Graduation Year

2019

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

History

Reader 1

Cindy Forster

Reader 2

Julia Liss

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© 2018 Catalina Jane Biesman-Simons

Abstract

This thesis discusses the relationship between space (physical and figurative) and sovereign power, with respect to the history of the United States' immigration and boundary policy. It examines spatial organization as a social product, and simultaneously a producer of mainstream associations of illegal activity at the border with Mexico. It begins with a brief introduction to a spatially informed analytical framework, a history of relevant United States' immigration policy. The paper then uses newspaper coverage from the 1970s and 1980s to examine the local and national rise of xenophobia in the United States, and the normalization of boundary control and associated illegality. The socio-spatial evaluation of federal policy and public sentiment culminates with a discussion of the border policies developed by the United States Border Patrol in the early 1990s. The strategy introduced focused on preventing immigration by deterring migrants from the attempt. This plan was necessarily spatial in nature as it sought to displace migrants from ideal crossing spaces to sites vulnerable to capture by the Border Patrol.

Ultimately, the history of the United States boundary with Mexico demonstrates the power of controlling a territory, and controlling a social narrative.

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