Borders Around Immigration

From UBC Wiki

Borders are used as a separation or partition of two sides. This includes the division of geographical areas or countries such as the border between the United States and Mexico[1]. Borders can be seen in many different forms, some being physical such as walls, topographic impediments, and militarized protection, and others being unseen such as systemic and social borders, discrimination against minority groups, or exploitation of land and labour from one side placed on the other. The implication of borders presently has been increasing due to the growing crisis of immigration and asylum seeking[2] specifically from areas of the Global South to the Global North[3]. These borders affect everyone as the restriction of migration expands creating violence against certain marginalized groups and raises significant safety issues often resulting in injury, trauma, and death.

Arrested refugee immigrants in Fylakio detention centre Thrace Evros Greece


Immigration is the movement of people internationally from one country with an aim to possess citizenship[4] in another country to attain permanent residents. Often times, these people are migrating from areas of the global South and searching for employment and safer living conditions in the global North. The global South consists of developing countries in the Southern hemisphere where much of the world’s resources are extracted from to fuel the established countries in the Northern hemisphere[5]. This extraction is sustained through the increase of globalization[6] which is the continuous need for economic growth and innovation often implemented by multinational corporations internationally.

Alongside the exploitation of resources and labour in the global South, there also lies violence and war which is the main reason people must flee from their home countries to seek refuge in the global North. The refugee crisis[7] arose as these instances of violence prevailed leaving people displaced from their homes and doing anything they can to survive. Originally, the migrant crisis started in areas of Europe, but soon became a greater issue involving the Middle East, The United States, Canada, and the rest of the world. This created a greater divide between the global North and the global South where borders would have to be implemented by the North in order to regulate the mass immigration of asylum seekers.

Physical Borders

Topographic Impediments

Topographic impediments are natural entities such as mountains and oceans which are a form of borders through being an obstacle to surpass for many asylum seekers. These hindrances contain many hazards leading to injury or death if not properly maneuvered through. In relation to the migrant crisis, oceans are the greatest impediment[8] for most as the sheer scale of it being so large and its constantly changing conditions make it a high-risk site for drowning. Alongside this, it is often challenging for migrants to find safe means of transportation or access to food and water on these vessels.

Walls and Fences

There are also man-made physical borders such as the impenetrable walls and fences put in place by developed countries used to protect their nation from unwanted migrants. Sometimes, these walls and fences are accompanied by high military surveillance to ensure more security and to deter migrants from trying to surmount the border. In many instances, the militarization of borders[9] involves violence as migrants are doing anything they can to get through and the military do everything they can to prevent this breach causing a major conflict.

File:US Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrest.jpg
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrest

Detention Centres

This leads to the formation of detention centres[10] which are institutions or prisons where many immigrants and refugees attempting to enter the country are held as well as migrants who have already entered the country but may not have the proper documentation to do so. The most known about detention centres are the ones run by the U.S. Immigrant and Customs Enforcement (ICE)[11] in the United States where hundreds of thousands of immigrants are held, however, there are many other detention centres in the global North that are not so widely talked about. The physical, mental, emotional, and sexual abuse[12] is rampant in these penitentiaries as well as the inhumane living conditions asylum seekers must endure. Many people die in these detention centres as they aren’t able to access proper medical attention or resources necessary to meet their survival needs.

Invisible Borders

Laws and Policies

Invisible borders are the unseen obstacles imposed on migrants attempting to enter countries in the global North. These invisible borders are imposed through laws and policies which create strict qualifications for asylum seekers wanting to enter a particular country. For the most part, these laws and policies are implemented to scan for potentially illegal activity or curse out undesirable citizens. Many innocent people are viewed under the suspicions of illegal activity many with little evidence placed against them, however, they will still be placed in detention and detained under these suspicions. The absence of proper documentation or overstaying on visas is a main issue for immigrants making it near impossible to be accepted through the border. These people are viewed as ‘illegal’[13] though they’ve committed no real crime.

Social Discrimination

There are also social borders which consist of stereotypes[14], racialiazation and essentially discrimination against immigrants or people who ‘look like immigrants.’ This is a huge issue leading to violence against mostly black and brown bodies as society paints them in a negative light which is also exemplified in the media. People of colour do not hold all of the privileges that white folk do, and with the growing stereotypes that immigrants are ‘violent invaders of the country,’ there is panic amongst white communities of the North. The use of surveillance[15] is one way white folk implement safety checks on their neighbours and acquaintances. They are always watching and reporting if they see potentially suspicious activity. As well, immigrants and even people who aren’t immigrants but fit the racialized view must self-surveil themselves constantly to ensure they are not appearing as suspicious as it could get them into trouble.


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