Universiteit Leiden

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A 'border' is not a static concept

In his new book 'The Politics of Borders', Leiden political scientist Matthew Longo redefines the concept of a ‘border’.

‘There’s a flaw in our thinking if we view the border as a thin, legal line on a map, or on a fence. From a political point of view, the border is an institute in its own right, with aspects such as security and search areas that continue to spread further inland. This has consequences for migrants. In my homeland, the United States, many people are outraged by President Trump’s plans to build a wall on the border with Mexico. And with good reason, I believe. However, this is actually the least interesting aspect of border security. What’s even more worrying is the way that the US and Mexico share information and perform joint raids, for instance in their fight against underground tunnels.’

‘Preventing crimes that have not yet been committed’

‘Why exactly is that so worrying? States work together because they share a common goal, namely to prevent an influx of migrants, drugs or terrorism. Big Data is at the heart of this collaboration. It is a relatively new development so we currently find ourselves in an uncertain situation. Which decisions can immigrants contest and which can they not?’

‘Information is not only used to assess previous matters; it also serves a purpose for predictive analytics, to prevent crimes that have not yet been committed. Often, the source of information is secret. This makes it more difficult to rebut the information, especially for immigrants on a temporary visa. When people  travel to another country for their livelihood, they feel the effects of changing opinions about the ‘border’ concept most acutely; because their visa can simply be withdrawn or rejected’.

The Politics of Borders: Sovereignty, Security, and the Citizen after 9/11 (Cambridge University Press, 2018)

Banner photo: The wall between San Diego (US) and Tijuana (Mexico).  

(Peter Wierenga)

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