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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Tale of Two Borders: the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada Lines After 9-11


In this paper I trace the changing practice and politics of North American border controls and analyze the implications of these changes for cross-border relations and continental integration. More than ever, I suggest, North American relations are driven by the politics of border control. I first examine U.S. border control initiatives before 9-11, and argue that these were politically successful policy failures: they succeeded in terms of their symbolic and image effects even while largely failing in terms of their deterrent effects. I then highlight the border-related economic, bureaucratic, and political repercussions of 9/11. I show why the task of border control has become significantly more difficult, cumbersome, and disruptive in the post-9-11 era, with significant ramifications for the North American integration project. I conclude by outlining three possible future border trajectories.

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