In southern Costa Rica, in late 2019, the fieldwork mainly focused on a migrant reception center close to Golfito, a town near the border with Panama. At the border, Costa Rican humanitarian and security personnel were working in cooperation with Panamanian border police to implement the flujo controlado or ‘controlled flow’ agreement. With this agreement, both governments aim to guarantee a safe and orderly transit of migrants, by using surveillance methods while also providing humanitarian care. Participant observation in the center and at the border showed how Costa Rican staff categorized migrants along lines of age, health status, gender and origin, shaping migrant experience. At the center, further distinctions were drawn between migrants, leading to differentiated provisions and techniques of care and control. Migrants classified as “family members” had an interview with the Costa Rican Youth Welfare Office, people from pre-defined “crisis and conflict countries” were questioned by the police and people with health problems could get care from the Red Cross. In addition, research around the center revealed its connection to other local actors in the migration industry, and perceptions of migrants as racialized subjects by parts of the local population.