Gabriella E. Sanchez is a lecturer on Transnational Feminism and Migration at Wellesley College’s Women and Gender Studies Department. An anthropologist by training, Gabriella is a graduate of Arizona State University’s Justice and Social Inquiry Program. Her research interests include crime, migration, underground migrant economies, and national security discourses with a focus on border regions.
Gabriella has conducted fieldwork along the U.S. – Mexico Border, Central America, North Africa, and the Middle East, where she has documented the experiences of the men and women involved in drug and human smuggling operations as traffickers/smugglers. A Boren and a Fulbright fellow, she was also a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Maryland’s Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism(START) where she led a study on transnational organized crime in Mexico and Central America. Her work characterizes the underground economies of the border as mechanisms that foster community ties and that carry no criminal intentions. Her research has shown that the majority of smuggling operations are conducted by low-income, marginalized individuals as a means to strengthen family and community ties, establish social status, and on occasion, as a source of supplemental income. Furthermore, she has found no evidence of ties between community-based operations and transnational criminal organizations. Violence, if present, is only relied upon sporadically by participants. The increase in the number of kidnappings and other forms of violence against undocumented migrants in transit along borders around the world is not tied to smuggling organizations alone. Instead, the emergence of clearly distinct groups targeting undocumented migrants coincides with the creation of laws criminalizing migrants’ everyday lives and the ensuing reduced likelihood of undocumented immigrants seeking justice.