Penn Arts and Sciences

The Deportation Machine: Policing, Color Blind Racism, and the Institutional Production of Immigrant Criminality (Amada Armenta)

Friday, April 11, 2014 - 2:00pm - 3:30pm

CHANGES TO IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT POLICIES and tactics have resulted in the expansion of deportation in the United States. However, little is known about the institutional dynamics and everyday enforcement practices that channel immigrants into the criminal justice system.

Drawing on two years of fieldwork in Nashville, Prof. Armenta offers an on-the-ground account of police behavior, the first actors connecting immigrants to the criminal justice system. Building on theories of institutional and color-blind racism,  she identifies a system of “institutional nativism” – a set of policies and practices that work together to systematically detect, subordinate and expel noncitizens.

The unauthorized accrue additional disadvantage related to their alienage through three mechanisms: 1) the local police department’s mandate that officers create contact with residents via traffic enforcement, inevitably puts offers in contact with immigrants, some of whom are unauthorized; 2) state laws prohibit unauthorized residents from obtaining driver’s licenses and identification cards, increasing their risk of arrest by local police; and 3) immigration screenings at the local jail. Local police are largely blind to their participation in deportation and explain their behavior through a color-blind ideology. This color-blind ideology obscures and naturalizes how organizational practices and laws converge to systematically criminalize unauthorized Latino residents.

Armada Armenta is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Penn.

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