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Visas and Walls

States' migration and border control policies must enhance security while facilitating commerce. Sealing off borders appears as a panacea against transnational terrorist threats. Visas and Walls shows that trade and financial dependence keep borders open as long as terrorist violence does not harm states' own citizens or territories.

Visas and Walls
Border Security in the Age of Terrorism

Nazli Avdan

2019 | 256 pages | Cloth $79.95
Political Science / Public Policy
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Globalization, Security, and Border Control
Chapter 1. Harder Borders in a New Security Climate
Chapter 2. Terrorism, Trade, and Visa Restrictions
Chapter 3. Terrorism, Trade, and Visa Policies in the European Union
Chapter 4. Terrorism, Trade, and Border Fences
Chapter 5. Turkey's Migration Policy: An Illustrative Case Study
Conclusion: Improving Theory and Policy


Excerpt [uncorrected, not for citation]


A book is a long-haul effort and demands time commitment. With good reason, then, each book has a personal tale behind it. As a migrant from Istanbul, Turkey, myself, I live my research, as some of my colleagues like to remind me. I have moved across the Atlantic Ocean four times, thrice to the United States and once from the United States to the United Kingdom. I encountered the processes, paperwork, complexity, and hurdles of both short-term and long-term migration. As I discuss at length in the book, in terms of pace and ease of mobility, migration trails behind trade and finance. For migrants, borders are salient, despite the most optimistic pronouncements of globalists on the irrelevance of borders. For migrants from some countries, borders matter even more.

As the following chapters elaborate, scholars have observed that mobility rights have expanded but disproportionately so by favoring a subset of countries. My own traveling and migrating several times brought this observation into sharp relief for me. Of course, I am by no means unique in my migration experience. However, it was personal experience with unequal mobility rights that narrowed my interest in borders, migration, and security into a research question. At the same time, I noted that the experience of migrants sharply contrasts with globalization scholars' claims of a borderless world. Hence, although I focus on state-level policies in the book, my interest in the subjects I address arose from the perspective of the migrant.

This book is about transnational terrorism, globalization, and migration policies. While pundits and practitioners debate what migration reforms are politically feasible, necessary, security enhancing, and economically beneficial, I take an analytical approach to studying how these concerns interact to shape short-term migration policies. Rather than proposing what constitutes optimality, I examine variation in states' border- and migration-control policies. Some states have walls while others have completely open borders. Some have generous visa-waiver programs and others restrict short-term mobility. Equally important, some countries' citizens face steeper hurdles in migrating, or, put differently, some passports carry mobility privileges while others do not. What explains this variation? That is the question that motivated this book.

As this book goes to press, U.S. president Donald Trump has requested $33 billion for 316 miles of new fencing, enforcements for 407 miles of existing fence, surveillance and control technology, and training and recruitment of personnel. The fence is projected to cover 2,000 miles of the border with Mexico by 2027. The call has met withering criticism from political opponents while being hailed by supporters for enhancing security. Moreover, the proposed border wall figures as a bargaining chip in negotiations between Democrats and Republicans on immigration reform.

The United States is not a sui generis example of the politicization of migration. In Europe, the link between terrorism and migration has underpinned the rise of populism, xenophobia, and the far right. The vulnerability of migration systems figured into debates over Brexit. Migration and border policies often inspire fractious debate and polemic. This is with good reason because like trade and financial flows, migration brings economic consequences and distributional costs to host societies. Yet unlike flows of goods and capital, flows of migrants trigger security fears, which typically coalesce around what it means to be a nation. Since September 11, and more so with the violent aftermath of the Arab Spring, transnational terrorism has loomed larger on the public agenda. Migration increasingly triggers fears over physical security. This has given rise to the frequently cited migration-security nexus. As such, human mobility now touches three facets of security: economic, cultural, and geopolitical.

The book casts light on a central dilemma countries face. After terrorist events, governments face mounting pressures to seal off their borders. At the same time, closing off borders carries economic penalties. How do states balance the twin objectives of economic maximization and security enhancement? This is the main issue the book addresses. It does not tackle long-term migration policies such as naturalization and citizenship rights and instead looks at how states monitor short-term mobility. I focus on visa policies and border barriers. These policies control migration before individuals have crossed borders. As I discuss in the following pages, states' migration policies are interconnected. States also differ in terms of what types of migration policies become salient and require policy reforms. Hence, my book constitutes the first step in uncovering the variations in terms of visa and border policies. It also calls for future research to examine how globalization and transnational threats shape other aspects of migration control.

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