The Central American refugee crisis has been aggravated by the Trump administration’s policies, but this administration certainly did not precipitate it. The first half of this article examines the determinant role US policy played—and continues to play—in the violence that has sent tens of thousands of refugees to the US-Mexico border, showing how Carl Schmitt’s friend-enemy distinction has repeatedly been used to represent Central Americans as the existential enemy. From Ronald Reagan through Bill Clinton, administrations crafted policies toward the Central American enemy, directly creating the gang violence in the Northern Triangle. This article considers if the cost of security for the US citizenship is borne by the insecurity of Central American citizenship. The second half of the article examines fictionalized accounts drawn from the testimonies of women held in detention at Dilley, Texas, the existential enemy par excellence of the Trump administration. The reasons for their flight elucidate the particular ways in which gang violence against them and their children is gendered, showing how heteropatriarchy is decisive in both Mara violence and ICE and Border Patrol response to that violence, as evidenced in the experience of these women and their families.

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