In an increasingly globalized world, border control is continuously changing. Nation-states grapple with ‘migration management’ and maintain secure borders against ‘illegal’ flows. In Mexico, borders are elusive; internal and external security is blurred, and policies create legal categories of people whether it is a ‘trusted’ tourist or an ‘unauthorized’ migrant. For the ‘unauthorized’ Central American woman migrant trying to achieve safe passage to the United States (U.S.), the ‘border’ is no longer only a physical line to be crossed but a category placed on an individual body, which exists throughout her migration journey producing vulnerability as soon as the Mexico–Guatemala boundary is crossed. Based on policy analysis and fieldwork, this article argues that rather than protecting ‘unauthorized’ migrants, which the Mexican government narrative claims to do, border policies imposed by the state legally categorize female bodies in clandestine terms and construct violent relationships. This embodied illegality creates forced invisibility, further marginalizing women with respect to finding work, and experiences of sexual violence and abuses by migration actors. The analysis focuses on three areas: the changing definition of ‘borders’; the effects of categorization and multiple vulnerabilities on Central American women; and the dangers caused by forced invisibility.
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