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Islands of SovereigntyHaitian Migration and the Borders of Empire$
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Jeffrey S. Kahn

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226587387

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226587554.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 17 February 2020

Border Laboratories

Border Laboratories

(p.55) Chapter 2 Border Laboratories
Islands of Sovereignty

Jeffrey S. Kahn

University of Chicago Press

This chapter explores the history of how contemporary maritime migration policing (i.e., maritime interdiction) emerged out of confrontations over the treatment of Haitian asylum seekers during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. It argues that an unprecedented litigation-oriented social movement provoked a dynamic of escalating conflict that eventually resulted in the rise of the contemporary immigration detention system and the transfer of the South Florida immigration border offshore—to northern Caribbean seas and, later, Guantanamo Bay. The chapter combines hitherto untapped archival materials and oral history interviews with a new theoretical approach to American border space, its jurisdictional paradigms, and its legal fictions. This framework conceptualizes borders as a complex of three elements—a judicial border, a policing border, and a territorial border—each standing for the outer limits of the physical or authoritative dimensions of these institutions. Using this perspective, the chapter traces how these three "borders" became disjointed as executive branch immigration officials sought to recapture and routinize the sovereign flexibility that came under attack during the beginning phases of these litigation conflicts. The multi-decade scope of the chapter reveals the dynamic and its effects while also laying the groundwork for more targeted discussions in the chapters to come.

Keywords:   borders, maritime interdiction, immigration detention, litigation, social movements, jurisdiction, space, legal fictions

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