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Captive States: Migration and Expulsion on the Carceral Frontier


"Captive States: Migration and Expulsion on the Carceral Frontier" examines how the amalgamation of U.S. immigration policies, the global drug war, and violent bureaucracies have transformed the U.S.-Mexico borderland region into a zone of captivity for Central American migrants and Mexican deportees. Based on eighteen months of ethnographic fieldwork, this project examines the everyday lives and survival strategies of these communities in Tijuana, Mexico. Moving between migrant and homeless encampments, governmental and private shelters, drug rehabilitation centers, and activist clinics, my dissertation analyzes the lives of those subjected to intersecting forms of confinement and dispossession at the U.S.-Mexico border. For several years, Tijuana has consistently received the highest portion of deported Mexicans from the United States in the country. Simultaneously, the U.S. government has implemented several policies aimed at stalling the influx of asylum seekers into the country. From the “metering” system initiated under the Obama administration to the Migrant Protection Protocols and Title 42 policies implemented by the Trump administration, these measures have erected an arcane bureaucratic wall against asylum seekers. Though deportees and asylum seekers arrive to the border region through different routes, my project demonstrates how a transnational assemblage that I refer to as the carceral frontier seeks to confine the movements of both communities while exploiting their vulnerabilities.

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