Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Global Governance and Human Security

First Advisor

Karen Ross

Second Advisor

Jeffrey Pugh

Third Advisor

Stacy VanDeveer, Cinzia Solari, Lilia Soto


The United States has historically thought of itself as a “nation of immigrants,” has been the destination for many immigrant groups, and has resettled a relatively large number of refugees. Yet while international migration has potential benefits for all involved, politicians have increasingly framed migration as a security issue and migrants as threats. The securitization of migration refers to the social construction of migration as a security issue and is concerned with both speech acts that utilize security language (from the Copenhagen School) and praxis, how this is expressed through policies, institutions, and governmentality (from the Paris School). More than “just words,” as a discourse, the securitization of migration is an exercise of power, has lived implications, and can manifest in conflicts between migrants and host societies, impeding a smooth resettlement and integration process. This research therefore seeks to understand the relationship between securitization and social integration, and how immigrants’ and refugees’ intersectional identities are tied up in these processes. This study examines political discourses around migration and refugees in the post-9/11 United States, focusing on both presidential and gubernatorial (Massachusetts) discourse. The project also aims to emphasize the perspectives and voices of immigrant and refugee communities, not taking for granted political discourses, but rather centering the understandings and experiences of those who have been historically marginalized. Beyond analyzing security discourse, the study investigates how immigrants and refugees make sense of, navigate, and respond to these discourses, and how these discourses may impact their lived experiences and social connections. Moreover, engaging in an intersectional analysis, the study considers how identities and social locations are featured in discourse and have implications for lived experiences. Employing methods including content analysis, critical discourse analysis, and interviews, and informed by standpoint feminism and literature from several fields, this project takes a transdisciplinary approach and seeks to make theoretical and practical contributions. The study demonstrates that securitizing discourse is a choice and a strategy that is ever-present in presidential discourse but changes over time, and that these discourses have impacts on immigrants’ and refugees’ emotions, behaviors, and social connections. The research also draws attention to several counternarratives from immigrant and refugee communities which underscores the agency and voices of these communities and demonstrates the importance of considering multiple security narratives. As the securitization of migration becomes increasingly mainstream, research on securitization and social integration is increasingly important for a deeper understanding of mitigating adverse lived experiences from being labeled a “threat” and promoting social integration in host societies.


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