MPC Seminar on ‘Borders and Governance’

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from: 11:00
to: 12:30

As part of its seminar series, the Migration Policy Centre will host the following presentations:

‘In the Shadows: Reconfiguring Racial Disparities in the Central Justice System through Policing Immigration’ presented by Yolanda Vázquez, University of Cincinnati College of Law


For more than three decades, scholars, researchers, and politicians have examined the stark racial disparities that exist within the United States’ criminal justice system. A significant part of the discussion has focused on ways in which state and local criminal law enforcement may have contributed to these disparities. Racial profiling, implicit and explicit bias, Fourth Amendment case law, and police discretion have all been cited as contributing factors. While advocates and lawmakers have pushed for criminal justice reform measures aimed to curtail these factors to minimize the existing racial disparities, little attention has been given to the ways in which policing migrants and Fourth Amendment case law contribute and reconfigure these disparities. This paper argues that until recognition is paid to the way in which the policing of migrants exacerbatesand reconfigures racial disparities, the catastrophic impact the criminal justice system has on minorities of color will only become more pervasive.

‘Why Physical Barriers Backfire: How Immigration Enforcement Deters Return and Increases Asylum Applications’, presented by Justin Schon, University of Florida


What, if any, effect do physical barriers have on cross-border population movements? The explosion of worldwide barrier construction since the end of the Cold War has been motivated, politically, by the belief that barriers reduce immigration and enhance national security. The foundational claim that barriers reduce migration flows, however, lacks empirical support. We conceptualize barriers as a tool of immigration enforcement, which we contend is one form of state repression. State repression could reduce mobilization (reduce immigration), have no effect on mobilization (barriers as symbolic political tools), or increase mobilization (backfire). We empirically evaluate the relationship between physical barriers and cross-border population movements using a new global directed-dyad-year dataset for the 1990-2016 time period of all contiguous dyads and nearby non-contiguous dyads. Using an instrumental variables strategy to account for endogeneity, we find that physical barriers actually increase refugee flows, consistent with the “backfire effect” identified in recent research on United States immigration enforcement policies on its Mexican border. With additional examination of this case, we find that state repression (immigration enforcement) creates this “backfire effect” via a “sunk costs” problem that deters activists (immigrants) from de-mobilizing (return). Instead of de-mobilizing, we add that just as activists respond to repression with any available methods, immigrants may respond to immigration enforcement with the legal tactic of defensive asylum applications.

Chair and Discussant
Martin Ruhs, Deputy Director and Chair in Migration Studies, MPC, EUI
This session will be available via live steaming on our MPC Facebook page.