This essay opens with one of hundreds of massacres carried out in the early 1980s in Guatemala by agents of the military state. The killing was meant to depopulate the Rio Negro valley to make way for a hydroelectric dam. Like much of the violence of the 36-year conflict, it was low-tech and carried out by civil patrollers, which is perhaps why the Guatemalan civil war was considered a “low intensity conflict” by US Army definitions: “below conventional war… employing political, economic, informational, and military instruments.” I suggest that these instruments encompass what many anthropologists call culture. While beginning with a moment of spectacular violence, the essay then traces the mundane, everyday political and economic embeddings of militarism into Guatemalan social institutions, life, conditions of possibility, meaning systems, and abilities to affect and be affected. A history of the present, it traces the paramilitarization of the army/government in the 1960s and 1970s via the development of death squads and other clandestine bodies and illicit networks that shape state functioning today. Yet it also explores the intensities of countercultures of militarism, the networks that have forced perpetrator accountability, reparations, and state recognition of Mayan peoples and their rights to defend their territories from accumulation by dispossession.
This article explores the modes of resistance inside and outside of immigration detention that arose in response to new, more punitive detention policies enacted by the Reagan administration that specifically targeted Caribbean and Central American asylum-seekers in the early 1980s, and the modes of retaliation adopted by the administration in response. Reagan's “Cold War on immigrants”—defined as a suite of new immigration enforcement measures that was adopted by the Reagan administration during its first term and buttressed the subsequent growth of the detention system—sparked mass resistance. Mounting public dissent against Reagan's foreign and immigration policies, as evidenced by “inside-outside” and transnational activism, Jesse Jackson's 1984 presidential campaign, and the Central America peace and Sanctuary movements, prompted the administration to wage a total war against its opponents to maintain its immigration control and foreign policy aims. The contemporary US immigration detention system emerged, and continues, out of this dialectic of resistance and retaliation.
Extant literature on the U.S. Sanctuary movement of the 1980s mainly facilitates an understanding of the movement as part of liberal religious resistance to the Reagan-Bush Administrations' policy in Central America. However, I argue that Sanctuary should also be understood as pivotal to church involvement in a longer lineage of social activism that can be called immigrant advocacy. Church-based immigrant advocates (CBIAs) were in short supply until the end of World War II, when Christian clergy and laity used biblical calls for hospitality to argue for the admission of thousands of displaced persons from Europe. Over the next quarter-century, many CBIAs provided services to political refugees admitted under State Department criteria. But as CBIAs grew frustrated with double standards in refugee admissions, they began to develop discourses legitimating hospitality work outside of a nation-state framework. In tracing the history of church-based immigrant advocacy, Sanctuary indexes the juncture at which many Christian organizations widened their operations beyond the standard of sovereignty to accommodate undocumented refugees as well as immigrants motivated by economic need.
This paper explores how gendered violence in El Salvador continues to be minimized within public and private discourse. Through an examination of social understandings and reactions to violence, based on qualitative research, the paper argues that gendered violence remains an issue sidelined from mainstream social and political debates. In a society where the threshold for tolerating violence is very high, gendered violence stands out as an issue which, to a great degree, has become normalized as a central element of gender relations. This is borne out by the scant attention paid to issues of gender in both policy proposals and debates on violence.
Between 2018 and 2020, dramatic changes in US-Mexico policy transformed experiences of asylum on the border. Quotas on applications at ports of entry (known as "metering"), the “Remain in Mexico” policy, and the deployment of the pandemic era “lockdown” through Title 42, each severely limited asylum opportunities. In response, a host of informal waiting lists emerged, developed and were utilized by a binational network of non-governmental and government agencies, shelters, cartels, and individuals. In this article we use a feminist geographic lens to examine the intimate geopolitics of esperar created by these lists. We examine their formation, everyday management, the slow violence and immediate threats they posed, and their work as an informal technology of state control. Our analysis demonstrates how the lists operated as informal tactics of diversion and delay, producing a false sense of certainty while using indefinite waiting times as soft and surreptitious mechanisms to block displaced people’s legal claims for asylum. This imposed distinctly gendered burdens on women and youth. However, we also identify how the lists, where appropriated by migrants themselves, became tools to resist the hierarchies of the US nation-state and its territorial impositions.
This article explores how competing and overlapping legal classifications such as 'victim of trafficking', 'smuggled migrant', 'illegal alien', and 'refugee' play out in the United States (US) immigration system. In particular, it focuses on the repeated failure of US authorities to identify and protect survivors of human trafficking who were victimised by the smugglers they voluntarily employed in fleeing their home countries-a scenario that is becoming increasingly common in the midst of the Central American refugee crisis. The article draws upon the authors' experience providing direct legal representation to Central American migrants in the US to discuss how misassumptions about this population, a misunderstanding of the relevant legal terminology, and the US government's focus on border security negatively impact the conduct of law enforcement agencies and immigration adjudicators. Due in large part to the US government's increased restrictions on, and criminalisation of, many forms of migration, survivors of human trafficking who are victimised by smugglers often find themselves classified as 'illegal aliens' or 'criminal aliens', and their legitimate claims for protection are frequently dismissed for the irrelevant fact that they initially consented to be smuggled. Such mistreatment and misidentification fail to hold perpetrators accountable and to offer assistance to populations that the US government has pledged to defend.
"More than two million people are estimated to have left El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras since 2014, many fleeing poverty, violence, and other hardships. The region’s governments have tried various development-centric, tough-on-crime interventions with little success. U.S. administrations have sought to stem the Northern Triangle’s exodus by reducing economic insecurity, violence, and irregular migration."
"The United States has long guaranteed the right to seek asylum to individuals who arrive at our southern border and ask for protection. But since March 20, 2020, that fundamental right has been largely suspended. Beginning on that date, both migrants seeking a better life in the United States and those wanting to apply for asylum have been turned away and “expelled” back to Mexico or their home countries. These border expulsions are carried out under a little-known provision of U.S. health law—section 265 of Title 42—which the former Trump administration invoked to achieve its long-desired goal of shutting the border to asylum seekers."
"61.9 % of the migrants and refugees interviewed by MSF had been exposed to a violent situation in the two years prior to leaving their home country. Almost half (42.5 %) of those interviewed reported the violent death of a relative in the last two years, 16.2 % had a relative who was forcibly disappeared, and 9.2 % had a relative kidnapped. Of those interviewed, 35.8 % had been threatened for extortion, 26.9 % had been victims of some kind of assault, and 5 % had been victims of torture in the two years prior to leaving their country."
In the spring and summer of 2014, tens of thousands of women and unaccompanied children from Central America journeyed to the United States seeking asylum. The increase of asylum-seekers, primarily from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala—the countries making up the “Northern Triangle” region—was characterized by President Obama as a “humanitarian crisis.” The situation garnered widespread congressional and media attention, much of it speculating about the cause of the increase and suggesting U.S. responses.
Faced with the increase of Central Americans presenting themselves at the United States’ southwest border seeking asylum, President Obama and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), specifically, implemented an “aggressive deterrence strategy.” A media campaign was launched in Central America highlighting the risks involved with migration and the consequences of illegal immigration. DHS also dramatically increased the detention of women and children awaiting their asylum hearings, rather than release on bond. Finally, the U.S. government publicly supported increased immigration enforcement measures central to the Mexican government’s Southern Border Program that was launched in July of 2014. Together, these policies functioned to “send a message” to Central Americans that the trip to the United States was not worth the risk, and they would be better off staying put.
"The United States is seeing a rise in apprehensions of unaccompanied migrant children, most from Central America, along its southern border. Several laws and court cases guide how U.S. authorities treat migrant children while their asylum and immigration cases are under consideration. U.S. detention of migrant children has long sparked controversy. The Trump and Biden administrations have faced criticism for violating legal protections."