Caught in the Middle: Border Communities in an Era of Globalization


In a world with tremendous growth of goods and people flowing across borders, little attention has been paid to the communities through which these goods and people pass and in which people live. Caught in the Middle provides a fascinating look into the inner workings and realities of border communities along five international borders —United States-Canada, United States-Mexico, Germany-Poland, Russia-China, and Russia-Kazakhstan. The volume focuses on innovative cross-border initiatives that contribute unique ...

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In a world with tremendous growth of goods and people flowing across borders, little attention has been paid to the communities through which these goods and people pass and in which people live. Caught in the Middle provides a fascinating look into the inner workings and realities of border communities along five international borders —United States-Canada, United States-Mexico, Germany-Poland, Russia-China, and Russia-Kazakhstan. The volume focuses on innovative cross-border initiatives that contribute unique insights into the daily lives and local perspectives of border communities. Also, it presents a better understanding of the border management issues faced by countries worldwide, as well as of the nature of relationships between federal and local governments, community leaders, government officials, and local communities.

By shedding light on existing "best practices" and providing comparative analyses of the challenges and opportunities faced by communities, Caught in the Middle provides valuable lessons for policy makers, governments, and researchers alike.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This astutely conceived work addresses itself to a refreshingly precise subject: What are the appropriate functions of borders between states in the age of globalization? Drawing from case studies that reveal the wide range of situations encountered in the world at large, Papademetriou and Meyers elaborate guidelines for an approach to border management that will effectively promote North American integration.
" —Aristide R. Zolberg, New School University

"Papademetriou and Meyers give us an excellent analysis of the issues of governance, cross-border initiative and cooperation, international migration, and the tension that is inherent in the interplay of national and local policy perspectives... and an imaginative vision of a new NAFTA border regime that would enable the United States, Canada, and Mexico to realize the full potential of their regional economic integration initiative.
" —Peter Karl Kresl, Bucknell University

"Caught in the Middle is of outstanding importance to anyone who is interested in feasible alternatives to defensive and at times inefficient border controls.
" —Dilek Cinar, European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research, Austria

"These comparative border studies skillfully highlight some of the key emergent political issues of the twenty-first century.
" —Steven Vertovec, Transnational Communities Programme, University of Oxford

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780870031854
  • Publisher: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Publication date: 10/28/2001
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.08 (w) x 9.02 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

Demetrios G. Papademetriou is the president and cofounder of the Migration Policy Institute. He is also the cofounder and chair emeritus of Metropolis: An International Forum for Research and Policy on Migration and Cities. Deborah W. Meyers is a senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute. Her recent work has focused on U.S., Canada, and Mexico border management issues; North American migration; temporary worker programs; and U.S. immigration policy and process in the post-DHS era.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction 1
Overview, Context, and a Vision for the Future 1
Pt. 1 North America 41
1 Self-Governance Along the U.S.-Canada Border: A View from Three Regions 44
2 Transborder Community Relations at the U.S.-Mexico Border: Laredo/Nuevo Laredo and El Paso/Ciudad Juarez 88
3 Between Order and Chaos: Management of the Westernmost Border Between Mexico and the United States 117
Pt. 2 Europe 163
4 National Borders: Images, Functions, and Their Effects on Cross-Border Cooperation in North America and Europe 166
5 Made-to-Measure Strategy: Self-Governance Initiatives in the Dreilaendereck 200
Pt. 3 Russia 225
6 At the Crossroads: Russian-Chinese Border Interactions 228
7 The Russia-Kazakhstan Border: A Comparison of Three Regional Cases 260
Appendix 305
8 The Development of Free Movement in the European Union 307
Contributors 322
Index 327
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 339
The Migration Policy Institute 340
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By Demetrios G. Papademetriou and Deborah Waller Meyers

In today’s global economy, the increasing flow of goods and people across international borders is a topic of intense interest and incessant discussion. These intertwined phenomena are forcing a conversation about the changing nature of nation-states—a rather recent political construct, at least by historical standards—and, in essence, they may amount to the frontal assault on sovereignty many imagine. This conversation has been difficult to have in the abstract despite the array of forces pointing its necessity, ranging from advances in technology and the steady devolution of political power to lower levels of government, to the long-rising power of multinational corporations and, more recently, that of civil society—which seems to be becoming increasingly important as a transnational force. Some observers point to an additional set of institutions and activities as further evidence of the systematic erosion of the power of the nation-state, particularly the various supranational institutions—such as the World Trade Organization or the European Union’s (EU) bureaucracy in Brussels (the European Commission—EC), as well as the increasing web of sovereignty-delimiting treaties, international agreements, and joint international actions of many forms. For the purposes of their arguments the fact that this loss of sovereignty occurs with the participating states’ consent (whether given freely or obtained through pressure) does not change the basic logic.

These and similar analytical trends—the result of the vast increases in economic and political interdependence (one may even say "integration") that underlie a state’s robust engagement of the international system—seem to have sprouted philosophical roots consistent with the possibility that a Kuhnian "paradigmatic shift" in the conceptualization of the state may be in the offing. That is, we may be at the early stages of a process whereby the persistent questioning of a dominant construct (the nation-state) leads to the articulation of an alternative construct around which analytical agreement begins to coalesce (Kuhn 1962). If indeed we are witnessing such a shift, two of the interrelated philosophical constructs that have undergirded the modern nation-state—exclusive sovereign license over physical territory, and social and political "membership" (these constructs are frequently associated with such giants of modern Western thought as Max Weber and Hannah Arendt but in fact predate them by centuries)—may be among the twenty-first century’s many likely targets for reconsideration.

Other analysts, however, seem skeptical about both the validity and value of the preceding analysis. In some ways, they too sense the onset of a hinge point in how a state is likely to behave in the future toward the twin exclusivities of physical and socio-political "territory"; the change they perceive, however, is toward greater exclusivity and control, rather than their opposites. In defense of their perspective, these analysts point to compelling evidence that, in the post-Cold War era, most advanced industrial states have sought to strengthen their control capabilities by devoting ever-larger shares of their physical and political capital to a multifaceted regulation and control model. Although not all of these states employ all of this model’s facets with equal zeal, two of its components are widely used—those of "saturation policing" (Andreas 2001) and the massive investments of domestic and foreign policy capital made on issues of control. Others of the model’s components, however, are used with varying degrees of diligence and enthusiasm. For instance, the United States has been erecting physical barriers at its southwest border with relative abandon and has created substantial obstacles for both legal and unauthorized immigrants to gain access to its social safety net—while showing extreme ambivalence about other forms of interior control. Most other advanced industrial societies have so far avoided relying on physical barriers and have shown considerable discipline in resisting the urge to adopt U.S.-like cutoffs in social benefits—but show no reluctance to apply most forms of interior control.

To be sure, for most people, maintaining (some will say "reasserting") control over both entry and membership may be less a philosophical litmus test about one’s stand on sovereignty and more a test of the state’s willingness and ability to respond to a pronounced challenge. That is, the effort may have less to do with a philosophical or ideological need to "recapture" control of the state (presumably, from the grasp of transnationalism and its apostles) and more with an attempt to find an antidote to the increasing power of organized private interests seeking to exploit the weakening of national authority for illegitimate purposes. Without demeaning in any way the importance of political symbolism on these issues (Andreas 2001), it is the striving for effective governance and the responsible stewardship of public goods and resources that is likely to be behind current behavior in these respects.

At this writing (spring of 2001), there is little doubt which side is winning both the analytical and the political contest over whether or not the state is in retreat with regard to border (and membership) controls: advanced industrial states are indeed making ever-greater capital and political investments in ever-greater controls. To employ a sometimes useful academic expression, the state seems to have "come back in" with a vengeance. (Relatively little academic effort is devoted to examining whether the state was ever really "gone" or on where it might be "going.") As the state does so, however, there is a troubling lack of interest in applying an "effectiveness" test to the recent rush to controls through the independent evaluation of whether the effort is succeeding by any but the most counterfactual of measurements (see Andreas and Snyder 2000). More disturbingly, there is even less effort to think systematically about whether alternative responses to the challenge might have a greater or lesser chance of success. (A recent report on the U.S.-Mexico relationship is a notable exception to this trend—see U.S.-Mexico Migration Panel 2001.)

This seemingly mindless adherence to doing "more of the same" has had several perverse effects. Two of them seem particularly relevant for this analysis. First, it has largely papered over the human effects of the new enforcement status quo. One reputable academic team estimates that nearly 500 persons died at the U.S. southwest border in 2000 (Eschbach, Hagan, and Rodriguez 2001), a number that goes well beyond the ability of some to dismiss border deaths as regrettable but unavoidable "collateral" damage—"desperate people doing desperate things." Second, the current control regime has had a similar disregard for the policy’s effects on the communities in which people live and through which these goods and people pass—communities that have become the terrain where the manifestations of numerous conflicting perspectives play themselves out.

It is indeed the residents, businesses, and public and private institutions of border communities who most directly absorb the costs and benefits from both freer movement and greater controls. How do these communities navigate these issues, conflicting aims and all? What is life like for those who live and work at the interface of two countries? What is the local perspective on the movement of people and goods that pass through a community; does anyone else care about it? Does the perspective vary from one community, or one border, to another, and what accounts for any variance? What input, if any, do local communities have into national policies that ultimately affect them? What creative solutions have they found to address the challenge of such policies? This volume attempts to shed some light on all of these questions.

Two points of departure have been most dominant in informing the conceptualization of the research project whose results are reported on and analyzed in this volume. The first was a clear sense that, left on their own, national governments and bureaucracies would do what comes most naturally to them: national governments will reassert control in response to popular fears associated with the byproducts of diminishing state authority and controls, and the relevant agencies will seek to convert such fears into additional resources—allowing them to grow in size and gain in influence. (Such influence, in turn, allows bureaucracies to inoculate themselves against attempts to reduce either their budget or their authority.) The U.S. Border Patrol and Germany’s Border Guards are excellent examples of this process at work.

Of course, responses will not be identical across all types of borders. For instance, when national borders are still the subject of some dispute (such as the Russia-China border or some of the Central American borders), are recent creations (such as the Russia-Kazakhstan border), or are separating two states that view each other with suspicion (such as Russia and China), the control impulse will easily trump most institutional forms of cross-border cooperation. More interesting may be, however, that notwithstanding that tendency, local cross-border initiatives continue to occur, even flourish, under all of these scenarios. The work of Solis (2000) and Kosach, Kuzmin, and Mukomel, this volume, point to many such examples.

The project’s second point of departure was an attempt to examine an initially notional idea that after several years of upping the enforcement ante along the U.S. southwest border and elsewhere, many border communities had become concerned with the fact that decisions that affect them directly on issues of borders and their management were being made without their participation. In an era of pronounced devolution, much of it admittedly more rhetorical than real, that decision locus—exclusively in the national capitals, with little pretense of consultation with local communities—struck us as worthy of further investigation. We suspected that the continuing function of borders as the physical location where real and symbolic expressions of state sovereignty meet probably explained why domestic decisions about them are seemingly made "unilaterally" by central governments.

A related observation raised an additional red flag for us. Clearly, the urgency of securing a particular segment of the border and the availability of resources were the best predictors of where the border authorities would focus their efforts and how extensive and intensive the effort would be. Remarkably, however, there was seemingly little difference in how, from an enforcement methodology perspective, a government approached communities distressed by a loose border or those having no particular border-related problems—other than by focusing first on the former. In both instances, the management model seemed to be the same; if the manner in which it was applied seemed to be different in some places, such differences were principally a function of resources and of the "personalities" of and interactions among the relevant national agencies’ local managers.

In fact, as we had hypothesized, a state’s configuration as a unitary or a federal form of government and the degree to which it emphasized power devolution seemed to have had only a marginal effect on the inclusiveness (within a single state) of substantive decision making about the management of borders. For instance, Canada’s at times seemingly pre-determined march toward confederation, its large and clearly defined areas of provincial power sharing and, indeed, primacy, and its abundant mechanisms and processes of federal/provincial co-decision making seem to lead to decisions about borders which do not seem to be appreciably more or less unilateral than those of the United States or, for that matter, Mexico or Russia.

Two interrelated differences, however, remain most relevant among all borders studied in this volume. The degree of threat a state feels from a particular border determines how many resources it will commit to the border control effort. The effectiveness of the effort, however, seems to have only an uncertain association with the resources committed to border controls unless the nation is on a war footing. (The Israeli borders are a classic example of this last model.) In fact, and perhaps somewhat paradoxically, saturation policing and other forms of vigorous control seem to produce numerous perverse by-products. Most significant from the perspective of this volume may be the boom in official corruption and the growth in powerful black markets in virtually all aspects relating to the defeat of the control effort—from false documents to sophisticated smuggling networks. (Increases in human rights violations and, in the case of the U.S. Southwest, in the deaths of would-be illegal immigrants, as well as the increased potential for over-reactions to provocations of all types by either side, point to another set of perverse effects.)

The lesson? Unless the politics make it absolutely impossible, governments are better off working cooperatively and with the market to expand the legal means for the entry of their nationals in other states’ territories. The premise behind this course of action is that, as a rule, acknowledging the economic and social facts on the ground and regulating a practice thoughtfully, stand a much better chance of achieving important public-policy goals than denying the legitimacy of some of the reasons for the practice’s existence and trying to stamp it out through force.

A final aspect of the research further sets this volume apart. Rather than simply providing a case study of a particular border, the volume offers a broadly comparative perspective, reporting on research undertaken as part of the same effort on three different continents. It covers five international borders, over a dozen border regions, and dozens of crossing points. The research thus presents a unique opportunity to discern commonalities and differences among these regions, allows a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges differently-organized border communities face, and identifies a broader range of local initiatives from which it is possible to cull "best practices" for testing in other communities. In addition, the two-year project of which this edited volume is the culmination, has strengthened existing networks of parties interested in this issue, has seeded new networks, and has promoted the widest possible sharing of information and experiences. Though the greater focus of the project has been on the management of migration-related issues, doing so was impossible without considering the broader context, including other kinds of cross-border interactions and cooperation between communities.

Research Aims

A state performs an array of inspection functions at the border, some of them obvious to any traveler. These include immigration and customs controls, as well as controls against the entry of certain agricultural products. Most of the functions, however, are much less visible. Among the latter are public health and public security functions, currency and financial control functions—still only a few of the nearly two dozen agency interests represented at a border inspection facility.

Many of these functions are clearly essential to good government; all serve some public interest. This fact, however, does not obviate the need to ask whether the functions are all essential, whether they can be done only at the border, whether the manner in which they are done is the most appropriate one, and how the lives of border communities are affected by how functions are delivered. Most importantly, perhaps, and like most governmental functions that are both very costly and intrusive, the delivery of the functions itself demands that the relevant agencies meet stringent effectiveness and accountability standards.

The region of most immediate interest for this research was North America, more specifically the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) region. The research sought to gain insights in three broad policy areas: first, how the NAFTA partners perceive and conduct their border "inspection" responsibilities; second, whether such inspections are done in the most effective and efficient manner—as well as in a manner that is consistent with interests in other important public policy priorities; and third, the effect of these actions on the life of communities that straddle NAFTA’s international borders. It was both intellectual curiosity and interest in comparative inquiry that broadened the scope of the research beyond its North American focus.

The expanded research maintained its focus on border community life as a consistent priority across all research sites. Hence the specific focus on the following three subjects: (a) cataloguing and understanding existing local initiatives toward greater cooperation between border communities located on different sides of an international border; (b) better understanding the similarities and differences in that regard among such communities; and (c) extracting and contextualizing "best practices" in local self-management with regard to cross-border matters. Field research results were then used to assess and develop a perspective on the state of integration within North America, and particularly within the North American Free Trade Agreement space, and to articulate a vision for such integration in fifteen or twenty years. ......

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