Policing Immigrants as Politicizing Immigration: The Paradox of Border Enforcement

  • Walter J Nicholls University of Amsterdam


In the global North, borders have experienced a renaissance in the last 25 years. Efforts to “get tough” on undesirable immigrants have resulted in the growing concentration of power by national enforcement agencies and the devolution of responsibilities to thousands of civil servants, local officials, and others working directly with immigrants. Concentrating the powers of national immigration agencies has been seen as a necessary means to reduce access to legal residency, reinforce external borders, and remove unauthorized immigrants settled in national territories. Making bigger and more powerful immigration agencies was however not sufficient to plugging the many holes that allowed migrants to enter and settle in these countries. Plugging these holes precipitated the devolution of responsibilities to frontline public agencies, officials, and non-profit organizations; agents whose proximity to immigrants allowed them to function as effective relays of central state power (Miller and Rose 1990; Zolberg 1999; Balibar 2004; Coleman 2007). For many of these newly deputized border enforcers, detecting, forbidding, and exposing “illegal aliens” has become a “banal” (see, Arendt 1977) part of their everyday work practices.

Author Biography

Walter J Nicholls, University of Amsterdam



How to Cite
Nicholls, W. (2015). Policing Immigrants as Politicizing Immigration: The Paradox of Border Enforcement. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 14(2), 512-521. Retrieved from https://acme-journal.org/index.php/acme/article/view/1180