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A crisis of rights and responsibility: feminist geopolitical perspectives on Latin American refugees and migrants

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With the advent of the Trump presidency we are facing the most anti-refugee and immigrant administration in recent U.S. history. This follows on the heels of the Obama era, characterized by record deportations and severe U.S. policies of deterrence towards Latin American refugees and migrants in its own backyard. This aggressive expansion of U.S. Homeland Security migration control included: outsourcing enforcement to Mexico; re-introducing migrant family detention; increasing ‘family unit’ raids; and accelerating immigration court hearings. These strategies of state deterrence and enforcement heightened vulnerability of asylum-seeking women and children from Mexico and Central America to human and legal rights abuses. I employ a feminist geopolitical approach to interrogate the intimate and embodied spaces of migration controls that ground the workings of the state in the normalized, routine, and informal practices of state officials and in the experiences of vulnerable yet resilient women and children refugees. Drawing upon examples from two research projects, informed by personal experience as a volunteer, I critically examine the everyday state practices of U.S./Mexico migration enforcement in three arenas -┬áborder security spaces, legal spaces, and carceral spaces. I contend that rather than an ‘immigrant or refugee crisis,’ these restrictive and intimate performances routinely deployed by border and legal bureaucrats reproduce and reinforce the structural and systemic crisis of rights and responsibility we are currently witnessing. Through a feminist ethic of care, social justice, and action, migrant and refugee narratives of everyday restriction may be deployed in resisting rights abuses and fostering responsibility, humanity, and hospitality towards newcomers.
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Keywords: Central America; Mexico; courtroom; feminist geopolitics; migration; unaccompanied children

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography and the Environment, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA

Publication date: January 2, 2018

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