International Development, Community, and Environment

Title

Understanding Stakeholder Positionalities and Relationships to Reimagine Asylum at the US–Mexico Border: Observations from McAllen, TX

Document Type

Article

Abstract

This paper draws on observational research conducted in McAllen, Texas, during the summer of 2019, of three major stakeholder groups involved in asylum management: Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center (HRC); federal government agencies; and the McAllen community. Each group holds a unique, pluralistic perspective on migration, informing intra-group relations and exposing uneven power dynamics between them. Our analysis is contextualized by a local voice, a former long-term volunteer at the HRC, who speaks of the evolution of the McAllen border in her lifetime, as well as federal authority over McAllen and the HRC to process asylees. We dissect how this power dynamic produces a highly violent, detention-dominant immigration landscape in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV), antithetical to the practiced intersectional culture of voces locales. We reimagine how the US responds to asylum seekers by offering a community action-based framework, where these pluralistic perspectives are equitably valued. Based on interactions and conversations had with each group, we advocate a paradigm shift reflective of La Frontera’s (The Border’s) intersectional identity. This can be achieved by prioritizing voces locales and building capacity for the humanitarian sector, which is already doing critical work at the southern border. We look to contemporary movements like “Defund the Police” as examples, where divesting from the status-quo system of oppression can nurture reparative justice and empowerment to the RGV. In reimagining a more adaptive, asylum justice-oriented paradigm shift, we also recognize the need to abandon the government-controlled deterrence paradigm, which repeatedly causes tremendous harm.

Publication Title

Human Geography

Publication Date

3-1-2021

Volume

14

Issue

1

First Page

96

Last Page

109

ISSN

1942-7786

DOI

10.1177/1942778620979317

Keywords

asylum seekers, community-based research, humanitarianism, immigration, power disparities, qualitative research, reimagining, social justice, stakeholder relations, US–Mexico Border

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