Visas and Walls: Border Security in the Age of Terrorism

Visas and Walls: Border Security in the Age of Terrorism

Visas and Walls: Border Security in the Age of Terrorism

Visas and Walls: Border Security in the Age of Terrorism


Borders traditionally served to insulate nations from other states and to provide bulwarks against intrusion by foreign armies. In the age of terrorism, borders are more frequently perceived as protection against threats from determined individuals arriving from elsewhere. After a deadly terrorist attack, leaders immediately encounter pressure to close their borders. As Nazli Avdan observes, cracking down on border crossings and policing migration enhance security. However, the imperatives of globalization demand that borders remain open to legal travel and economic exchange. While stricter border policies may be symbolically valuable and pragmatically safer, according to Avdan, they are economically costly, restricting trade between neighbors and damaging commercial ties. In Visas and Walls, Avdan argues that the balance between economics and security is contingent on how close to home threats, whether actual or potential, originate. When terrorist events affect the residents of a country or take place within its borders, economic ties matter less. When terrorist violence strikes elsewhere and does not involve its citizens, the unaffected state's investment in globalization carries the day.

Avdan examines the visa waiver programs and visa control policies of several countries in place in 2010, including Turkey's migration policies; analyzes the visa issuance practices of the European Union from 2003 until 2015; and explores how terrorism and trade affected states' propensities to build border walls in the post-World War II era. Her findings challenge the claim that border crackdowns are a reflexive response to terrorist violence and qualify globalists' assertions that economic globalization makes for open borders. Visas and Walls encourages policymakers and leaders to consider more broadly the effects of economic interdependence on policies governing borders and their permeability.


A book is a long-haul effort and demands time commitment. With good reason, then, each book has a personal tale behind it. As a migrant from Istanbul, Turkey, myself, I live my research, as some of my colleagues like to remind me. I have moved across the Atlantic Ocean four times, thrice to the United States and once from the United States to the United Kingdom. I encountered the processes, paperwork, complexity, and hurdles of both short-term and longterm migration. As I discuss at length in the book, in terms of pace and ease of mobility, migration trails behind trade and finance. For migrants, borders are salient, despite the most optimistic pronouncements of globalists on the irrelevance of borders. For migrants from some countries, borders matter even more.

As the following chapters elaborate, scholars have observed that mobility rights have expanded but disproportionately so, by favoring a subset of countries. My own traveling and migrating several times brought this observation into sharp relief for me. of course, I am by no means unique in my migration experience. However, it was personal experience with unequal mobility rights that narrowed my interest in borders, migration, and security into a research question. At the same time, I noted that the experience of migrants sharply contrasts with globalization scholars’ claims of a borderless world. Hence, although I focus on state-level policies in the book, my interest in the subjects I address arose from the perspective of the migrant.

This book is about transnational terrorism, globalization, and migration policies. While pundits and practitioners debate what migration reforms are politically feasible, necessary, security enhancing, and economically beneficial, I take an analytical approach to studying how these concerns interact to shape short-term migration policies. Rather than proposing what constitutes optimality, I examine variation in states’ border- and migration-control . . .

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