"Quédate en Casa": Immigration Policy and COVID-19 in Mexico's Southern Border

Authors: Jorge Choy-Gómez*, The University of Texas At Austin
Topics: Migration, Latin America, Feminist Geographies
Keywords: Immigration, COVID-19, Mexico, Border
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In this paper, I describe and analyze the recent discursive and practical evolution of Mexico's immigration policy on the border with Guatemala. Since Andrés Manuel López Obrador assumed the Mexican presidency there has been a hardening of the everyday execution of immigration policy. This is especially true in light of the government’s reaction to the caravans of Central American migrants that attempted to cross the border between Guatemala and Mexico, and have subject to use of force since October 2018. With the deployment of a coordinated action of hundreds of agents from the National Migration Institute, the National Guard, and the Army, images of security force agents, posing with swollen chests and hands on hips, invite the Mexican population to feel proud of the defenders of the Homeland. This stands in stark contrast to the progressive immigration reforms President López Obrador promised during his campaign. This evolution is also framed by the border restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Mexican government’s non-enforcement approach on care and public health illustrated by the "Quédate en casa" (stay at home) campaign. Drawing on Feminist Geopolitics, I argue that the masculinist tendency of the State to deploy power at the borders collides with discourses on care and non-enforced public health in Mexico for Mexican citizens, leaving subjects like migrants and asylum seekers in a hyper-marginalized situation. The paper draws on ethnographic fieldwork on bureaucracy and migration along the Mexico-Guatemala border to illustrate the tensions between State narratives of care and immigration deterrence.

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