US border regimes are using innovative information technologies (IT) to patrol borders and enforce immigration policy. Focusing on how the US Border Patrol (USBP) and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) utilize IT—especially database infrastructures—the proposed research will examine how these practices are transforming border spaces and reworking migrant governance.
This study comes at a critical conjuncture in global politics. In the wake of decades of asymmetrical trade policy, social, economic, and political turbulence has rippled across geopolitical centers and margins, resulting in new waves of migration to the US. In response, the USBP and ICE have established extensive border security measures that are deepening racialized migrant criminalization. One result: an infrastructure of mass detention and deportation. But, as my project will demonstrate, this infrastructure not only facilitates migrant exclusion but also manages differential inclusion. Through ethnographic and archival methods and policy analysis, I analyze how the US’ adoption of IT recreates the border itself, extending a complex border management infrastructure within and beyond the US’ existing border zone. This extensive information infrastructure—or “smart” border—moves beyond walls, transforming legal and geographic jurisdictions, migrant labor management, and pathways to citizenship. USBP and ICS’s “smart” border is increasingly becoming a crucial infrastructure of noncitizen governance that is encroaching into migrants’ everyday lives and social networks.