Bordering Circuitry: Crossjurisdictional Immigration Surveillance


This Article builds upon literature on immigration surveillance, border control, and policing to explore the role of interoperable information systems and data sharing practices in the social control of immigrants from Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Based upon an analysis of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) documents and statistical data, this Article examines two DHS information sharing programs. First, the Law Enforcement Notification System (LENS) enables the U.S. government to disclose information on “criminal aliens” to domestic law enforcement agencies. Second, the Criminal History Information Sharing (CHIS) program enables the U.S. government to share information on “criminal aliens” with the Government of Mexico and the governments of select Central American and Caribbean countries. Through these two information sharing programs, DHS engaged in information sharing with state, local, and foreign law enforcement agencies in over 47,000 instances between 2014 and 2017. This Article describes the construction, implementation, deployment, and consequences of LENS and CHIS. Through information sharing programs like LENS and CHIS, U.S. immigration authorities construct bordering circuitry—geographic configurations of information exchange and enforcement practices
that are directed at an everwidening group of criminalized immigrants. Patterned geographies of surveillance link jurisdictions in the United States, particularly states and regions with heightened immigration enforcement, to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. In the process, local police become increasingly integral to domestic immigration surveillance and the construction of internal borders. Furthermore, in exporting criminal history information to other countries, U.S. law enforcement officials influence policing and punishment practices in the global South. U.S. immigration surveillance programs thus contribute to global dynamics of criminalization, immobilization, and exclusion, albeit in ways that are limited by interoperability concerns.

immobilization, and exclusion, albeit in ways that are limited by interoperability concerns.

About the Author

Ana Muñiz is Assistant Professor of Criminology, Law & Society at the University of California, Irvine. Her work examines gang profiling and enforcement as a practice of racial criminalization and control. Muñiz’s current projects examine information systems, classification schemes, and data sharing between local, federal, and international law enforcement agencies.