In the Journals

In the Journals – Policing Migration

A Macedonian police officer raises his baton toward migrants by Freedom House via creativecommons

Welcome back to In the Journals! This ongoing series aims to bridge conversations that are often siloed by discipline, geographical region, language, and race. One of our goals is to make sure that the diverse voices currently reporting their research on policing, crime, law, security, and punishment are presented here. We are continuing our catch-up to develop article collections around different questions and themes. This post brings together articles from throughout 2019 and 2020 to identify the intersections of policing and migration. This includes the impacts of policing on migrants during and following the crossing of borders, the methods of deportation and securitization mobilized by police and border security, the production of citizenship by policing authorities and migrants, and the devolution of policing power to non-police actors.

Ioana Vrăbiescu’s article, “Deportation, smart borders and mobile citizens: using digital methods and traditional police activities to deport EU citizens,” was published in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies in August 2020. The article analyzes eight months of fieldwork conducted between 2016 and 2017 with police units in France and Romania, in order to understand digital methods of deporting European Union citizens in France across the Schengen border in Romania. Adding to literature on crimmigration and digital technology used in policing borders, Vrăbiescu identifies a gap between the supposed controlled management of migration as a result of digital technologies introduced by the state in the deportation apparatus, and the reality of the Schengen border’s “messiness”. This “messiness” at the border results from the poor implementation of and training with digital technologies, unharmonious border patrol practices across the EU, the influence of nation-state narratives and norms of criminality and who poses a threat to the state, and the selective use of technology by border patrol officers. Vrăbiescu argues that technologies contribute to the draconian ‘Departheid’* policies and practices which work to systematically and totally remove illegal migrants, contribute to structural violence against Romanian citizens, and causes a surplus deportation of Romanian citizens from France. She notes that despite EU and state promotion of the use of digital surveillance technologies in migration control, border policing remains dependent on more traditional patrol methods and the discretion of officers interpreting and enforcing norms and regulations.

*The term ‘Departheid’ was proposed by Barak Kalir in his June 2019 article in Conflict and Society: Advances in Research, “Departheid: The Draconian Governance of Illegalized Migrants in Western States.”

International Migration published Mia Hershkowitz, Graham Hudson, and Harald Bauder’s article, “Rescaling the Sanctuary City: Police and Non-Status Migrants in Ontario, Canada” in April 2020. The article analyzes promises of protection made by Canadian cities for migrants in contrast with requirements of local police to cooperate with Canadian Border Services Agency representatives. Through interviews with Ontario police officers, the authors identify that despite sanctuary-city policies adopted in several Ontario cities, which prohibit the identification of non-status residents to Federal authorities by city employees, local police do not implement the sanctuary-city policies, and believe they have authority to report information regarding citizenship status to Federal authorities. With officers identifying provincial law and policy as being at odds with municipal sanctuary-city policy, they preference provincial legislation, influenced by inconsistent customs across police forces, and national securitization rhetoric which identifies non-status migrants as a threat to the state. Despite police officers’ recognition of the important values upheld by the sanctuary-city policy, their sense of securitization and perceived partnership with the Canadian Border Services Agency overrules the values of the policy. The authors call for clarity in provincial legislation, – which they claim already supports sanctuary policy – arguing that it would impose interpretive constraints on local police officers, and require them to uphold the sanctuary-city policy.

August 2020’s issue of Social Science & Medicine included an article entitled “Challenges to medical ethics in the context of definition and deportation: Insights from a French postcolonial department in the Indian Ocean” by Nina Sahraoui. Sahraoui utilizes interviews conducted with healthcare professionals in Mayotte and local and international health institutions to identify midwives’ power to police in migration control through their assessment of pregnant women intercepted at sea by police. She argues that midwives are socialized into logics of border enforcement, and granted the power to police patients’ mobility or immobility, determining if migrant pregnant women’s health can handle detainment and deportation. The increasing role of medical professionals – and in the case of Mayotte, midwives – in the policing of migrants (biopower) challenges medical ethics, as midwives are forced to make decisions on a patient’s medical status which will impact their migration status and could put their health at risk. This biopolitical management role that midwives are charged with infringes on their medical independence and relations of care, as their decisions on migrants’ mobility are informed by police authority pressure, state positions and policies on migration issues, social norms and stigmas surrounding migrants, and medical ethical norms of appropriate caretaking.

The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology’s November 2019 issue included the article, “‘We Came for the Cartilla but We Stayed for the Tortilla’: Enlisting in the Military as a Form of Migration for Zapotec Men” by Iván Sandoval-Cervantes. The article, based on over one hundred formal and informal interviews conducted in Zegache in Oaxaca with Indigenous Zapotec community members (Zegacheños), explores factors leading to Indigenous men’s enlistment in the Mexican military. Many of these factors are economic, with men seeking a better life, health care, and economic means for themselves and their families, as the military provides skills and experiences which can expand employment opportunities both within Mexico and internationally. Sandoval-Cervantes identifies these factors as similar to those which lead to transnational migration of Indigenous youth, with enlisting also requiring Zapotec migration within Mexico during service. Zapotec Indigenous men become policing agents themselves as soldiers in the Mexican military, with policing being the catalyst for internal migration during service, as well as a requirement for transnational migration following service. Sandoval-Cervantes argues that enlisting in the military is itself a form of internal migration (and transborder experience), and becomes obligatory for migration as it provides men with the cartilla – proof of identity which is required to obtain a Mexican passport.

Anja Franck published an article in Asia Pacific Viewpoint’s April 2019 issue, entitled “The ‘street politics’ of migrant il/legality: Navigating Malaysia’s urban borderscape.” The article uses fieldwork with formal and informal Burmese labour migrants, police officers, and NGOs in George Town, Malaysia, to argue that migrants use whatever means available to them to navigate the urban borderscape, avoid police exploitation, and challenge the state’s production of migrant subjects and the urban city. Franck identifies migrants as agents in the bordering process, transforming urban space and its borders, as well as social relations, through their everyday encounters with police. She focuses on Malaysia’s policing of migrants internally instead of through their more easily-crossed transnational border, and identifies borders as performed and brought into existence through bordering practices. Burmese migrants’ access to Malaysia’s urban space is restricted through state internal immigration control and border-making practices, but is also transformed and redefined through everyday actions of border-making by migrants themselves, indicating the limits of state power to control and discipline migrants. These bordering practices are performed in the streets by both the state and migrants – the state’s practices being policing, spatial divisions, and the production of migrants as unwanted and illegal, and migrant practices being their continued presence in urban spaces and avoiding encounters with enforcement apparatuses, infringing on the state’s production of their identity and exclusion of them from urban space.

Looking at the intra-state policing of migrants, Tomonori Sugimoto’s August 2019 article in City & Society, “Urban Settler Colonialism: Policing and Displacing Indigeneity in Taipei, Taiwan,” focuses on the policing of the Indigenous Pangach/Amis people following their migration to Taipei. Sugimoto argues that Pangach/Amis urban migrants face ongoing dispossession of identity and land through state techniques of urban settler colonialism. After being displaced from Taipei following WWII, Pangach/Amis people migrated back to Taipei in the 1960s and 1970s, building urban squatter settlements as an attempt to reclaim their land. Following this migration, the Taiwanese government sought to re-displace the Pangach/Amis from urban Taipei in the 1990s and 2000s, utilizing police to force Indigenous relocation from squatter communities to a housing complex, which was under the surveillance of security guards and an on-site Han manager. Not only did the state force Indigenous relocation of settlements to a location heavily surveilled and policed, they sold Indigenous-occupied land to developers, enabling the policing of Indigenous street businesses and settlements, largely through fines, to ensure displacement. State dispossession was also naturalized by urban non-Indigenous residents, who further policed Pangach/Amis land and identity by claiming Han majority in Taipei, and depicting Indigenous settlements, street businesses and behaviour as uncivilized. Sugimoto identifies policing of Pangach/Amis migrants in Taipei as enacted by the state itself, by security guards, by Han community members, and by corporate developers in order to re-dispossess Indigenous land and identity.

As always, we welcome your feedback. If you have any suggestions for journals we should be keeping tabs on for this feature, or if you want to call our attention to a specific issue or article, send an email to anthropoliteia@gmail.com with the words “In the Journals” in the subject line.
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