This essay argues that the failures of U.S. immigration enforcement institutions functioned as a strategic policy from 2003 to 2010, when the undocumented population in the United States reached an unprecedented twelve million people. The author examines how the so-called broken immigration system installed a repressive form of governmentality based in failure. While deferring any legalization, federal and state authorities fostered a regime of exclusion and removal that constituted a class of minimal subjects, those of unauthorized migrants and their kin who would effectively exist outside the community of rights. During this period, immigration arrests and deportations reached unprecedented levels, at a moment when the majority of the undocumented remained an irredeemably criminalized status. By disavowing any intention to conduct mass deportations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents gained sanction for more targeted campaigns of militarized raids, racial profiling, and detentions. The author argues that heightened enforcement, including the 287g program, created dangerous opportunities for government agents to suspend basic democratic restraints on state power, often for interests of racial and class antagonism that exceeded the bounds of immigration enforcement—with severe consequences for Latino communities. By mobilizing a social imaginary predicated on the necessity of uprooting the undocumented, federal, state, and local officials committed themselves to the actions of a police state and sanctioned a system of apartheid governance within the boundaries of the United States.
Skip Nav Destination
Research Article| December 01 2010
Alicia Schmidt Camacho; Hailing the Twelve Million: U.S. Immigration Policy, Deportation, and the Imaginary of Lawful Violence. Social Text 1 December 2010; 28 (4 (105)): 1–24. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-2010-008
Download citation file: