Chapter 2

Ports of Entry in the “Homeland Security” Era: Inequality of Mobility and the Securitization of Transnational Flows

By Josiah McC. Heyman

In this chapter, cultural anthropologist Josiah Heyman brings a wide range of sources, including first-hand observation of ports of entry and interviews with border inspectors, to bear on the question of whether U.S. borders can be successfully secured against outside threats via new computer databases and sensing technologies. As U.S. pursuit of global trade integration expands international commerce, it also effectively stimulates emigration from countries being opened to U.S. goods. Consequently, the challenge to port inspectors, of simultaneously facilitating authorized entry and egress and interdicting unauthorized goods and people, will increase greatly, probably exceeding the capability of either advanced technology or human monitoring.

Study Questions

  1. Define the process of “securitization” and give one example of its implementation at the U.S.-Mexico border.
  2. Why is complete national security at contemporary borders impossible? How does the U.S. government implement partial security?
  3. How does discretion and risk targeting in border operations result in different treatment of people, as individuals and members of marked groups?

Critical Thinking

  1. Take and explain a position on the degree to which each of the following issues should be securitized: legal visitors and immigrants; unauthorized immigrants; arms smuggling; drug smuggling; weapons of mass destruction.
  2. Reading the excerpt below from the testimony of Jose Melendez-Perez, discuss the role of security technology, informal detection skills, and political pressures on port inspectors.
  3. Compare these dilemmas of border control with the dilemmas of internal immigration law enforcement (as described by Nancy Naples in chapter 7) by federal and local authorities in towns and cities across the U.S.

Further Research

  1. Using the following websites, make a detailed assessment of the current state of U.S. border security and human rights: