Hysterical borders: Barriers, incarceration, and migration deterrence policies

April 18, 2019

Irregular migration represents a tiny fraction of overall global mobility. Most irregular migrants overstay visas or lose legal status rather than attempt to cross borders on foot or arrive at shores by boat. Among these, a significant proportion have legitimate claims to asylum.

Nonetheless, irregular migration over borders plays a disproportionate role in political discourse, and politicians in liberal states have embarked on progressively more restrictive policies to close borders, detain migrants, and extend controls to transit and host states. These policies can have far-ranging effects, including more lethal migration routes, larger markets for smugglers and traffickers, undermining liberal international norms, and fostering hysterical domestic responses to irregular migration.

This panel discussion looked at the effects of EU attempts to externalize migration controls in West Africa, unpacked the Trump administration’s policies of deterrence, detention, and family separation, and presented evidence about how changes in US policy affect irregular migration to Canada.


  • Alison Mountz (discussant) professor and Canada Research Chair in Global Migration at the Balsillie School of International Affairs at Laurier University
  • Craig Damian Smith Associate Director of the Global Migration Lab
  • Philippe M. Frowd Assistant Professor in the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa, Canada
  • Luis Campos Immigration Counsel to Haynes and Boone LLP in Dallas, Texas and a former Assistant