In personal stories from twenty years of activism and reporting, an award-winning journalist calls on readers to imagine a world without borders.
By the time Todd Miller spots him, Juan Carlos has been wandering alone in a remote border region for days. Parched, hungry and disoriented, he approaches and asks for a ride. Miller's instinct is to oblige, but he hesitates: Furthering someone's unauthorized entrance into the U.S. is a federal crime.
Todd Miller has been reporting from international border zones for over twenty-five years. In Build Bridges, Not Walls, he invites readers to join him on a journey that begins with the most basic of questions: What happens to our collective humanity when the impulse to help one another is criminalized?
A series of encounters—with climate refugees, members of indigenous communities, border authorities, scholars, visionaries, and the shape-shifting imagination of his four-year-old son—provokes reflections on the ways in which nation-states create the very problems that drive immigration, and how the abolition of borders could make the world a more sustainable, habitable place for all.
Is it possible to create a borderless world? How could it emerge, and how might it be better equipped to solve the global emergencies threatening our collective survival? Build Bridges, Not Walls is an inspiring, impassioned call to envision—and work toward—a bold new reality.
Praise for Build Bridges, Not Walls:
"As more and more millions are forced to migrate to survive, and as militarized borders disfigure an ever-increasing portion of the Earth's surface, Todd Miller's analysis and reporting have become essential to understanding both the world in which we live and the one for which we have to fight. In Build Bridges Not Walls, Miller writes with poetry, unfailing critical intelligence, and most of all with heart. He cuts through the facile media myths and escapes the paralyzing constraints of a political 'debate' that functions mainly to obscure the unconscionable inequalities that borders everywhere secure. In its soulfulness, its profound moral imagination, and its vision of radical solidarity, Todd Miller's work is as indispensable as the love that so palpably guides it."—Ben Ehrenreich, author of Desert Notebooks: A Road Map for the End of Time
"All of Todd Miller's work is essential reading, but Build Bridges, Not Walls is his most compelling, insightful book yet. Miller's storytelling is woven together with his rigorous research on the inner workings of border control systems and how they worsen the concentration of global wealth and the suffering caused by climate change. Build Bridges, Not Walls makes a convincing argument for border abolition that builds on the police and prison abolition movement's insights, helping us see that the plans to make border enforcement more fair are shams, and that imagining and creating a world without borders is entirely possible."—Dean Spade, author of Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crises (And the Next)
"Based on years of work as a journalist and his engagements with migrants, border patrol agents, Indigenous leaders, faith leaders, migrant justice organizers, regular people who live near borders, and more, Miller calls us to see how borders subject millions of people to violence, dehumanization, and early death. More importantly, he highlights the urgent necessity to abolish not only borders, but the nation-state itself. Drawing on the work of abolitionist movement leaders, this book points toward the radical opening of the imagination urgently needed to transform walls into bridges."—A. Naomi Paik, author of Bans, Walls Raids, Sanctuary: Understanding U.S. Immigration for the Twenty-First Century and Rightlessness: Testimony and Redress in U.S. Prison Camps Since World War II
"Todd Miller not only makes the case for tearing down the walls of Fortress America, but also for the future of the planet and humanity. The stories of the humble people of the earth he documents ask us to also tear down the walls in our hearts and in our heads. What proliferates in the absence of these walls and in spite of them, Miller writes, is the natural state of things centered on kindness and compassion."—Nick Estes, author of Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance
"Todd Miller's deeply reported, empathetic writing on the American border is some of the most essential journalism being done today. As this book reveals, the militarization of our border is a simmering crisis that harms vulnerable people every day. It's impossible to read his work without coming away changed."—Adam Conover, creator and host of Adam Ruins Everything and host of Factually!
"In this manifesto/humanitarian mission statement, Todd Miller dissects and dismantles, with exacting precision and a profound sense of urgency, the border-industrial complex and its violent manifestations. Surrounding his experiences and vision with the wisdom of aid workers, abolitionists, pastors, scientists, historians, philosophers, Zapatistas, Tohono O'odham, revolutionaries, and migrants, Miller lays bare the senselessness and soullessness of the nation-state and its borders and border walls, and reimagines, in their place, a complete and total restoration, therefore redemption, of who we are, and of who we are in desperate need of becoming."—Brandon Shimoda, author of The Grave on the Wall
"Moving, smart, and, most importantly, convincing that the current global border regime is deadly and dehumanizing, that we've wrecked the earth and darkened our hearts with border walls and global apartheid, that reforms fall far short, and that we need a radical restructuring to tear down the divides, build bridges of solidarity and empathy, and create a more just and equal society. Miller's latest book is a personal, wide-ranging, and impassioned call for abolishing borders."—John Washington, author of The Dispossessed: A Story of Asylum and the US-Mexican Border and Beyond
"Todd Miller's Build Bridges, Not Walls is an eloquent and urgent call to dismantle the narrative of 'border security,' denouncing this sinister concept not as a policy seeking to protect the general population, but rather 'as an apparatus to enforce extreme inequalities and power imbalances.' Through careful reporting and vivid personal experience, Miller illuminates the immediate need to bring people closer in an era of dehumanizing violence that is at the heart of U.S. political discourse and institutions and which has become painfully condensed in the Trump years. These essays not only scrutinize the political and economic payoffs of the racialized surveillance paradigm at the U.S.-Mexico border, but they also dwell on the people on both sides who have been left out of the decision-making process and who Miller recognizes as the wellspring for true social change for both nations and, for that matter, the entire hemisphere. Build Bridges, Not Walls offers a persuasive new understanding of borders and the need to literally and symbolically bridge them."—Oswaldo Zavala, journalist and professor of Latin American literature and culture at the City University of New York and author of Drug Cartels Do Not Exist: Narcotrafficking and Culture in Mexico
"Todd Miller and his four-year-old son William invite us to imagine future bicycles and playgrounds where we now see the steel bollards of border walls. Drawing on years of reporting and the work of scholars, thinkers, and activists from around the world—such as Bayo Akomolafe's concepts of 'fugitive spirit' and 'modest criminality'—Miller builds a case for imagining the seemingly impractical, the supposedly impossible idea of a living in a world without borders, and without the states that so desperately, and so violently, cling to them."—John Gibler, author of Torn from the World: A Guerrilla's Escape from a Secret Prison in Mexico
"By documenting the human toll of border walls, expanded security, and racialized policing, Miller makes the urgent case to abolish borders now."—Reece Jones, author of White Borders: The History of Race and Immigration in the United States from Chinese Exclusion to the Border Wall