Chuy Sánchez

The Dominant Narrative About Our Southern Border Continues to Negatively Impact Communities

When I asked my mother (who immigrated to the United States in the 1970’s) her thoughts on the U.S./Mexico border she stated, “¡Es un caos! No sé como la gente puede vivir allá.” (“It’s a fiasco! I don’t know how folks can live there.”) The reaction was guttural. She sympathizes while disconnecting herself from it, mostly because of the distance between her suburban home in Illinois and the border. This disconnection is key and represents how the negative narrative of the southern border has been established in our public consciousness. Narratives are broad stories that transcend any individual argument, statistic, or legislative battle to tap into our most deeply held values and assumptions.

The way we talk about issues like the border can tell us a lot about our own unconscious hopes and fears. The border is an important economic hub, accounting for billions of dollars in trade and thousands of jobs. It is home to millions of people who love the cultural diversity, deep history of cooperation, and the physical beauty of the regions. The story that is more familiar to those who are further removed is similar to my mother’s reaction of chaos and despair. This dominant way of thinking surely reflects our fears, but what about our hopes? As a communicator tasked with talking about these issues, I struggle with this divide.

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