Political Science Faculty Publications and Presentations

Revisiting the policy implications of COVID-19, asylum seekers, and migrants on the Mexico–U.S. border: Creating (and maintaining) states of exception in the Trump and Biden administrations

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Public policy choices continue to bring dramatic changes to migration practices in the era of the coronavirus in the United States. In this article, we argue that the COVID-19 pandemic facilitated the creation and maintenance of states of exception while continuing to destabilize practices at the Mexico–U.S. border through the politics of fear. Specifically, the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), Zero Tolerance Policy (ZTP), COVID-19 CAPIO, Asylum Cooperative Agreements (ACA), and Title 42 used an arcane section of U.S. law to immediately expel asylum seekers and refugees. We show that these policies highlight the formation and maintenance of states of exception consistent with the work of Agamben. We further discuss how the politics of fear can reinforce hegemonic narratives targeting asylum seekers while shaping political agendas that lean toward a specific brand of nationalism using public health as a context. The U.S. government under the Trump administration—and the Biden administration to a lesser, yet continuous, extent—constructed these policies aimed primarily at refugees and asylum seekers from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico thereby violating laws and international treaty obligations.


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Politics & Policy