Let’s empty the clip : state-level immigration restriction and community resistance
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The following dissertation is an ethnographic study the immigration enforcement policy of “attrition via enforcement,” as seen through Alabama’s “Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act” (commonly known as “HB56”) came to be passed into law and implemented, the effects that it had on the Latino immigrant community residing in Alabama, and how the Latino community in Alabama resisted the law by engaging in formal, organized resistance. Alabama lawmakers. I demonstrate how the law was designed to push undocumented immigrants, particularly Latinos, to self-deport by criminalizing routine, everyday activities necessary for social reproduction. As one of the co-sponsors was quoted saying, this law was conceived of to “…to empty the clip and do what needs to get done (Rolley 2011)” to stop the growth of Latino communities in the state that they perceive as a threat of social decay. While the law initially paralyzed the Latino immigrant community, The conclusions drawn from this study are based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted between 2010-2012 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and draws from ethnographic observations and semi-structured interviews with Latino immigrant residents and community organizers in my field site. In this study, I provide a brief historical overview of Alabama history and the growth of Latino populations in the South to set the context for my analysis and share my own reflections on being a Brown woman anthropologist and activist scholar in the South. I argue that HB56 exemplifies institutionalized colorblind racism as evidenced by the use of a discourse of “polite racism” by Alabama lawmakers who equated Latino immigrants as “illegal.” Based on this analysis, I find that “Attrition via Enforcement” in Alabama is a strategy of state-level immigration enforcement law and policy that criminalizes the everyday life of the emergent Latino population. I move to argue that the criminalization of life through immigration enforcement necessitates that we understand the border as something that “follows you anywhere.” I argue that immigration enforcement strategies today make us understand the border as it is a fluid, lived experience that is reproduced in ordinary, everyday actions. Lastly, I document how Latinos in my field site demonstrated resistance to the law by employing opportunistic defensive tactics, which I characterize as ponerse trucha (making like the trout). While these tactics may have initially been for individual benefit, they demonstrate the existence of and reliance on a tight-knit social network amongst the Latino community in my field site. I then show how these defensive tactics eventually led the community to engage in formal organized resistance to challenge HB56 and in so doing came to engage the national immigrant justice movement.