”), reclaiming their right to live in border territory without papers, since, according to them, history makes them the rightful residents of the area. In summary, according to the documentary, only drug traffickers, criminals and rapists come from Mexico.
Sound familiar? On June 16, 2015, from his tower in Manhattan, Trump launched his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, announcing, in his now famous words, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best … They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
After watching this documentary, it’s clear that much of Trump’s anti-immigration narrative is inspired by the same ideas espoused by Bannon, his own executive producer and now senior adviser. The documentary justifies the fear and precaution toward Latinos that emanates from the Trump administration. These ideas don’t just lack context and balance, they provoke a baseless rage that is difficult to erase from the heart, and which is as grim as it is dangerous.