Academic journal article Review of Constitutional Studies

Regionalisms Migrations and Fortress (North) America

Academic journal article Review of Constitutional Studies

Regionalisms Migrations and Fortress (North) America

Article excerpt


The 2004 Summit of the Americas in Monterrey, Mexico stands out for the way in which both Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and Mexican President Vincente Fox focussed on issues relating to migration, security, and mobility rights at the U.S. border. Indeed, journalists were able to report that the two leaders pledged to "work together to ensure that the fight against terrorism doesn't shut down their borders with the United States as they try to develop a stronger continental economy," and to explore "new high-tech efforts to combat terrorism at their borders." (2) Private discussions between U.S. President George W. Bush and Martin led to the announcement of a new promise to "inform" Canadian officials if a Canadian national is detained in the United States on security grounds,' and a private meeting between Bush and Fox led the American president to propose a new temporary worker program which could serve to legalize many undocumented Mexican workers already in the United States.' Yet, critics in both Mexico and Canada have faulted these developments for not going far enough. Opposition politicians and commentators in Mexico accused Fox of abandoning a more sweeping cross-border migration deal, as seemingly envisioned just prior to 11 September 2001. (4) As well, in the words of one Pakistani-Canadian journalist, despite the Martin-Bush "tete-a-tete":

   I find myself worrying over the possibility of being deported, if I
   enter the U.S., to another country: a fate similar to that of Maher
   Arar, a dual Canadian-Syrian citizen whose Canadian passport meant
   little when American officials shipped him back to his native Syria
   to wallow in prison for nearly a year. (5)

To begin to make sense of the ongoing issues relating to migration, security and mobility rights that emerged in the wake of the 2004 Summit requires bringing together a number of concepts and levels of analyses to address the post-NAFTA and post-September 11 context from an historically informed perspective. In what follows, this paper considers: 1) the relevance of migration to illuminating the interplay between security, international politics and domestic politics; 2) the North American regional level, and national borders; and, 3) a major orienting concept in contemporary political theory--citizenship--especially one particular right of citizenship, namely the right to enter and, once having entered, the right to remain in a country. I argue that post-September 11 there has been a distinctive racist internationalism that amplifies the exclusionary logic of regionalism in North America in new ways when it comes to the mobility of people, and that this has consequences for the practice of citizenship and citizenship rights.


To speak of "security" is to enter into a contested realm. As political analysts have pointed out, while security is critical to understanding international politics, it is an ambiguous concept because it is subjective and elastic, potentially encompassing both military and non-military dimensions. (6)

Indeed, the way state actors have defined security and threats to security has been subject to change in living memory. During the Cold War (roughly 1946-1991), security concerns were primarily focussed on the so-called "high politics" of military strength and nuclear deterrence. In the post-Cold War era dating from 1991, space was created for state actors to focus more squarely on other dimensions of security, including the environment, population growth and migration, as well as collective security and human security. In terms of the North American context, a focus on human security was especially evident when Canadian Lloyd Axworthy was minister of Foreign Affairs from 1996 until 2001. Since the horrific violence of 11 September 2001, American leaders, along with those of many other countries, have come to define security as the threat posed by terrorism. …

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