Post by Lauren Martin, Lecturer, Department of Geography, Durham University.In 2013, I started a project exploring the privatization of border control in the US and EU. My goal was to begin to sketch out a political economy of bordering, to understand not how different national economies managed migrant labour, but how bordering itself has become a business. Very quickly, I realized that privatization doesn’t begin to describe the public-private-NGO assemblage emerging to govern human mobility. In the US, county and municipal governments see detention as a revenue generator, private corrections firms speculate on punitive immigration policies, and a wide range of non-governmental, non-profit, humanitarian organizations provide migrants services with and without contracts. In the EU, migration control is managed by member states and each has a different role for private and non-profit organizations. Financial incentives aren’t unique in the private sector and so to understand how economic rationalities are put to work in immigration policy-making and daily practice, we need to appreciate the diversity of economic arrangements holding border and migration controls afloat.
In a forthcoming book chapter, I draw together critical approaches to the economy and recent work on the ‘illegality industry’ and the ‘migration industry’ to offer a starting point. I argue that privatization is a technology of government, one that mobilises boundaries between public and private to inscribe migration control in marketized regimes of value. This bordering process gives states and other actors opportunities to manage human mobility in new ways, and our critical gaze should track these governmental arrangements closely.
As I started this project, two ‘refugee crises’ unfolded near my two research sites: the US-Mexico border and the Italian Mediterranean. While I had been focused on new assemblages of public-private-and non-profit organizations, it quickly became clear that these crises were incredibly politicized and productive. Quickly, the US expanded family detention to a highly criticized US Customs and Border Patrol facility in Artesia, New Mexico, which is now closed, a 1,000-bed facility in Karnes City, Texas, and a 2,400 bed purpose-built facility in Dilley, Texas. For its part, Italy implemented a ‘parallel’ reception and distribution system to deal with large arrivals in Sicily and Lampedusa. In both cases, officials recognized migrants’ humanitarian needs, but also moved to contain, control, and deter those who followed. Italy and Greece are currently pioneering the EU’s hotspot system, and my future work will continue to trace the relationship between humanitarian depoliticization and the politics of value in emerging migration control practices.
How to cite this blog post (Harvard style):
Martin, L. (2016) The Value of Borders. Available at: https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/centre-criminology/centreborder-criminologies/blog/2016/06/value-borders (Accessed [date]).