The US’s “Rutterless” Immigration and Border Policies

“Borders are scratched across the hearts of men, by strangers with a calm, judicial pen, and when the borders bleed we watch with dread the lines of ink along the map turn red.” -Mayra Mannes, American Writer and Novelist

Before detailed maps and during Europe’s Age of Exploration, the location of “new” land was made by ship pilots and their rutters. A rutter was a description of how long they should sail in which direction. Using a magnetic compass, it measured courses between ports and capes, headlands and channels, the pattern winds, what currents to expect and from where, the time of seasonal storms, and where there were shoals, reefs, tides and havens. It even noted the sounding and depths and color of the water and the nature of the seabed. Basically, rutters established everything necessary for a safe voyage, or “how one got there and how one got back.” Since control of these rutters belonged to the state that explored them, rutters were considered more valuable than a ship’s cargo, including human lives. Pilots were actually killed for their rutters. Because of this, forged rutters were common, as were deliberately designed ones for the purpose of confusing other states and their pilots. A rutter was also only as good as the pilot who wrote it, the scribe who hand-copied it, the very rare printer who printed it, or the scholar who translated it. In other words, “a pilot never knew for certain until he had been there himself.” [1]

It is obvious that the United States has a rutterless border policy regarding the current influx of children (some parentless), women and men coming from several Central American states. While some politicians and pundits are calling for their immediate return, demanding their respective states be billed of course, others are insisting they should be housed in “refugee camps” until relatives or foreign officials retrieve them for deportation. Still, some are espousing numerous and far-fetched conspiracy theories. One is that President Obama planned this “invasion” of immigrants in order to push through his own immigration reform agenda. Another conspiracy is that the Democratic Party plans to grant these newly arrived immigrants automatic citizenship in return for their votes in the upcoming 2014 mid-term and 2016 presidential elections. There is also the theory that the Obama Administration is wanting to eliminate Whites, supplanting the U.S. with minority populations such as Hispanics and Blacks. Not only is the U.S.’s immigration and border policies utterly rutterless-confusing and forged and misguided, but they are being designed by “pilots” who have never been there themselves.

The “there” is not the border between Mexico and the U.S. but Central American countries, starting with Honduras. In 2009, the U.S. tacitly supported a military coup toppling a democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya. As a result, much needed political, economic and civil reform was never achieved. The new junta’s declaration of martial law, its beating and imprisoning demonstrators and journalists, backed by the U.S., caused many Hondurans to flee, some to the U.S. Neither was it too many years ago that the U.S. overthrew democratically elected governments in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. Supported by U.S. military personal and weapons, the oligarchies of these nations implemented a scorched-earth policy against hundreds of thousands of their people who merely wanted land, food and human rights. And while the International Court of Law was condemning the U.S. for “structural terrorism” against its continued bombing of Nicaraguan oil refineries and commercial fishing fleets, the U.S. had also implemented a deadly “food as a weapon” program. I will never forget the faces of malnourishment, those fearing death squads, or the reactions of uncovering mass graves.

With friends like the U.S., who needs borders? The U.S. itself has never recognized the sovereign rights of other peoples, let alone the legitimacy of the kinds of governments they have chosen. In other words, seldom has the U.S. acknowledged the existing borders of others. From the removal of Amerindians off their lands and their near annihilation to the Mexican American War and the hundreds of military, political and economic interventions and colonization of Central and Latin American states, the U.S. has practiced a double standard. It has only recognized boundaries for its own national self-interests. It is difficult enough for territorial unity to exist without the imposition of an empire, like the U.S., to impose its own political, economic and cultural principles on such territories. At the same time, global media sources and technological and economic systems have erased many natural and state boundaries. Since perception is often reality, one must wonder what kind of impact Americanization-U.S. militarism, corporatism and culturalism-has had on Central American states. Especially since most now have access to either a television or internet which is usually dominated by the U.S.

In order to forge a more accurate rutter for immigration and border policies, political and military leaders, news pundits, talk-show hosts, even U.S. citizens, will themselves have to travel and live and learn in Central America. It will be among the poor and oppressed in Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador and Mexico that they will become true pilots and find everything for a safe and secure journey. And in recognizing past wrongs, perhaps U.S. borders can become green instead of red-which have been splashed with the spilled blood of the poor and oppressed and those merely wanting their own dignity and sovereignty. This journey, however, will require a new moral compass and a spirit of humility and of understanding, of being deprogrammed from the Pyrrhic victories of the past and facing the realities of a global military-economic-cultural power. One that has become a violent and imperial security state that knows no boundaries and is constantly poised for war. Even if it means war against vulnerable children and immigrants.


1. Clavell, James. Shogun. New York, New York: Atheneum Publishers, 1975., p. 4-5.