“Possible Criminal Activity Afoot:” The Politics of Race and Boundary-Making in the United States Pacific Northwest Borderland

  • Leigh Barrick University of British Columbia
Keywords: securitization, racial profiling, white supremacy, critical race studies, US-Canada border, US-Mexico border


In northwestern Washington State, the United States Border Patrol expanded its operations inland from the international boundary with Canada in 2007. The expansion resulted in the frequent questioning and detention of community members who are Latino, non-timber forest workers, and people of color until such practices became less common by 2012. These tactics reflect a broader pattern of racial profiling through inland policing implemented across the US border with Canada. In this paper, I make the case for a critical race approach to understanding bordering practices in settings coded as ‘peaceful’ or without racial tensions. Towards this end, I analyze how racialized exclusions in northwestern Washington are articulated across scales, from local forest management, to federal policy. Further, I trace the relational construction of the western US borderlands with Canada and Mexico – spaces connected by a common heritage of conquest, although generally not conceptualized as such. My argument is that racial thinking is inherent to the production and maintenance of United States borders. A critical race approach is crucial at a time when practices carried out in the name of ‘homeland security’ threaten the wellbeing of borderland communities.

Author Biography

Leigh Barrick, University of British Columbia
PhD Student, Department of Geography
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