Late Breaking: The Border Crisis in Historical Perspective

AHA Session 24A
Friday, January 3, 2020: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Mercury Ballroom (New York Hilton, Third Floor)
W. Fitzhugh Brundage, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Lauren Pearlman, University of Florida
Andrea Miller, University of California, Davis
Stuart Schrader, Johns Hopkins University
The Audience

Session Abstract

In the almost three years since President Donald J. Trump took office, the United States asylum system has become almost unrecognizable. On the campaign trail, Trump promised to build a wall on the southern border and make Mexico pay for it. While that plan met friction in Congress, Trump’s border policies are wreaking havoc in the lives of vulnerable populations. From the impediments erected in Central America, at the border, in detention centers, and in the immigration courts, the Trump administration has exacerbated the border crisis. Trump himself has adopted a “zero tolerance” approach to immigration policy. Features of this policy include the separation and indefinite detention of immigrant families, the removal of migrants to Mexico to await immigration court hearings, the deployment of tear gas against groups of migrants attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, and persistent attempts to legally undermine the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which is under review by the United States Supreme Court as of November 2019. Condemnation of Trump’s immigration policy often focuses on the racialized violence of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the material and symbolic violence of the construction of a wall at the southern border. Other critics focus on the criminalization, threat of deportation, and loss of legal protection for DACA recipients.

This late breaking session brings together a diverse group of scholars to consider these issues in historical perspective. Panelists will address topics ranging from the role of private prison corporations and local police in the enforcement of immigration law to historical connections between practices of cruelty, torture, surveillance, and policing surrounding the border crisis and those that have characterized the United States’ imperial practices and reach. Our panelists will draw connections between contemporary U.S. immigration law enforcement and events from the past. Questions we will consider include: What are some of the toxic consequences of rhetoric and policies that exploit popular anxiety about security to dehumanize “the enemy within?” How did private surveillance and prison corporations from the second half of the 20th century expand their influence into immigrations detention centers? How do current police departments’ cooperation with ICE compare to the ways that police power and immigration enforcement in Los Angeles criminalized Latinx immigrants and refugees during the 1970s and 1980s? What happens when we situate drone surveillance programs within a longer arc of colonial air power and atmospheric policing? What happens when we turn the lens to examine the U.S.’s assistance in creating border patrols in other countries? Together in this roundtable, we aim to expand understandings of immigration law enforcement by examining a broader milieu of actors, institutions, geographies, and practices of immigration enforcement and state violence.

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