Abstract

This essay works to connect the history of local enforcement of immigration law and policy against Mexican migrants and Mexican American citizens and its relationship to the creation and perpetuation of what Michelle Alexander has described as a redesigned caste system in the United States. As state and local government authorities then and now sought to define and respond to a “Mexican menace” as the failed enforcement of federal immigration law, such law and policy challenged not only Congress’s seemingly settled plenary power to determine who had license and permission to be in the United States but also who had the authority to define and extend the benefits of citizenship and full participation in American culture and life. In tandem with federal law, the essay identifies how local ordinances and state statutes created legal and social conditions remarkably similar to the Jim Crow ordinances and state statutes that perpetuated and justified racial discrimination and unequal treatment against African Americans in the years and decades after the Civil War. A local or state government’s attempt to police and deport the “illegal alien” with the use of its county sheriffs, the state patrol, or its national guard highlighted the problematic extent that local and state governments exercised in most disciplinary powers of sovereignty (policing) against Latinos, subject to the most minimal standards of judicial review (immigration law). In the end, the essay highlights the domestic consequences of the United States’ imperial project in the ways that laws and policies designed to preserve a nation’s borders in turn have played a fundamental and pernicious role on the creation and maintenance of a racialized system of social control in the modern multiracial United States.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6490
Print ISSN
0003-0678
Pages
pp. 153-160
Launched on MUSE
2014-03-24
Open Access
No
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