Enforcement Landscapes: How Expanded US Border and Immigration Enforcement Restructures Lives, Labor, and Land in Migrant-Sending Communities in Rural Guatemala
AuthorJohnson, Richard Lee
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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, presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractWhat are the consequences of expanded US border and immigration enforcement in the Americas? How do migrant policing, apprehension, and removal alter livelihoods, landscapes, and wellbeing in migrant-sending communities? Despite decades of mass apprehension and removal of undocumented communities from the US and increasingly from spaces of migrant transit, we know very little about how the practices and consequences of expanded enforcement reverberate across migrant-sending communities. This dissertation, based on intensive and comparative qualitative research with deportees, local leaders, and other relevant actors in rural Guatemala, aims to fill key empirical and conceptual gaps on these questions through a focus on the processes and implications of widespread migrant indebtedness and dispossession stemming from apprehension, deportation, and other enforcement-related actions. This dissertation makes several novel contributions to our understanding of contemporary enforcement outcomes. First, it reveals how expanded enforcement fosters extreme indebtedness among migrants that, following apprehension and removal, often generate profound financial hardships and imperil homes and land used to guarantee smuggling loans. The crisis of debt and dispossession from removal supersede enforcement’s power to deter, in turn perpetuating cycles of debt-driven migration from Guatemala to the US and legitimating the continued expansion of enforcement. Second, it illustrates the processes and wider consequences of the dispossession of mortgaged homes and land among migrants/deportees and their families. With the goal of adding additional nuance to debates on migration and agrarian change, which have tended emphasize changes flowing from remittance influx and local labor loss, it demonstrates how migration under expanded enforcement drives the extraction of wealth from migrant-sending households and subjects deportees to new forms of labor exploitation and vulnerability. It reveals how enforcement practices beyond removal, including everyday conditions of “deportability” among unauthorized migrants in the US, can also drive land dispossessions in migrant-sending communities. Third, aiming to contribute to a new “post-removal geographies,” this research draws on critical agrarian studies to highlight how migrant debt burdens and processes of migrant/deportee dispossession and differentiation are inherently uneven, and informed by entangled moral and material economies around migration financial practices and agrarian dynamics. It argues for greater engagement with site-specific histories, relations, and meanings around migration and agrarian change when assessing removal outcomes. As a whole, research demonstrates how expanded enforcement heightens the need for migration in the Americas through generating profound crises in everyday and generational social reproduction, while simultaneously impeding and punishing the mobility of displaced communities. Collectively this dissertation aims to contribute to policy debates on the inefficacies of contemporary enforcement approaches while also advancing literatures on border and immigration studies, emerging post-removal geographies, and agrarian studies.
Degree ProgramGraduate College