Making Immigrants Illegal in Small-Town USA

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Abstract

Using two discourse-analytical lenses, one genealogical and the other textual, this article traces the interdiscursive history through which the social categories “Mexican immigrant” and “illegal alien” have become conflated in the United States, effectively criminalizing Mexican immigrants as dangerous Others. Today, this conflation is a prime source for the racialization of not only Mexican immigrants, but other Latin American immigrants as well, where racialization is understood as a form of social differentiation that marks people as inherently threatening and foreign. This article focuses on the ways this conflation has been established and circulated in U.S. immigration policy. After offering a genealogy of the relevant federal policy, I provide a textual analysis of an anti-immigrant ordinance penned in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. I trace the interdiscursive strategies used by municipal officials in constructing the ordinance, showing that they extend the “legal racialization” in federal code by expanding the categories of behavior associated with immigrant illegality. [Legal discourse; racialization; interdiscursivity; performative nomination; Latin American immigration; Hazleton]

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