“Slavery hasn’t ended, it has just become modernized”: Border Imperialism and the Lived Realities of Migrant Farmworkers in British Columbia, Canada
Keywords:migrant labour, racial segregation, criminalization, Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP), border imperialism, British Columbia (Canada)
Border imperialism is a powerful framework for understanding the ways that colonial states manage borders in order to restrict movement of migrants and secure neoliberal economic interests. The present commentary, based on research carried out in British Columbia, Canada, utilizes ethnographic data to highlight the impacts of border imperialism on the everyday lives of temporary migrant farmworkers. First, I discuss how Mexican and Caribbean migrants’ lives are impacted by displacement from farms in their ‘home’ countries. Next, I provide an overview of Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program and argue that it (along with other circular migration schemes) is a powerful weapon of border imperialism designed to construct migrant precarity and uphold deeply-held notions of “Canadianness.” Finally, I discuss the racialization and criminalization of migrant farm workers and present workers’ testimonials to demonstrate how these processes result in migrants’ exclusion from the nation-state and local communities. Ultimately, I argue that scholars and activists struggling for migrant justice must center the demands of workers in their activism.
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