Constructing the American Migrant Crisis

Securitization amidst Polarization

  • Sarah Atkinson


Using the Copenhagen School’s (1998) securitization framework and Scott Watson’s (2009) amendments, this paper demonstrates how Donald Trump used securitizing language to construct a national crisis, emanating from the southern border of the United States, that resisted saliency in a starkly polarized political climate. Key facilitating factors, including the frame resonance of xenophobic attitudes towards Mexican migrants and the institutionalization of migrant securitization throughout US history, caused his rhetoric to resonate with the far-right. However, political opposition and public opinion polls showed significant audience rejection of Trump’s securitization efforts. The conclusion notes consequences of migrant securitization and prospects for the Biden administration.


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Author Biography

Sarah Atkinson

Sarah Atkinson is in her fifth and final year of a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. She's passionate about international relations, Latin American politics, and human rights. Outside of Zoom calls, Sarah can be found rock climbing, hiking, and camping on the west coast.

How to Cite
Atkinson, S. (2021). Constructing the American Migrant Crisis: Securitization amidst Polarization. On Politics, 14(2), 47-64. Retrieved from