Bordering by Law: The Migration of Law, Crimes, Sovereignty, and the Mail
J. Resnik, Bordering by Law: The Migration of Law, Crimes, Sovereignty, and the Mail, Nomos: Immigration, Emigration, and Migration, 79-201, ed. Jack Knight, 2017
100 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2014 Last revised: 23 Dec 2016
Date Written: 2014
Law is filled with segmented narratives. The literature mapping the illegalization of the migration of peoples does not reference that many borders have become readily traversable, if not invisible, through the legalization and internationalization of subsidized mail services by cooperative government efforts. And, while the politics of migration are much debated, the post is infrequently acknowledged as either a political or a legal site. I bring together these domains not to equate the migration of persons and families with the movement of objects but rather to clarify how reliant on border crossings we are. My argument is that neither law nor land is readily bordered, and that depending on borders (alien/citizen, federal/state) as justifications for legal rules deflects attention from two major shifts during the last two centuries: one imagining the globe as a “single postal territory” and the other turning migration into a crime. In pursuit of both, governments expanded their repertoires and capacities as providers of services – from forwarding mail to patrolling borders.
This century’s questions are whether political will can be marshaled to undo the criminalization of migration and the stigmatization of migrants and to sustain states as central sources of social ordering generating redistributive exchanges respectful of individual liberty and aiming to enhance equality. My aim is to invite attention to the utilities of government and to the project of shifting normalcies so as to probe whether states’ coordination to facilitate movements of persons seeking to cross boundaries could become a taken-for-granted government service, akin to state-subsidized inter-jurisdictional, cooperative postal systems – which are now at risk of becoming historic relics of bygone eras when governments were central.
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