The Politics of Punishment and Protection:Deploying Penal Power in American Immigration Control,1990-2017
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This dissertation examines one of the significant transformations in American immigration control over the last two decades: divergent legal regimes of immigrant governance in various state and local jurisdictions, especially the emergence of a crimmigration system in some states. Drawing on comparative historical methodology, it documents and compares divergent processes of constructing immigration control in two select states—the development of crimmigration and governing through crime in Arizona, and the growth of immigrant protection and governing through support in Illinois. Based on extensive historical, qualitative data and secondary sources, this study reveals that broad socio-economic changes and subsequent political struggles and contestations converged and reconfigured how state actors understood and responded to the “problem” of immigration and thus constructed divergent fields of immigration control. To explain different legal and policy outcomes, I develop an explanatory framework that emphasizes socio-political processes and institutional logics. Specifically, three interrelated processes play a critical role in shaping states’ divergent approaches to immigrant governance: the cultural orientation, the structural relation, and the institutional dynamics. They interact with each other in complex, multi-directional ways in which political choices and administrative decisions are conditioned and shaped. This study also highlights the significance of collations formed among local organizations and their ties with state actors in influencing how state legal regimes of immigration control take shape. In addition, this study suggests that Arizona’s deployment of penal power in immigration control and the resulting formation of crimmigration have operated to restructure citizenship through “hostile solidarity.” The criminalization of immigrants in Arizona is a penal expression of the emergent culture of control and the rising anti-immigrant populism when the state defines the immigration issue as a “law and order” problem and chooses punitive measures to respond immigration and other socio-economic insecurities. By analyzing specific contextual factors fashioning the variegated trajectories of constructing immigration control fields, and their use (or non-use) of penal power as a response, this study helps understand the hybrid, dynamic and contingent nature of immigration control in contemporary American society. Theory, research and policy implications are drawn from the findings of the study.
SubjectCrimmigration, the sociology of punishment, penal power, immigration control, law and society