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— "A particular mindset comes with being in the border region and, in the American imagination, it's this vigilante need to defend the border at all costs, even if it means taking human lives. There's a ranch down there in San Ysidro...on their property, close to the wall, they have words on the back of a stolen Caltrans sign that say Hassard County, and San Ysidro is part of San Diego County. The meaning there is Hazzard County, The Dukes of Hazzard, the old South. These ranchers view their ranch, they view the surrounding area near Border Field State Park as the old South, and the rules of the old South apply there. If they see people crossing, they may shoot at them, and shootings have been reported down there. What's really appalling about this Hassard County sign is that it's spelled with two ss, which are tilted in the same way as the storm troopers did it. So we're talking about a very racist mentality behind this idea of enforcing the borders.

"Now [with the war on terrorism], it's kind of scary to think about where we're heading. What we've seen -- a lot of us, almost on a daily basis -- is going to get worse; it's going to be policy, and it's going to be okay.

"And [Middle Easterners and Mexicans], we look alike. I have a friend up here who is also from San Diego, from Escondido, and he's been told, walking down the street, 'Go back to Arabia,' even though that's not even a country. So we do see the ignorance that is driving this."

Two years ahead of Hernandez at Southwest High, Christian Ramirez also grew up in the shadow of the border wall and is now director of the American Friends Service Committee's U.S.-Mexico Border Program. During the week of December 10 through 14, he participated in a hunger strike in protest of violence along the border.

In the wake of September 11 and the Patriot Act, "What is really troubling for us as human rights organizations," says Ramirez, "is that now an innocent person, from appearance or speech, could be charged with having terrorist associations.

"It seems now that there is a move utilizing national security as an excuse to increase militarization along the border, not just on the U.S. side but also on the Mexican side, which will augment the tensions. The U.S. is getting the cooperation of the Mexican military and the Mexican federal police and local police. So there is this hysteria. But we have to understand that this is probably the safest border between two nations. The people that come through here, for the most part, are people that want to work. That's not to say that there isn't drug trafficking going on, and, of course, countries have the right to protect their national security. But at what expense?"

On Saturday, December 14, at Border Field State Park, the American Friends Service Committee of San Diego sponsored a Posada feast, which reenacts the arrival of Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. The event traditionally celebrates the hospitality that was extended to the couple, who needed a place to stay for the night that Christ was born.

Two years ago, Ramirez participated in a march of 200 people down Monument Road to Border Field State Park in opposition to militarization of the border. "When we were passing one of the properties very close to the Hassard County sign, some rancher types broke out a Confederate flag and pointed rifles at us. We were fortunate that nothing serious happened, but it goes to show that the vigilantism mentality exists on the border, on the last road in the U.S.

"Border Field used to be called Friendship Park," says Ramirez, "and now it's not such a friendly place. But still today we have couples kissing through the fence and families coming together at the fence. I consider Tijuana as one community with a big fence in between."

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