International migration as criminal behaviour: Shifting responsibility to the migrant in Mexico-US border crossings

Alexandria J. Innes

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8 Citations (Scopus)


The increasing criminalisation of immigration procedures has the effect of shifting responsibility from the state to the individual migrant for alleged "criminal" behaviour. This shift represents a form of disciplinary power as it is enacted over "deviant" populations who are unable to self-govern according to the tenets required in a system of global governmentality. In this article, I use Foucault's governmentality to examine the "responsibilisation" of undocumented migrants who are perceived as making a rational choice to cross the border. I argue that the criminalisation of immigration shifts the emphasis to individuals as rational actors who have rejected paths to legal immigration, choosing "illegal" immigration, which carries the connotation of criminal behaviour. This constructs a population of always already criminal subjects who are understood to disregard the rule of law. In this research I carry out a critical discourse analysis that looks at the performative conceptualisation of "illegal immigrants" and the production and reproduction of the understanding of migrants as criminals. I look at the example of Mexico-US border crossings from the perspective of a system of global governmentality and I posit that international undocumented migration is criminalised and migrants are "responsibilised", which effectively controls the movement of peoples, contributing to a geopolitical discourse that represents population management at the global level.* I would like to thank Brent J. Steele for his valuable insight on the theory of governmentality as it pertains to this article. I would also like to thank Rob Topinka and Franziska Jung for their feedback on earlier versions of the article, and participants on the panel "Political Economy of Migration in Latin America" at the International Studies Association Annual Convention 2011 in Montreal for helpful insight on this work as a burgeoning research project.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-260
Number of pages24
JournalGlobal Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2013

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