Date of Award

Spring 2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Political Science, International Development, and International Affairs

Committee Chair

Dr. Robert Pauly

Committee Chair Department

Political Science, International Development, and International Affairs

Committee Member 2

Dr. Tom Lansford

Committee Member 2 Department

Political Science, International Development, and International Affairs

Committee Member 3

Dr. David Butler

Committee Member 3 Department

Political Science, International Development, and International Affairs

Committee Member 4

Dr. Matthew Tracy

Committee Member 4 Department

Political Science, International Development, and International Affairs

Committee Member 5

Dr. Edward Sayre

Committee Member 5 Department

Political Science, International Development, and International Affairs

Abstract

Following the September 11, 2001 (9/11) terror attacks on American soil, politicians and the media drew a parallel between US-Mexican border security issues such as illegal immigration, and terrorism, highlighting an increased need to secure our southern border in an effort to prevent another 9/11-style terror attack (Maril 2011). Under securitization theory, the linking of border security issues such as illegal immigration to terrorism can be defined as a securitization act or more simply put, the portrayal of a specific issue as a threat to national security (Balzcaq 2011). Once an issue has been deemed a threat (“securitized”), the use of a specific securitization instrument or tool to counter said threat can be justified (Balzcaq 2011). This dissertation assesses the applicability of securitization theory to US-Mexico border security by studying the effects of a particular securitization instrument and tool fielded along the US-Mexico border, Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT). Through the use of securitization theory, and more specifically a comparative case study involving the use of descriptive data, content analysis and interview data, four cases (California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas) were evaluated. This study considers the operational and technical aspects of GEOINT in these states, as well as the political and symbolic characteristics of this tool and finds that GEOINT provides critical information to border security experts and planners by providing pattern-of-life information pertaining to high-traffic illegal border crossing areas and, that the presence of GEOINT resources along the border plays a role in reproducing the narrative associated with the threat of illegal immigration along the US-Mexico border (Balzacq 2008). Further, this study finds that securitization theory is not only applicable to the US-Mexico border security problem set but also provides a framework for evaluating both the operational and symbolic effects of securitization instruments.

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