US-Mexico Border Militarization and Violence: Dispossession and Disorganization of Undocumented Laboring Classes from Puebla, Mexico

Alison Elizabeth Lee

Idioma original:



How does the U.S.-Mexico border build-up of the mid-2000s change clandestine crossing experiences? Semi-structured interviews with return migrants in Puebla, Mexico in 2003-04 and 2011 revealed how increased enforcement entailed greater risks of arrest and potentiated violence migrants experienced at the hands of smugglers and criminals, reducing circular migration. Dispossessed of physical security and psychological well-being, “illegal” mobile bodies create value for multiple accumulation processes: at the point of production as vulnerable workers, as well as commodities for trafficking organizations and private detention centers. The violence disciplines migrants for the exploitative labor relations of temporary worker programs.



¿Cómo cambia el endurecimiento de la frontera en los 2000 la experiencia del cruce fronterizo clandestino?  Entrevistas con migrantes retornados en Puebla, México en 2003-04 y 2011 revelaron un mayor riesgo de detención y violencia contra los migrantes por los coyotes y criminales en la frontera, reduciendo la migración circular. Los cuerpos “ilegales” desposeídos de seguridad física y bienestar psicológico crean valor en múltiples procesos de acumulación: como mano de obra vulnerable, así como mercancías para los coyotes y centros privados de detención. La violencia disciplina los migrantes para las relaciones laborales explotadoras de los programas de trabajadores temporales.

Palabras clave: Violence; illegality; human smuggling; México; United States

Texto completo:

Idioma original


Alarcón, R. and Becerra, W. (2012). ¿Criminales o víctimas? La deportación de migrantes mexicanos de Estados Unidos a Tijuana, Baja California. Norteamérica, 7(1), 125–149.

Alonso, G. (2012) Recesión económica , reflujos migratorios y violencia antiinmigrante entre México y Estados Unidos. Norteamérica, 7(2), 221–252.

Andreas, P. (2000). Border Games: Policing the U.S.-Mexico Divide. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Binford, L. (2003a). Migración acelerada entre Puebla y los Estados Unidos. En E. Masferrer, E. Díaz Brenis, & J. Mondragón Melo, eds., Etnografía del Estado de Puebla: Puebla Centro (pp. 58-67). Mexico: Gobierno del Estado de Puebla/ Secretaría de Cultura

Binford, L. (2003b). Migrant Remittances and (Under)Development in Mexico. Critique of Anthropology, 23(3), 305–336.

Binford, L. (2004). La Economía Política de la Migración Internacional en Puebla y Veracruz: Siete Estudios de Caso. Puebla: Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla-Instituto de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades.

Binford, L. (2013). Tomorrow We’re All Going to the Harvest: Temporary Foreign Worker Programs and Neoliberal Political Economy. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press.

Binford, L. and Churchill, N. (2007). Stoneworkers, Masons and Maids: Neoliberal Crisis, Social Fields and Proletarianization in Peri-urban Mexico. Critique of Anthropology, 27(4), 359–375.

Coleman, M. (2007). Immigration Geopolitics Beyond the Mexico-US Border. Antipode, 39(1), 54–76.

Cordero Diaz, B. (2007). Ser trabajador transnacional: Clase, hegemonía y cultura en un circuito migratorio internacional. Puebla: Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, Instituto de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades.

Cornelius, W. (2001). Death at the Border: Efficacy and Unintended Consequences of US Immigration Control Policy. Population and Development Review, 27(4), 661–685.

D’Aubeterre Buznego, M. E. and Rivermar Pérez, M. L. (2014). From Amate Paper Making to Global Work: Otomi Migration from Puebla to North Carolina. Latin American Perspectives, 41(3), 118–136.

De Genova, N. (2005). Working the Boundaries: Race, Space, and “Illegality” in Mexican Chicago. Durham: Duke University Press.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS). (2008). Budget-in-Brief, Fiscal Year 2009, Washington, D. C. Retrived from

Department of Homeland Security (DHS). (2013). Budget in Brief, Fiscal Year 2014, Washington, D. C. Retrived from

Dunn, T. (1996). The Militarization of the U.S.-Mexico Border, 1978-1992: Low Intensity Doctrine Comes Home. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Espenshade, T. (1994). Does the Threat of Border Apprehension Deter Undocumented US Immigration? Population and Development Review, 20(4), 871–892.

Glick Schiller, N. (2010). A global perspective on migration and development. In N. Glick Schiller and T. Faist (eds.), Migration, Development and Transnationalism: A Critical Stance (pp. 24-52). New York: Berghahn Books.

Glick Schiller, N. (2015). Explanatory frameworks in transnational migration studies : the missing multi-scalar global perspective. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 38(13), 2275–2282.

Golash-Boza, T. (2009). The Immigration Industrial Complex: Why we enforce immigration policies destined to fail. Sociology Compass, 3(2), 295–309.

Golash-Boza, T. (2012). Immigration Nation: Raids, Detentions and Deportations in post 9/11 America. Boulder, Colorado: Paradigm Publishers.

Gomberg-Munoz, R. and Nussbaum-Barberena, L. (2011). Is Immigration Policy Labor Policy?: Immigration Enforcement, Undocumented Workers, and the State. Human Organization, 70(4), 366–375.

Gonzalez-Barrera, A. (2015). More Mexicans Leaving Than Coming to the U.S. Washington, D.C.: Pew Research Center. Retrieved from

Government Accountability Office. (2010). Secure Border Initiative: DHS Needs to Strengthen Management and Oversight of its Prime Contractor. Washington, D. C. Retrived from

Griffith, David (ed.). (2014). (Mis)Managing Migration: Guestworkers’ Experiences with North American Labor Markets. Santa Fe, New México: School for Advanced Research Press.

Hahamovich, C. (2003). Creating Perfect Immigrants: Guestworkers of the World in Historical Perspective. Labor History, 44(1), 69–94.

Harvey, D. (2003). The New Imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hennebry, J. and Preibisch, K. (2012). A Model for Managed Migration? Re-Examining Best Practices in Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program. International Migration, 50(s1), 19–40.

Heyman, J. (1995). Putting Power in the Anthropology of Bureaucracy: The Immigration and Naturalization Service at the Mexico-United States Border. Current Anthropology, 36(2), 261–287.

Heyman, Josiah, 1998, “State Effects on Labor Exploitation”, Critique of Anthropology, vol, 18, núm. 2, pp. 157–180.

Heyman, J. (2014). ‘Illegality’ and the U.S.-Mexico Border: How it is Produced and Resisted. In C. Menjívar and D. Kanstroom (eds.), Constructing Immigrant “Illegality”: Critiques, Experiences, and Responses (pp. 111-135). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Hicken, J., Fishbein J. and Lisle, J. (2011). U.S. Border Enforcement: The Limits of Physical and Remote Deterrence of Unauthorized Migration. In D. Fitzgerald, R. Alarcón and L. Muse-Orlinoff (eds.), Recession Without Borders: Mexican Migrants Confront the Economic Downturn (pp.17-35). La Jolla, Center for Comparative Immigration Studies-University of California San Diego.

Izcara Palacios, S. P. (2015). La transformación del coyotaje en el contexto de políticas migratorias restrictivas. Estudios Sociales, 23(46), 313-340.

Izcara Palacios, S. P. (2016). Violencia postestructural: migrantes centroamericanos y cárteles de la droga en México. Revista de Estudios Sociales, 56, 12-25.

Kandel, W. and Massey, D. (2002). The Culture of Mexican Migration: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis. Social Forces, 80(3), 981–1004.

Kroll, A. (2013). This Is How Private Prison Companies Make Millions Even As Crime Rates Fall. Retrived from Mother Jones:

Lee, A. (2008). ‘Para salir adelante’: The Emergence and Acceleration of International Migration in New Sending Areas of Puebla, Mexico. Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, 13(1), 48–78.

Lydgate, J. (2010). Assembly-Line Justice: A Review of Operation Streamline (Policy Brief - January 2010). Berkeley: Berkeley Law Center- University of California Berkeley. Retreived from

Martinez, D., Reineke, R., Rubio-Goldsmith, R., Anderson, B., Hess, G. and Parks, B. (2013). A Continued Humanitarian Crisis at the Border: Undocumented Border Crosser Deaths Recorded by the Pima County Medical Examiner, 1990-2012. (Technical Report June 2013). Tuczon, Arizona: Binational Migration Institute, The University of Arizona. Retrieved from

Martinez, D. and Slack, J. (2013). What Part of "Illegal" Don't You Understand? The Social Consequences of Criminalizing Unauthorized Mexican Migrants in the United States. Social & Legal Studies, 22(4), 535-551.

Martinez, D., Slack, J. and Heyman, J. (2013). Bordering on Criminal: The Routine Abuse of Migrants in the Removal System. Part I: Migrant Mistreatment While in U.S. Custody (Special Report December 2013). Washington, D. C.: Immigration Policy Center, American Immigration Council. Retrieved from

Massey, D., Durand, J., and Malone, N. (2002). Beyond Smoke and Mirrors: Mexican Immigration in an Era of Economic Integration. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Massey, D., Durand, J. and Pren, K. (2014). Explaining Undocumented Migration to the U.S. International Migration Review, 48(4), 1028–1061.

Meissner, D., Kerwin, D., Chishti, M. and Bergeron, C. (2013). Immigration Enforcement in the United States: The Rise of a Formidable Machinery. Washington, D.C.: Migration Policy Institute. Retrieved from

Menjívar, C. and Abrego, L. (2012). Legal Violence: Immigration Law and the Lives of Central American Immigrants. American Journal of Sociology, 117(5), 1380–1421.

Nevins, J. (2010) Operation Gatekeeper and Beyond: The War on “Illegals” and the Remaking of the U.S.-Mexico Boundary (Second edition). New York: Routledge.

O’Leary, A. (2009). In the Footsteps of Spirits: Migrant Women’s Testimonios in a Time of Heightened Border Enforcement. In K. Staudt, T. Payan, and Kruszewski, Z. A. (eds.), Human Rights along the U.S.-Mexico Border: Gendered Violence and Insecurity (pp. 85–104). Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

Passel, J., Cohn, D. and Gonzalez-Barrera, A. (2012). Net Migration from Mexico Falls to Zero — and Perhaps Less. Washington, D.C.: Pew Hispanic Center. Retreieved from

Ramírez García, T. and Meza González, L. (2012). Emigración México-Estados Unidos: balance antes y después de la recesión económica estadounidense. In Consejo Nacional de Población (ed.), La Situación Demográfica en México 2011 (pp. 241–259). México, D.F.: Consejo Nacional de Población. Retrieved from

Rubio-Goldsmith, R., McCormick, M., Martinez, D. and Duarte, I. (2006). The “Funnel Effect” and the Recovered Bodies of Unauthorized Migrants Processed by the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner, 1990-2005 (Report submitted to the pima county board of supervisors). Tucson, Arizona: Binational Migration Institute - University of Arizona.

Sabo, S., Shaw, S., Ingram, M., Teufel-Shone, N., Carvajal, S., de Zapien, J., Rosales, C., Redondo, F., Garcia, G. and Rubio-Goldsmith, R. (2014). Everyday violence, structural racism and mistreatment at the US-Mexico border. Social Science & Medicine, 109, 66–74.

Simmons, W., Menjivar, C. and Tellez, M. (2015). Violence and Vulnerability of Female Migrants in Drop Houses in Arizona: The Predictable Outcome of a Chain Reaction of Violence. Violence Against Women, 21(5), 551–570.

Slack, J. (2015). Captive bodies: migrant kidnapping and deportation in Mexico. Area, 48(3), 271-277.

Slack, J., Martinez, D., Lee, A. and Whiteford, S. (2016). The Geography of Border Militarization: Violence, Death and Health in Mexico and the United States. Journal of Latin American Geography, 15(1), 7–32.

Slack, J., Martinez, D., Whiteford, S. and Peiffer, E. (2013). In the Shadow of the Wall: Family Separation, Immigration Enforcement and Security (Final Report 2013). Tucson, Arizona: Center for Latin American Studies - University of Arizona. Retrieved from

Slack, J. and Whiteford, S. (2011). Violence and Migration on the Arizona-Sonora Border. Human Organization, 70(1), 11–21.

Spener, D. (2009). Clandestine Crossings: Migrants and Coyotes on the Texas-Mexico Border. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.

Stumpf, J. (2006). The Crimmigration Crisis: Immigrants, Crime and Sovereign Power. American University Law Review, 56(2), 367–419.

Varsanyi, M. (2010). Taking Local Control: Immigration Policy Activism in U.S. Cities and States. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Vogt, W. (2013). Crossing Mexico: Structural violence and the commodification of undocumented Central American migrants. American Ethnologist, 40(4), 764–780.

Todos los contenidos publicados en esta revista se encuentran bajo la licencia Creative Commons Reconocimiento-NoComercial-SinDerivar 4.0 Internacional.
Licencia de Creative Commons