Hemispheric frontier logics of migration management: projects of statehood and the regulation of movement of Haitian migrants in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico.

Martha Balaguera Cuervo, University of Toronto
Luisa Farah Schwartzman, University of Toronto
Luiz Van Isshot, University of Toronto

Using the metaphor of the frontier as a point of departure, this paper analyzes how racial and colonial projects of statehood in the Americas interact with the movement of Haitian citizens throughout the Americas, with broader implications for both migrant and non-migrant populations in different regions. We center our analysis on Latin America, drawing on academic literature and documentary analysis of Haitian migration into Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. Rather than reading migration as simply a movement between the borders of nation-states as, assumed to be already "limited and sovereign" (Anderson 1983) and monopolizing the use of violence (Weber 1958), the frontier perspective imagines states as both extending beyond borders (though logics of empire and international mechanisms of control) and struggling for control of territories and peoples within borders with competing (and sometimes cooperating) non-state actors. In particular, we identify three interconnected kinds of frontier logics as determining the experience of Haitians both in their home country and as they circulate within the Americas: (1) the transnationalized frontier of empire, where the United States is the most visible, but whose work is increasingly shared by Latin American countries; (2) the urban frontier and the politics of security, where the state seeks to assert its control of poor and racialized urban populations; and (3) the domestic frontier, where national governments attempt to establish and maintain control over territories and populations within its borders. Within these logics, we argue that, while UN refugee conventions in theory protect people for persecution for “reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular group or political opinion,” they are ill-suited to address people fleeing conditions generated by anti-Black racism, labor exploitation and political violence that are predominant in the Americas in the 21st century.

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 Presented in Session 162. Logics of Rescue and the Illogics of Refugee Policies