The U.S./Mexican border south of San Diego passes rapidly, west to east, from the densely urban Tijuana River estuary to sparsely inhabited desert (East County). It is along the border in this region that a 14-mile section of the current administration’s “big, beautiful wall” was completed in August 2019, at a cost of $147 million.
In “14 Miles: Building the Border Wall,” journalist DW Gibson details the building of the wall. His narrative is bound together by the story of the wall’s construction, from initial planning to completion. But the building of the wall is merely the skeleton upon which he hangs the flesh of his story. Gibson conducted in-depth interviews with scores of people on both sides of the border and with multiple relationships to the border and the wall. It is these interviews that offer the reader insights into the impact the border, and its enforcement, have upon the lives of those on both sides.
The border is a dynamic area, crossed daily and legally by thousands of people for work, for business or for recreation. Gibson’s interviews with Customs and Border Patrol workers provide details of the intricacies and challenges their work requires of them to keep these crossings safe and efficient.
The construction of the wall has been an economic boon for many. Gibson’s interviews with these people, real estate developers and construction executives, demonstrate how there always seems to be money available to be made when dealing with the government.
The bulk of Gibson’s interviews are with individuals on both sides of the border who, on the U.S side, have entered the United States either legally or otherwise, as well as those waiting in Mexico to enter the country, again, either legally or otherwise. It is their stories that humanize the concept of “border” and how it impacts the lives of multitudes of people with a wide spectrum of beliefs and viewpoints.
Gibson does not gloss over the concerns of those who are concerned that a more welcoming immigration policy might overwhelm U.S. infrastructure, both social service and law enforcement. He presents the words of this group of interviewees with little editorial comment, but lets their voices speak for themselves.
“14 Miles” is a book that will appeal to those who seek a broader understanding of current U.S immigration policy, its enforcement, and its effect on multitudes of lives. It is written in a brisk, readable style that keeps the reader turning the page. In the end, it is not so much a book about the border wall, but rather the policies behind its construction and the lives of those affected by it.