Contesting Notions of Illegality: Humanitarian Border Activism in Southern Arizona
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractIn the mid nineteen nineties, the U.S.-Mexico border region, a space both constituted and contested by a myriad of different communities, political ideologies, national identities and cultural landscapes, came to be the site of some of the starkest representative examples of modern neoliberal logic and the contradictions it demonstrates vis-a-vis 1) seemingly unlimited capital liberty and 2) tightly constrained human mobility. As fiscal reforms broke down trade barriers, the physical border was being reinforced like never before, filtering economic refugees of policies like NAFTA to cross in more isolated and inhospitable regions and leading to an unprecedented precipitous increase in undocumented migrant deaths. The crisis led to the formation of several NGO's and humanitarian groups whose aim was to mitigate the loss of life. Faced with legal consequences for the work they carried out, these groups have attempted to reframe the debate as an international human rights issue. Through an analysis of the disputed discourses of legality and illegality vis-à-vis migrant border crossings and border securitization, this paper highlights the ways in which dominant notions of legality are being contested by border humanitarian activist groups These reworked notions of legality/illegality shape political debates, the framing of humanitarian arguments, and ultimately the opening of new spaces wherein existing laws can be challenged. A critical geopolitical framework that stresses the ways in which ideas and practices of belonging are embodied and socially embedded is key to this analysis.
Degree ProgramHonors College