This paper employs an abolitionist framework to understand direct-action humanitarian aid along the US-Mexico border. Focusing on my own experiences volunteering with No More Deaths, an organization providing critical aid along the US-Mexico border, I think through the role of care in the work and its abolitionist dimensions. I consider how micropractices of care, for migrants and between aid workers, open onto a larger project of dismantling logics of racialized criminalization that structure the production of disavowable life in border enforcement. The production of disavowable, migrant life is produced through a process I call, building off the work of Ruth Wilson Gilmore, strategic abandonment, a calculus of value wherein minoritized communities are rendered unworthy of care or protection by virtue of a racialized, criminal status. Strategic abandonment is a central tactic of neoliberal governance regarding immigration and is employed with deadly force to police the border. No More Deaths’ project of care becomes an abolitionist project in that it abolishes hierarchies of human value and the logics of criminalization and strategic abandonment that produce the crisis of migrant death along the border. Focusing specifically on volunteer experiences, I think through the ways in which care functions to “dismantle, change, and build” these structuring logics at the border, as the abolitionist CRio Publishing Collective puts it. I propose that care, in its practices and positionalities, is a central means of imagining and instating new modes of recognition, inclusion, and the understanding of migration in the shadow of neoliberalism.

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