'What part of illegal don't you understand?': Bureaucracy and civil society in the shaping of illegality

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

While unauthorized immigration has existed in the USA since the inception of immigration laws in the early twentieth century, 'illegality' did not become a central concern in mainstream debate until the late 1970s. Existing scholarship has developed two lines of argument to explain the salience of illegality: a state-centred approach that sees bureaucrats pushing forth the category, and a 'bottom-up' approach that emphasizes the grass-roots activism of restrictionist organizations effectively disguising their nativism by appealing to law and order. The data collected here builds on but complicates the state-centred explanation, and points away from the 'bottom-up' approach. I locate a critical juncture in the immigration debate during the early 1970s and argue that the shift towards the focus on illegality as a point of concern was due to an alignment of interests that brought an array of civil society organizations commonly understood as progressive to coincide with sectors of the bureaucracy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-203
Number of pages23
JournalEthnic and Racial Studies
Volume37
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Latinos in the USA
  • civil society
  • critical juncture
  • discourse analysis
  • illegality
  • undocumented immigration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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