Geography of Border Militarization

LAS Professor Scott Whiteford, along with Jeremy Slack (University of Texas) Daniel E. Martinez (George Washington University) and Alison Elizabeth Lee (La Universidad de las Americas Puebla) published this study on the Geography of Border Militarization in the Journal of Latin American Geography in March 2016. It is based on research from the Migrant Border Crossing Study (which can be read here.) In April, Dr. Whiteford (along with Jeremy Slack, Daniel E. Martínez of George Washington University , and Emily Peiffer of the University of Arizona)  published another article on migration titled “In Harm’s Way: Family Separation, Immigration Enforcement Programs and Security on the US/Mexico Border” in the Journal of Migration and Human Security. Read abstracts from both of these important studies below.


The Geography of Border Militarization: Despite proposed increases in spending on personnel and equipment for border enforcement, the complex geography of border militarization and the violence it produces require further examination. We take a geographical perspective to determine the role of violence in both its official forms, such as the incarceration and punishments experienced by undocumented migrants, as well as through abuses and violence perpetrated by agents in shaping border and immigration enforcement. By drawing on the Migrant Border Crossing Study (MBCS), which is a unique data source based on 1,110 surveys of a random sample of deportees, as well as research with family members and return migrants in Puebla, Mexico, we provide an innovative and robust account of the geography of violence and migration. Identifying regional variation allows us to see the priorities and strategic use of violence in certain areas as part of enforcement practice. We assert that understanding the role of violence allows us to explain the prevalence of various forms of abuse, as well as the role of abuse in border enforcement strategies, not as a side effect, but as elemental to the current militarized strategies.


In Harm’s Way: Family Separation, Immigration Enforcement Programs and Security on the US/Mexico Border: This study examines the demographics and family ties of deportees, their experiences with immigration enforcement practices and programs under the CDS, and how these programs have reshaped contemporary migration and deportation along the US-Mexico border. The article covers programs such as criminal prosecutions of illegal entries under Operation Streamline, and the Alien Transfer and Exit Program (ATEP) or lateral repatriation program which returns immigrants to different locations from where they illegally entered. In relationship to these programs, it considers issues of due process and treatment of deportees in US custody.