The Central U.S.–Mexico Borderlands during the 2020 Pandemic

  • Kathy Staudt


This essay begins by setting the scene of the 2020 novel coronavirus virus (COVID- 19) pandemic in the central U.S.–Mexico borderlands. The essay then outlines the pre-pandemic situation, from 2016-2019, one characterized by larger numbers of migrant arrivals from Central America, harsh U.S. anti-refugee and anti-Mexican practices, and hardened border controls. The article then discusses pandemic-linked deaths and closures of the border to all but U.S. citizens and Legal Permanent Residents and to slightly diminished cargo traffic, rising again by July and numbers of COVID-19 deaths declining thereafter. Official U.S. border rhetoric has broadened to strengthen nationalist security rationales around health, while activists push back against harsh policy practices, creating an ongoing, dynamic tension in the borderlands.