Much media attention has been devoted to newly aggressive American border policy under the Trump administration.
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Such policies are especially concerning for people in Canada, whose border with the United States is the longest in the world.
While the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) has had its fair share of controversy, it is much more reputable than its American counterpart.
Both the CBSA and the United States Customs and Border Protection agency (USCBP) have public photo galleries. The photostreams curate wildly different public images and worldviews.
Since Trump took office in January 2017, the USCBP photos seems to have slowly become a tool for a Trumpian perspective of illegal immigration. Some of the images are pretty apalling.
The Canadian photos, by contrast, feature jovial agents, charming stories, and endearingly tacky publicity campaigns.
To be clear, the USCBP also showcases good and important work, like hurricane relief, aid to people in need of medical attention, and daring rescues.
But harrowing images like many by the USCBP are completely absent on the CBSA site.
In fact, the difference between the two photostreams is truly shocking:
This is a photo of a United States detention centre for children separated from their parents after crossing the border from Mexico. The separations were internationally condemned as a violation of human rights. This photo from the USCBP poudly announces the "intake of illegal border crossers." Some of these children are toddlers:
On the other hand, here is a photo from a CBSA hiring campaign featuring inspirational messages and a smiling border agent:
One of the biggest signs that the USCBP photo gallery has become a vehicle for the Trump worldview are a series of photos of sexual offenders from Mexico. It is absolutely necessary for American officials to detain such criminals, especially if they enter the country illegally. But the abundance and staging of these photos seem to cast all immigration from Mexico as a dangerous risk. Instead of showing families and children seeking refuge, the USCBP posts haunting photos of men like this:
Meanwhile, the CBSA loves to post pictures of their dogs. Agents always make sure to give credit to their canine colleagues. Just look at this boy proud of a job well done:
One Facebook post is just a happy birthday message to this dog named Bones. The absolutely adorable photo is captioned "Happy belated birthday to detective dog extraordinaire, Bones!" and includes the hashtag #K9Supermodel:
Seriously, there are dozens of pictures from the CBSA that just admire dogs:
In the United States, the border services agency loves to bolster a twisted Trumpian understanding of people from Latin America. The photostream proudly announces the capture of these two suspected gang members. But these are only photos of their tattoos. Are their tattoos supposed to be incriminating or to inspire fear and suspicion in the viewer? Is the exclusion of their faces meant to make us fear all brown people with tattoos?
In Canada, the Border Services Agency publicizes its progress when it comes to gender equality. This agent recalls a time when female officers were only allowed to wear skirts. She states that she is amazed at the advances the agency has made. This photo is part of a wider celebration of women border agents:
This harrowing photo from the American border patrol shows the packed bodies of people attempting to enter the United States. The caption celebrates their capture. It is unclear whether agents took this photo for evidence, but it seems shock and publicity are of more value than assisting these people and getting them out of this uncomfortable storage.
The Canadian Border Services Agency wants people to know that ports of entry and, indeed, the entire country of Canada are spaces that welcome LGBTQ+ people. Canadian agents are sensitive to the needs and restrictions of vulnerable individuals and communities. If you dig deep in the USCBP photos you'll also find celebrations of queer pride, but they have disappeared in the time since Trump took office.
This photo from the USCBP is captioned "one bus leads to another," making clear that it views these people more as objects than as human beings. The caption refers specifically to an instance where a bus full of people led officers to another bus smuggling marijuana, which is still federally illegal in the United States. Such images of dozens of people are common on the USCBP site. The agency seems to want to impress upon the viewer the sheer number of people entering the country.
Canada's agency definitely has a softer and more approachable public image. Just look at this Facebook post celebrating the CBSA's fourteenth birthday. The terrible photoshop is extremely endearing. The teddy bear wearing a border agent uniform is particularly cute:
Trump policy propaganda is common in the USCBP photo gallery. This image shows proposed models for Trump's infamous border wall plans. So far, such walls have only been installed in select places and usually only to replace old fencing. It has been widely reported that a wall across the entire U.S.-Mexico border is fiscally and logistically unfeasible.
Here's another image of that teddy bear, which appears to be the mascot of the CBSA. Yes, the Canadian Border Services Agency has a mascot. The bear is both cute and slightly creepy. But the mascot is a valiant effort to make a friendly figure the face of the agency.