Race and Empire in U.S. Border Externalization to Mexico

Authors: Irma Losada Olmos*, UCLA
Topics: Political Geography, Migration, United States
Keywords: borders, refugees, U.S. empire, extraterritoriality, race
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 36
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


While many emphasize the continued relevance of the U.S.-Mexico border as a highly militarized and deadly “line on the map,” political geographers have done an important job in exploring the various ways in which bordering practices take place beyond and within the territorial boundaries of the state. However, the externalization of U.S. border enforcement to Mexico and its consequences for migrants and asylum seekers remain understudied. This paper explores this process, which became evident with the establishment of Plan Frontera Sur (Southern Border Plan) by the Mexican government in 2014. Aimed at controlling the ports of entry in southern Mexico, the plan effectively decreased the number of migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. while it increased migrant apprehensions and asylum requests in Mexico. Through this extraterritorial form of immigration control, the U.S. is evading its international responsibilities with regards to the rights of asylum seekers, as well as encouraging racist dynamics within Mexico. Yet, as this paper argues, a closer look at the history of U.S. empire in Mexico suggests that the process is not as novel as it seems. By reading U.S. border externalization in Mexico through the lens of critical empire studies, the paper sheds light on the vital and ongoing relationship between empire and race. This shows how the U.S. has created, (re)defined, and mobilized different racial categories to manage its relationship with Mexican and Latin American populations and justify their exploitation, dispossession, and exclusion throughout time.

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