New Special Issue on Immigration: Migrant Illegality across Uneven Legal Geographies

The Law & Policy journal recently published a special issue on immigration titled, Migrant Illegality across Uneven Legal Geographies. In the special issue, the authors examine the lived experiences of undocumented immigrants and their families, paying particular attention to the effects of place and the law.

The special issue features the following articles:

Migrant Illegality across Uneven Legal Geographies: Introduction to the Special Issue by Edelina M. Burciaga, Lisa M. Martinez, Kevin Escudero, Andrea Flores, Joanna Perez, and Carolina Valdivia

Legal-Spatial Consciousness: A Legal Geography Framework for Examining Migrant Illegality by Andrea Flores, Kevin Escudero, and Edelina M. Burciaga

“Here we advance the concept of legal–spatial consciousness—an individual’s awareness of how law and space are mutually formed and influential on their lives. Through this concept, we explore how undocumented youth in a variety of American destinations understand and experience migrant illegality. By examining how immigration law and local places are imbricated, we demonstrate how immigrant illegality is defined not only by a patchwork of municipal, state, and federal laws, but also by how undocumented people move through these differently legal spaces in their everyday lives. Illegality is thus continually reproduced through individuals’ im/mobility through space.”

Driver’s Licenses for All? Racialized Illegality and the Implementation of Progressive Immigration Policy in California by Laura E. Enriquez, Daisy Vazquez Vera, and S. Karthick Ramakrishnan

“Progressive subfederal immigration policy aims to reduce the consequences of illegality for undocumented immigrants. Drawing on interviews with representatives from immigrant‐serving organizations in California, we examine the case of Assembly Bill (A.B.) 60 driver’s licenses to assess whether all Californian undocumented immigrants have equal access to a driver’s license. Although A.B. 60 was race‐neutral legislation, we argue that its implementation was shaped by racialized migration histories and that it reproduces racialized illegality. Specifically, the deep history of undocumented Mexican migration to California has shaped the institutional capacity of nonprofit and community organizations, foreign consulates, and the Department of Motor Vehicles to advocate for, implement, and serve A.B. 60 applicants. As a result, Spanish‐speaking, Latina/o/x immigrants, particularly those of Mexican origin, experience greater access to A.B. 60 driver’s licenses. To combat this, organizations actively worked to reracialize illegality as an issue that also affects non‐Latino populations. Ultimately, we demonstrate that the construction and experience of illegality are deeply tied to race and place.”

“FU”: One Response to the Liminal State Immigrant Youth Must Navigate by Darlene Xiomara Rodriguez, Paul N. McDaniel, and Gianni Bisio

“Undocumented youth experience partial integration in some institutional spaces but remain barred from others. Although they are permitted to attend and graduate from K–12 public schools, the geographic unevenness of immigration policy leads to inequitable access to higher education for undocumented youth. In this article, we examine undocumented higher education access and how an underground freedom school is providing an alternative. We apply the theoretical lens of spaces of care within the framework of geographies of care to understand the uneven legal geographies that exist and the structures that emerge to equip and empower youth to leverage their experiences with illegality.”

Geographies of Confinement for Immigrant Youth: Checkpoints and Immobilities along the US/Mexico Border by Heidi Castañeda and Milena A. Melo

“The containment of immigrants along the US/Mexico border illuminates the complex spatial implications associated with the securitization of migration enforcement. The production of marginalized, carceral national spaces has particular consequences for the people who inhabit them, as processes of spatial illegality shape their daily lives. Our analyses draw on five years of ethnographic study in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Here, we focus on the experiences of sixty‐one undocumented youth, including recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, to explore how the spatial violence created by checkpoints and everyday policing practices lead to experiences of confinement and accelerate processes of social exclusion. Spillover effects occur as all inhabitants must pass through inspection points and demonstrate proof of identity and legal residency; this contributes to the reformulation of citizenship. To this, our article adds insight into how social membership is experienced at the checkpoints so that “citizenship” and “authorization” become conflated. Early childhood and youth experiences of freely crossing spaces with school programs yet living with uncertain and precarious status contribute to persistent fear, instability, and confusion under a multilayered immigration policy regime.”

Expanding Geographies of Deportability: How Immigration Enforcement at the Local Level Affects Undocumented and Mixed-Status Families by Carolina Valdivia

“This article examines the impact of policies and programs that have expanded immigration enforcement from the federal to the local level. Drawing from in‐depth interviews with over sixty individuals who are members of undocumented or mixed‐status families, I discuss how these initiatives have extended the geography of deportability from traditional sites that focus explicitly on immigration enforcement (e.g., the US–Mexico border) to more nontraditional sites in the public sphere (e.g., driving under the influence checkpoints or grocery stores). I demonstrate how this intensification of enforcement strains undocumented immigrants’ resources as well as their participation in school, work, and their communities.”

Dreams Deterred: The Collateral Consequences of Localized Immigration Policies on Undocumented Latinos in Colorado by Lisa M. Martinez and Debora M. Ortega

“Recent years have seen a broadening of the scope of immigration enforcement. As a result, immigrants free of criminal convictions, once considered low priorities for enforcement, are increasingly subject to arrest, detention, and removal. At the same time, federal immigration authorities have sought the cooperation of states and localities in the enforcement of immigration laws. While there has been growing scholarly attention paid to the ways in which legal geographies can account for variation in local immigration policies, the long‐term effects of these policies on immigrants themselves are often overlooked. In this article, we use the case of Colorado, one of the first states to pass a “show‐me‐your‐papers” law in 2006, and data from two qualitative studies to highlight the collateral consequences of enhanced immigration enforcement on immigrants’ economic opportunities, emotional health and well‐being, and academic trajectories. We situate our analysis within the crimmigration literature and discuss the implications of our findings in light of the current political climate.”


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