"Operation Stone Garden": A case study of legitimation of violence and the consequences for Mexican immigrants in Chaparral, New Mexico

David Haller McKenney, University of Texas at El Paso


While globalization is widely theorized in terms of apolitical trans-border flows, this paper argues that the so-called "War on Terror," the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the so-called "War on Drugs" have legitimated the use of violence and aggression. This includes criminalization, closure, containment and deportation directed at trans-national flows of immigrants. Immigrants have become conflated with terrorists, drugs, crime and contamination as a generalized "other," to use Simmel's terms; they are typed as suspicious and dangerous strangers. From this perspective I suggest that the rise of contemporary security regimes or "the mobility regime" that emerged well before the terror attacks of September 11th, 2001, has been fertilized by those attacks and the wars that followed. The mobility regime is premised upon a "paradigm of suspicion" that mixes the perceived threats of crime, immigration, and terrorism and fosters the organization of global risk-management strategies in multi-scalar forces of persecution involving a set of actors from federal, state, county and local levels of society. In the unincorporated town of Chaparral, New Mexico this multi-scalar forces of persecution involved the mutual strengthening of local racism and federal border strengthening. In the current period of legitimated violence and suspicion, I theorize that the stranger is most vulnerable to violence and aggression from the different multi-scalar forces of persecution who constitute a mobility regime or security regime. As a location which highlights the elemental forms of the mobility regime, this paper examines Chaparral, New Mexico, and its large Mexican immigrant community who are confronted by the sociological affinity between guarded borders on one side and gated communities on the other. I posit that as violence became legitimated and fear of suspicious strangers escalated to the level of national hysteria, the Mexican immigrant families who attempted settlement in Chaparral became most vulnerable to the aggression of the mobility regime and its global risk-management strategies. These strategies culminated in an unprecedented attack upon these immigrant families by elements of the mobility regime. This case exhibits the systematic attempt to block, contain and destroy immigrant settlements and transnational flows of humans who attempt mobility across borders as a strategy of survival. I studied these issues first-hand during 2003-2005 while I lived in Chaparral, New Mexico, an unincorporated community located just across the Texas state line 15 miles north of El Paso, Texas and its sister city", Juárez, Mexico.

Subject Area

Ethnic studies

Recommended Citation

McKenney, David Haller, ""Operation Stone Garden": A case study of legitimation of violence and the consequences for Mexican immigrants in Chaparral, New Mexico" (2013). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1545182.