Exporting Borders:

The Administrative Architecture of U.S. International Migration Control

Why and how has the United States developed and sustained a border-spanning system to regulate the movement of migrants, a system that recruits Mexico as a partner state and deploys U.S. actors and technologies throughout Mexican territory (not only along their shared border) to intervene on the movement of people before individuals have reached U.S. territory? In contrast to explanations of U.S. immigration policymaking that center institutional constraints, electoral incentives, or interest group pressures on legislators or presidents, this book moves the scope of analysis from the electoral politics of immigration policy to the bureaucratic politics and beyond-the-border politics of immigration policy.

Externalization is at once a vision of border management, a set of administrative processes carried out by bureaucracies working transnationally, and a bundle of cross-border regulatory programs intended to intervene on the movement of people. Externalization is not one discrete policy, nor are interstate cooperation agreements on migration control codified in treaties. Rather, states often create agreements that are informal and flexible, and sometimes, these agreements are deliberately kept out of the public realm. Given the challenging data environment, this book draws on analysis of interviews with U.S and Mexican government officials and interest groups, archival materials, and observations between U.S. and Mexican government officials.

Exporting Borders describes the strategic engagement between the United States and Mexico and the choices the United States makes to gain collaborative regulation from Mexico. However, U.S.-Mexico cooperation on migration and border management cannot be understood without an analysis of the United States’ outsized influence in the Western Hemisphere. This book documents the United States’ coercive influence over Mexico. Exporting Borders also pries open the executive bureaucracy to document the actors, incentives, capacities, and opportunities that drive externalization. Ultimately, Exporting Borders reveals that the U.S. immigration bureaucracy is not only an implementation body that operates in the domestic United States, but it is also a political institution composed of politically capable actors who advocate for, set agendas, and make policy that drive the externalization of U.S. borders.