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WWW.TEXASOBSERVER.ORG/BLOG Our special blend of insight, analysis, and wit is now available in daily doses. Observer editors, staffers, and bloggers are posting regular reports online about Texas politics, news, and culture. west. The winged migrants don’t know they’re crossing a border as they stream north by the millions every spring. A living river is a tricky kind of border. The resacas that dot the valley along the edge of the river’s path show how much it has wandered in just the last few centuries. It would undoubtedly keep wandering now if it weren’t contained between levees and relieved of most of its natural flow. It is possible to pretend that a river is just a blue line on a map that cuts through the land, separating one bank from the other, but nature sees a river as a vein that flows through the heart of a valley, giving life, drawing the land together. On my last day in the valley, I returned to Santa Ana hoping for a glimpse of a clay-colored robin, a visitor from the south more rare than any of the migrants I had seen. I never found the bird, but as I was watching a Harris’ hawk perched in a tree, someone approached and asked if I would like to meet the president. My mind scrolled through the list of living presidents, and I started to worry about the odds that it would be one I might actually want to meet when, like another mirage, Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter appeared. \(He was on my short The president used my telescope to take a quick look at the hawk. Then, after a few quick but thoughtful conversations with the people who had gathered when he arrived, he climbed back into his vehicle with the Secret Service and rode off into the sunset. At least, that’s how it would have happened in a dream. In real life, it was closer to lunchtime, and they were headed east toward the coast and Sabal Palm Sanctuary. I didn’t see any real mirages, and these scenes all make perfect sense in the chaotic, creative, dramatic context of a 21st century border town. In the same way, the logic of building a border fence only seems like something out of a hallucination if you accept on faith the stated reason for building it: fighting an invisible invasion of terrorists and securing our borders from smugglers and the migrant menace. The border walls in California and Arizona have already proven vulnerable to strategies as simple as a ladder, as sophisticated as acetylene torches, and as silly as bungee cords \(the most famous bungee jumpers were apprehended, but there’s no telling how many bounced their way across the border The fence makes perfect sense if you see it as a subsidy for arms contractors, another step in the march to extend the authority of the executive branch over the courts and congress, and of course, as a shiny mirage for people who need to believe they’re being protected from invisible, omnipresent enemies: jobstealing immigrants, drug smugglers, even terror itself. Jake Miller is the author of more than three dozen books for young people. He has birded from Brazil to Alaska. OCTOBER 3, 2008 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 31