"Punishment, Race, and the Organization of Immigration Exclusion." In Political Research Quarterly 69(4):640-654 (go to article)

- WPSA Best Article Published in Political Research Quarterly Award (2016)
- WPSA Pi Sigma Alpha (Best Paper Presented at Conference) Award (2011)

Punishment, Race, and the Organization of Immigration Exclusion


Although the punitive character of the US immigration enforcement regime has been noted, less research has inquired into the productivity of punishment beyond detention and deportation, the particular rationale of punishment, and the way in which punitive enforcement shapes (rather than targets)race. By analyzing anti-migrant rhetoric and the practices of immigration enforcement, I argue that punishment is best understood as a violent material reassertion of the narrative of the United States as a nation of laws. My biopolitical approach to immigration innovates by (a) conceptualizing the process through which race becomes a biopolitical divide, (b) noting that the construction of race also shapes the meaning of whiteness, and (c) showing the particular ways in which sovereignty, discipline and biopower are combined in the U.S. immigration enforcement regime. I illustrate these claims by examining policies and practices that characterize contemporary immigration enforcement and find that punishment fulfills functions of regeneration, discipline, or moralization, among others, and treats different subpopulations of migrants differently. Even inclusionary interventions involve processes of subjectification among the beneficiaries. I conclude by examining the implications of this framework for understanding the current political stalemate.

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