Today, the US relies upon Mexican labour and agricultural produce and exploitation of growing consumption in the Mexican market. Mexico, conversely, depends upon remitted wage earnings and internationalised industry to support marginalised rural and poor urban populations. Treaties have formalised this co-dependency. Disasters, emergencies, and environmental problems, particularly in the border zone are usually shared calamities and the need for binational cooperative emergency management is obvious. What are the prospects for cooperation in light of growing tension between the two countries? This paper evaluates cooperation between the USA and Mexico during disasters and examines the implications of the anti-undocumented-migrant sentiment and US construction of the 700 mi (1167 km) border fence. Particular attention is placed on issues of sovereignty, trade agreements, environmental accords, and approaches to emergency management. We argue that geography and political-economic interactions have developed a dysfunctional, but necessary, relationship. Approaches to management of risks, hazards, and emergencies fit both their respective cultures and their political relationship. The borderlands are particularly problematic due, in part, to the marginalisation of all Latinos (Americans and non-Americans alike) and the lack of understanding of the Mexican (and Mexican-American) culture.