Bridging Divides and Challenging Enforcement in Undocumented Youth Organizing (Social Science Colloquium Series)

Titsworth Marjorie Leff Miller ’53 Lecture Hall

Open to the public

/ Tuesday


Undocumented migrants have been legally and discursively divided between the exceptional college-going young person and their relational counterpart the criminal adult. While studies have focused on the role that activists and advocates play in creating these dividing lines of deservingness, Sarah Lawrence College public policy faculty member Luisa Laura Heredia turns the lens back on the state and its role in creating and entrenching the relational legal identities of migrant exceptionality and criminality in order to quell activism and legitimize a muscular enforcement regime. In this talk, Heredia explores the high-risk direct action tactics that undocumented young people carried out between 2010 and 2014 to challenge the U.S. immigration enforcement regime that these dividing lines supported. Drawing on Tugba Basaran’s concept of the legal infrastructure of border zones Heredia specifies how the state legally produced a differentiated illegality between exceptional young people and criminal others, and how young people’s activism challenged these productions of legal identities and geographies that set them apart from criminalized migrants. Heredia argues that during this time young undocumented activists were crafting a “movement of illegals” in which they rejected the exceptional/criminal divide used to legitimize an expansive enforcement apparatus and instead built a movement based on their shared relation to the state as undocumented and “ultimately expellable.”

Luisa Laura Heredia is the Joanne Woodward Chair in Public Policy at Sarah Lawrence College. Her research interests include Latino and immigration politics, with special interests in migration control regimes, social movements, inequalities in citizenship, and religion in the United States and Spain. Current work compares the development of U.S. and Spain enforcement regimes, their constructions of racialized “illegal” bodies, and their radical movements to dismantle the state’s migration control practices. Her first book project, Illegal Redemption, investigates the crucial yet contradictory role that the Catholic Church has played in challenging a growing and restrictive regime of immigration control in the United States in the contemporary period. Author of “From Prayer to Protest: The Immigrant Rights Movement and the Catholic Church,” a chapter in the edited volume, Rallying for Immigrant Rights, by Irene Bloemraad and Kim Voss.

This event is part of the 2018-2019 Social Science Colloquium Series, which is designed to provide the college community a consistent showcase for those engaged in important and pressing contemporary issues in the social sciences. The series is sponsored by the Donald C. Samuel Fund for Economics and Politics and the Social Science Group.