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  • Author: Geoffrey Alan Boyce, Samuel Chambers, Sarah Launius
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal on Migration and Human Security
  • Institution: Center for Migration Studies of New York
  • Abstract: Since 2000, 3,199 human remains of unauthorized migrants have been recovered from the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona (Coalición de Derechos Humanos 2018). These recovered remains provide only one indicator of the scope of death and suffering affecting unauthorized migrants and their loved ones — something that also includes thousands of individuals whose whereabouts or remains are never encountered (and who therefore remain disappeared) (ibid.). Just as significantly, the number of human remains recovered in southern Arizona has remained consistently high despite a significant decline during the past decade in the number of apprehensions (a figure frequently used as a proxy for unauthorized migration) in the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector. This condition has led scholars and commentators alike to observe an increase in the ratio of deaths to migration, even as unauthorized border crossing fluctuates (Martínez et al. 2014; Reineke and Martínez 2014; International Organization for Migration 2018). In 2012, the southern Arizona humanitarian organization No More Deaths began systematically tracking the use and vandalism of cached drinking water it supplies at 512 sites across an 800-square-mile area of southern Arizona’s Altar Valley, a high-traffic migration corridor bisected by the US–Mexico border (Ferguson, Price, and Parks 2010; Regan 2010; Boyce 2016; Chambers et al. 2019). On an almost daily basis, volunteers with No More Deaths travel this migration corridor to resupply caches of 5–20 gallons of clean drinking water, physically hauling this water by truck and by foot. Each cache site is tracked using a Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinate to make navigation of the remote desert borderlands and the location of dispersed and frequently hidden cache sites easier for new volunteers. In 2015, the authors began working with No More Deaths to digitize and conduct spatial and statistical analysis on the data entered into these desert aid logs, with the express aim of seeing what this archive can reveal about everyday activity related to boundary enforcement and migration, as well as the efficacy of the organization’s activities throughout time. In total, No More Deaths’ desert aid archive contains 4,847 unique entries from March 2012 to December 2015, logging the date when an individual cache site was visited, the number of new water gallons deposited during this visit, the number of water gallons encountered intact and unused from previous resupply visits, the conditions of any empty water bottles left behind (including telltale signs of human vandalism, as well as occasional animal damage), and any subjectively unusual conditions or noteworthy events that were observed at the site or during the visit. Combined, this archive provides remarkable and uncommon insight into subtle changes in migration routes and patterns within the Altar Valley desert corridor, as well as those quotidian forms of harassment and vandalism of water supplies that we believe are intended to amplify and maximize hardship for unauthorized border crossers. Indeed, scholars have long argued that the US Border Patrol’s enforcement strategy of “Prevention Through Deterrence” (PTD), first launched in 1994, is premised on instrumentalizing the difficult climate and terrain of the US–Mexico border by pushing migration routes away from traditional urban crossing areas and into increasingly rugged and remote desert areas (Andreas 2001; Cornelius 2001; Rubio-Goldsmith et al. 2006; Nevins 2008; Martínez et al. 2014; De León 2015; Slack et al. 2016). The Border Patrol’s own policy documents make this case. Observing that migrants “crossing through remote, uninhabited expanses of land and sea along the border can find themselves in mortal danger,” the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS — at the time, the Border Patrol’s parent agency) argued that by channeling migration routes into “harsh terrain less suitable for crossing and more suitable for enforcement,” the Border Patrol would eventually obtain a “tactical advantage” over would-be border crossers (INS 1994, 7). Then–INS Commissioner Doris Meissner later reflected, “We did believe that geography would be an ally for us. It was our sense that the number of people crossing through the Arizona desert would go down to a trickle once people realized what [it’s] like” (quoted in Cornelius 2005). In this article, we conduct geospatial modeling and statistical analysis of No More Deaths’ desert aid archive. This involves measuring changes in the distribution of water use throughout time across the 62 cache sites consistently visited during all four calendar years included in the dataset, and then reading this measurement against a model of ruggedness that incorporates multiple variables including slope, vegetation, “jaggedness,” and ground temperature while controlling for Euclidian distance. Adjusting for seasonal variation and the overall volume of water use, we find a statistically meaningful increase in the cumulative ruggedness score of migration routes associated with cache sites during the four calendar years included in No More Deaths’ desert aid logs. These findings reveal a steady pressure toward more rugged and difficult crossing routes throughout time, an outcome that provides important context for the vandalism and harassment that target migrants and humanitarian aid workers alike (see No More Deaths and Coalición de Derechos Humanos 2018). In what follows, we first provide greater detail on the context of our study and of the authors’ collaboration with No More Deaths. Next, we discuss our research methodology, including the contours of the geographic information system (GIS) modeling through which we conduct our analysis. We then present our findings, and discuss and contextualize these, before turning to some of the limitations of our study and directions for future research. We conclude by considering some of the policy implications of our findings, as well as their implications for studies of mobility, border policing, and state violence, including in contexts when states are instrumentalizing environmental features and conditions for the purposes of boundary enforcement.
  • Topic: Migration, Water, Border Control, Humanitarian Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, Central America, North America
  • Author: Rebecca Galemba, Katie Dingeman, Kaelyn DeVries, Yvette Servin
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal on Migration and Human Security
  • Institution: Center for Migration Studies of New York
  • Abstract: Anti-immigrant rhetoric and constricting avenues for asylum in the United States, amid continuing high rates of poverty, environmental crisis, and violence in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, have led many migrants from these countries to remain in Mexico. Yet despite opportunities for humanitarian relief in Mexico, since the early 2000s the Mexican government, under growing pressure from the United States, has pursued enforcement-first initiatives to stem northward migration from Central America. In July 2014, Mexico introduced the Southern Border Program (SBP) with support from the United States. The SBP dramatically expanded Mexico’s immigration enforcement efforts, especially in its southern border states, leading to rising deportations. Far from reducing migration or migrant smuggling, these policies have trapped migrants for longer in Mexico, made them increasingly susceptible to crimes by a wide range of state and nonstate actors, and exacerbated risk along the entire migrant trail. In recognition of rising crimes against migrants and heeding calls from civil society to protect migrant rights, Mexico’s 2011 revision to its Migration Law expanded legal avenues for granting humanitarian protection to migrants who are victims of crimes in Mexico, including the provision of a one-year humanitarian visa so that migrants can collaborate with the prosecutor’s office in the investigation of crimes committed against them. The new humanitarian visa laws were a significant achievement and represent a victory by civil society keen on protecting migrants as they travel through Mexico. The wider atmosphere of impunity, however, alongside the Mexican government’s prioritization of detaining and deporting migrants, facilitates abuses, obscures transparent accounting of crimes, and limits access to justice. In practice, the laws are not achieving their intended outcomes. They also fail to recognize how Mexico’s securitized migration policies subject migrants to risk throughout their journeys, including at border checkpoints between Guatemala and Honduras, along critical transit corridors in Guatemala, and on the Guatemalan side of Mexico’s southern border. In this article, we examine a novel set of data from migrant shelters — 16 qualitative interviews with migrants and nine with staff and advocates in the Mexico–Guatemala border region, as well as 118 complaints of abuses committed along migrants’ journeys — informally filed by migrants at a shelter on the Guatemalan side of the border, and an additional eight complaints filed at a shelter on the Mexican side of the border. We document and analyze the nature, location, and perpetrators of these alleged abuses, using a framework of “compassionate repression” (Fassin 2012) to examine the obstacles that migrants encounter in denouncing abuses and seeking protection. We contend that while humanitarian visas can provide necessary protection for abuses committed in Mexico, they are limited by their temporary nature, by being nested within a migration system that prioritizes migrant removal, and because they recognize only crimes that occur in Mexico. The paradox between humanitarian concerns and repressive migration governance in a context of high impunity shapes institutional and practical obstacles to reporting crimes, receiving visas, and accessing justice. In this context, a variety of actors recognize that they can exploit and profit from migrants’ lack of mobility, legal vulnerability, and uncertain access to protection, leading to a commodification of access to humanitarian protection along the route.
  • Topic: Migration, Immigration, Border Control, Violence, Humanitarian Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, Central America, North America, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador
  • Author: Karen Pren, Nadia Flores-Yeffal
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal on Migration and Human Security
  • Institution: Center for Migration Studies of New York
  • Abstract: Although Salvadoran emigration to the United States is one of the most important migratory flows emanating from Latin America, there is insufficient information about the predictors of first unauthorized migration from El Salvador to the United States. In this study, we use data from the Latin American Migration Project–El Salvador (LAMP-ELS4) to perform an event history analysis to discern the factors that influenced the likelihood that a Salvadoran household head would take a first unauthorized trip to the United States between 1965 and 2007. We take into account a series of demographic, social capital, human capital, and physical capital characteristics of the Salvadoran household head; demographic and social context variables in the place of origin; as well as economic and border security factors at the place of destination. Our findings suggest that an increase in the Salvadoran civil violence index and a personal economic crisis increased the likelihood of first-time unauthorized migration. Salvadorans who were less likely to take a first unauthorized trip were business owners, those employed in skilled occupations, and persons with more years of experience in the labor force. Contextual variables in the United States, such as a high unemployment rate and an increase in the Border Patrol budget, deterred the decision to take a first unauthorized trip. Finally, social capital had no effect on the decision to migrate; this means that for unauthorized Salvadoran migrants, having contacts in the United States is not the main driver to start a migration journey to the United States. We suggest as policy recommendations that the United States should award Salvadorans more work-related visas or asylum protection. For those Salvadorans whose Temporary Protected Status (TPS) has ended, the United States should allow them to apply for permanent residency. The decision not to continue to extend TPS to Salvadorans will only increase the number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States. The United States needs to revise its current immigration policies, which make it a very difficult and/or extremely lengthy process for Salvadorans and other immigrants to regularize their current immigration status in the United States. Furthermore, because of our research findings, we recommend that the Salvadoran government — to discourage out-migration — invest in high-skilled job training and also offer training and credit opportunities to its population to encourage business ventures.
  • Topic: Migration, Immigration, Violence, Humanitarian Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, Central America, North America, El Salvador
  • Author: Zoya Gubernskaya, Joanna Dreby
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal on Migration and Human Security
  • Institution: Center for Migration Studies of New York
  • Abstract: As the Trump administration contemplates immigration reform, it is important to better understand what works and what does not in the current system. This paper reviews and critically evaluates the principle of family unity, a hallmark of US immigration policy over the past 50 years and the most important mechanism for immigration to the United States. Since 1965, the United States has been admitting a relatively high proportion of family-based migrants and allowing for the immigration of a broader range of family members. However, restrictive annual quotas have resulted in a long line of prospective immigrants waiting outside of the United States or within the United States, but without status. Further policy changes have led to an increasing number of undocumented migrants and mixed-status families in the United States. Several policies and practices contribute to prolonged periods of family separation by restricting travel and effectively locking in a large number of people either inside or outside of the United States. On top of that, increasingly aggressive enforcement practices undermine family unity of a large number of undocumented and mixed-status families. Deportations — and even a fear of deportation — cause severe psychological distress and often leave US-born children of undocumented parents without economic and social support. A recent comprehensive report concluded that immigration has overall positive impact on the US economy, suggesting that a predominantly family-based migration system carries net economic benefits. Immigrants rely on family networks for employment, housing, transportation, informal financial services, schooling, childcare, and old age care. In the US context where there is nearly no federal support for immigrants’ integration and limited welfare policies, family unity is critical for promoting immigrant integration, social and economic well-being, and intergenerational mobility. Given the benefits of family unity in the US immigrant context and the significant negative consequences of family separation, the United States would do well to make a number of changes to current policy and practice that reaffirm its commitment to family unity. Reducing wait times for family reunification with spouses and children of lawful permanent residents, allowing prospective family-based migrants to visit their relatives in the United States while their applications are being processed, and providing relief from deportation and a path to legalization to parents and spouses of US citizens should be prioritized. The cost to implement these measures would likely be minor compared to current and projected spending on immigration enforcement and it would be more than offset by the improved health and well-being of American families.
  • Topic: Migration, Border Control, Refugees, Family, Humanitarian Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, Central America, North America
  • Author: Daniel Kanstroom
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal on Migration and Human Security
  • Institution: Center for Migration Studies of New York
  • Abstract: This article considers the relationship between two human rights discourses (and two specific legal regimes): refugee and asylum protection and the evolving body of international law that regulates expulsions and deportations. Legal protections for refugees and asylum seekers are, of course, venerable, well-known, and in many respects still cherished, if challenged and perhaps a bit frail. Anti-deportation discourse is much newer, multifaceted, and evolving. It is in many respects a young work in progress. It has arisen in response to a rising tide of deportations, and the worrisome development of massive, harsh deportation machinery in the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Mexico, Australia, and South Africa, among others. This article’s main goal is to consider how these two discourses do and might relate to each other. More specifically, it suggests that the development of procedural and substantive rights against removal — as well as rights during and after removal — aids our understanding of the current state and possible future of the refugee protection regime. The article’s basic thesis is this: The global refugee regime, though challenged both theoretically and in practice, must be maintained and strengthened. Its historical focus on developing criteria for admission into safe states, on protections against expulsion (i.e., non-refoulement), and on regimes of temporary protection all remain critically important. However, a focus on other protections for all noncitizens facing deportation is equally important. Deportation has become a major international system that transcends the power of any single nation-state. Its methods have migrated from one regime to another; its size and scope are substantial and expanding; its costs are enormous; and its effects frequently constitute major human rights violations against millions who do not qualify as refugees. In recent years there has been increasing reliance by states on generally applicable deportation systems, led in large measure by the United States’ radical 25 year-plus experiment with large-scale deportation. Europe has also witnessed a rising tide of deportation, some of which has developed in reaction to European asylum practices. Deportation has been facilitated globally (e.g., in Australia) by well-funded, efficient (but relatively little known) intergovernmental idea sharing, training, and cooperation. This global expansion, standardization, and increasing intergovernmental cooperation on deportation has been met by powerful — if in some respects still nascent — human rights responses by activists, courts, some political actors, and scholars. It might seem counterintuitive to think that emerging ideas about deportation protections could help refugees and asylum seekers, as those people by definition often have greater rights protections both in admission and expulsion. However, the emerging anti-deportation discourses should be systematically studied by those interested in the global refugee regime for three basic reasons. First, what Matthew Gibney has described as “the deportation turn” has historically been deeply connected to anxiety about asylum seekers. Although we lack exact figures of the number of asylum seekers who have been subsequently expelled worldwide, there seems little doubt that it has been a significant phenomenon and will be an increasingly important challenge in the future. The two phenomena of refugee/asylum protections and deportation, in short, are now and have long been linked. What has sometimes been gained through the front door, so to speak, may be lost through the back door. Second, current deportation human rights discourses embody creative framing models that might aid constructive critique and reform of the existing refugee protection regime. They tend to be more functionally oriented, less definitional in terms of who warrants protection, and more fluid and transnational. Third, these discourses offer important specific rights protections that could strengthen the refugee and asylum regime, even as we continue to see weakening state support for the basic 1951/1967 protection regime. This is especially true in regard to the extraterritorial scope of the (deporting) state’s obligations post-deportation. This article particularly examines two initiatives in this emerging field: The International Law Commission’s Draft Articles on the Expulsion of Aliens and the draft Declaration on the Rights of Expelled and Deported Persons developed through the Boston College Post-Deportation Human Rights Project (of which the author is a co-director). It compares their provisions to the existing corpus of substantive and procedural protections for refugees relating to expulsion and removal. It concludes with consideration of how these discourses may strengthen protections for refugees while also helping to develop more capacious and protective systems in the future.
  • Topic: Human Rights, International Cooperation, Border Control, Refugees, Humanitarian Crisis
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, Europe, France, South Africa, Germany, Australia, Mexico, Global Focus