Borders Are Vertical
When we think of a border, all we see is a dotted line on the map, or maybe a barrier, lots of guns, uniforms, barbwire fence or a wall and drug sniffing dogs. This is the geographical border: a horizontal boundary set by political and cultural processes that surround an arbitrarily named fragment of land called “country” or “nation” - a construct that resides chiefly in our collective imagination but becomes real enough to die for.
In history, all attempts to successfully seal that imaginary area off from mutual influences have failed. Borders, walls and iron curtains turned out to be more leaky than any aspiring xenophobe would imagine. But these horizontal boundaries separating human groups from influencing each other are not the most effective ones. The true borders are vertical, not horizontal. Moving between various strata in this vertical structure is much more difficult than the failed idea of the American Dream could ever predict.
Furthermore, being higher on the socioeconomic ladder ensures more mobility. Being lower means being trapped, blocked and devoid of options.
When I came to the US, I was a spoiled snob with a big ego.
“It would be cool to go to an art school or whatever…“, I thought.
My immigration status has always been and still is “legal”. For me, however, immigration has never been a desperate attempt to run away from death by starvation or violence. In fact I can always come back to my country of origin as if I’ve never left it
and I often do.
But for countless individuals born on the bumpy side of the world, immigration is the only option. Moreover their dire situation is mostly based on irreversible economical circumstances making it impossible for them to cross the aforementioned vertical border. Visas are expensive, especially if your monthly wage is just a tiny fraction of the sum needed to apply.
If you stay, you can soon die. If you go, at least you have a shot at surviving.
So what is the one difference between me - the artsy snob and the unfortunate individual from the bumpy side of the world (besides the skin tone of course)?
It's the $160 of the visa processing fee. Nothing else!
Additionally an art student will probably need to take a student loan which in the future will benefit more sharks who are already sitting in their private jets and rubbing their fins together.
Speaking of private jets…
To a person who travels by the means of a private jet, the idea of a geographical border shows itself for what it really is: an imaginary construct.
In fact a few witness accounts recall wealthy travelers who on occasion forget to bring their passports. “Oops! I forgot my passport! Oh, well…”, they say and they are being let in anyway without customs because everybody knows that the cheese they bring in is too expensive to have been banned. And if they overstay their welcome? No problem! They are “expats” now!
These are the vertical borders that are now becoming as sealed and impenetrable as they have been in ancient Egypt or medieval feudalism. The divisions between countries have been replaced by the divisions between economic layers of society or perhaps they've always been there: the only true borders that ever were!
The physical borders are meant only to keep the poor people from crossing to the rich side of the world and they are present not just at the edges of countries but most of all within the countries, within our neighborhoods, our schools, our work places and our streets and all you need to cross them freely is a "visa fee" or better yet - a private jet.