Estamos encerrados: Confinement in the Borderlands
(University of South Florida)
Milena Melo (Mississippi State University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores the analytical construct of confinement by examining containment practices for immigrant families in the US/Mexico borderlands, focusing on the 100-mile interior "buffer zone" in which certain rights are suspended, and specific enforcement practices that result.
Paper long abstract:
This paper explores the analytical construct of confinement by examining containment practices for immigrant families in the US/Mexico borderlands. The geographies of policing mobility here are distinct by virtue of the constraints of the international border, the 100-mile interior "buffer zone" in which certain rights are suspended, and specific enforcement practices. Many people are relegated to life within this small strip, and describe feeling "trapped in a cage" or "encerrados (locked up)" within an uncertain territorial space, often for decades. They experience not simply stuckness or immobility, but a ricocheting in place produced through larger bordering processes. They become "stuck in motion," experiencing simultaneous mobility and immobility, complicating traditional underpinnings of confinement as analytic construct. Based on five years of ethnographic research, this paper examines spatial restrictions produced by checkpoints in the interior (within 100 miles of the border) in interaction with other layers of surveillance in the form of roadblocks, traffic stops, and raids. While the permanent checkpoints trap people within a distinct space, temporary roadblocks and other restrictions on mobility fuel fear and uncertainty within that space. It also considers avoidance associated with the fear of driving that exposes people to apprehension, and the racialization of illegality and its effects on inspection practices. Differential possibilities occur within families and communities, producing new hierarchies based on confinement/containment. For mixed-status immigrant families, one effect is the spillover effects on those not targeted by confinement practices, since these inspection practices treat all residents, including citizens, as potentially suspect.
Confinement as a category of practice and a category of analysis [Anthropology of Confinement Network]