The whole enchilada: assessing NAFTA as the origin of migrant securitization on the US-Mexico border
De Jesus, Samantha
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This paper seeks to answer the question of how US-Mexico border policy came to be defined by strategies which prioritize migration as a threat to national security and migrants as criminal conduits. In contrast to recent assignments of this origin in the presidency of Donald Trump, or older insistence that it came about in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, I instead argue that this policy direction came about much earlier. Using Fiona Adamson and Gerasimos Tsourapas’ theory of migration diplomacy and their criticism of James Hollifield’s migration state as a framework, I assess the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement as a more accurate point of origin. First, NAFTA is evaluated as the central cause of emigration surge across the border-zone, which then incurred an American security response through migration policy. Then, NAFTA is evaluated as the representation of a failed development strategy in Mexico, which then pivoted to focus on performing development by intensifying Mexican security apparatuses toward migrants. While the first two sections are broadly focused on the US-Mexico relationship, the final section focuses on how this relationship has come to affect the one between Mexico and Central America as Central Americans have grown to make up a majority of migrants at the border-zone. I conclude by attesting to the need for a reassessment of the border “crisis” and call for further research into the effect of Mexican party politics on the subject and time period in question.
Honors thesis. B.A. in International Relations, Spring 2021, Boston University.