In recent years, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) have cast themselves into a humanitarian role, presenting themselves as an organization that is ultimately concerned with the wellbeing and safety of undocumented migrants who undertake the dangerous journey of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. However, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are of the opinion that this humanitarianism is hollow given that CBP ultimately enforces prevention through deterrence, a prevention strategy that deters migrants to the dangerous terrain of the Sonoran Desert and is believed to have caused in numerous migrant deaths. In this essay, I explore the contradictions inherent in CBP’s supposed mandate of both protection and policing, exploring how the actions of the organization contradict their presentation as benevolent. I examine the CBP’s public mandate and actions, along with literature regarding the criminalization of humanitarian NGOs and the regulation of migrant bodies through the care the CBP provides. Finally, I argue that CBP’s humanitarianism acts as a moral alibi for migrant deaths due to government policy regarding undocumented migrants, providing the organization an opportunity to divert attention from migrant deaths to the benevolent work of the organization.
Clarke, Layne, "Humanitarianism as a Moral Alibi at the U.S.-Mexico Border" (2018). 2018 Undergraduate Awards. 12.