Borders and Migration

Away from the border and into the frontier: The paradoxical geographies of US immigration law

This paper investigates US immigration law as a spatial system whose application results in geographic confusion. I take the case of Barton v. Barr as a vivid example of this structure, where the petitioner was found to be simultaneously “outside” and “inside” the country under a legal perspective. Beginning from this paradox, I focus on the law’s ability to produce extraterritorial folds within the country’s interior, thus confining aliens into spaces that escape constitutional rules. Through an engagement with legal geography and Niklas Luhmann’s work, I conceptualize immigration law as a system which lives off the repetition of operations that distributes rights and privileges to aliens by assigning a degree of foreignness to their location. The resulting paradox must not be confused for a mistake or a flawed logic. Instead, it constitutes the dispositive that allows the law to produce its effects and draw its territorial enclaves.

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Volume 40 Issue 4

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