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“Let in the good and keep out the bad” – Bordering and othering at the U.S port of entry

By Felix Akinboyewa

I was sharing my experience at the United States Port of Entry with my colleagues earlier today about the process of filtration of the good and the bad ones at the U.S Port of Entry. This involves smart checks on all incoming migrants whereby the good is let in quickly and the risky ones are slowed down.

I arrived at the port of entry with a confidence of moving seamlessly into my university town for my studies. However, it was not as easy as I thought. I was beckoned on by a Customs and Border Protection Officer to report for interrogation. I obliged and I was asked to sit down. To my surprise, I was left unattended to for a very long time. However, I kept calm realizing they were probably doing some background checks on me. I could not ascertain the reason for the long delay, and I kept wondering if it was because I had a trip to a Middle East country in 2020 or maybe because I came from a country which is believed to be notorious in visa overstaying. I never mind and I kept my calm knowing fully well I would come out clean.
Eventually I was called upon and was asked why I would be staying for 8 years in the U.S for my PhD studies (as written on my I-20) and how I intend to finance my studies. I explained to him that I am allowed to stay back in the U.S if I am unable to complete my program in 4years until 8 years and explained to him my funding situation. I was thereby allowed to move past this bordering structure.

This reminded me of the book by Matthew Longo; The Politics of Borders: Sovereignty, Security, and the Citizen after 9/11. Matthew Longo gives a different approach to evolution of borders and how it emerges overtime since 9/11 terrorist attack in the United States. The U.S ensures the protection of its homeland and put in place structures to fight foreign terrorism through the cooperation of other countries in terms of data sharing. The U.S is aware it cannot secure its borders unilaterally without co-bordering. They need big data and technological operationality to achieve the bordering and othering. Matthew Longo argued that they are transforming their bordering systems to accommodate a strategic shift from deterrence to risk assessment”. So, at the port of entry, I was aware the CBP officer was probably looking at my information by checking my history. Therefore, I came into conclusion that bordering and othering through processes of classification and filtration in this digital times need the cooperation of all countries in terms of big data sharing.

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