Externalization and Its Limits: The Concentric Rings around the United States

Friday, January 5, 2018: 4:10 PM
Marriott Ballroom, Salon 3 (Marriott Wardman Park)
David FitzGerald, University of California, San Diego
The U.S. government has built an expanding set of concentric rings of control around its territory. The effect of these constructions, and often their intent, is to prevent asylum seekers from accessing U.S. territory to lodge claims or enjoy the full processual rights of those on U.S. territory. Within each of these rings, there are different structural limitations to the governments’ ability to keep out asylum seekers. A maritime “moat” includes concentric rings of the high seas, territorial waters, liminal zones between sea and land, and islands of fictional sovereignty. The principal limitations in the moat are self-restraint by the executive, domestic interest group pressure, and international norms rather than international law. In land “buffers,” the main limitations are the need to create at least the chimera of compliance with rights norms in the buffer and the linkage between transit migration and emigration from the buffer country. An aerial “dome” that keeps asylum seekers thousands of kilometers away has the fewest limitations because of the high degree to which visa restrictions have become normalized, air travel securitized, and anti-smuggling deliberately conflated with anti-trafficking. A “cage” that keeps asylum seekers in their countries of origin where they are persecuted is limited by the domestic and international political price of openly cooperating with persecutors, a preference not to yield leverage to the government of an often hostile country of origin, and the political imperative of at least token in-country refugee processing.