Michelle Chen: “Deportation Politics and Social Change under an Evolving U.S. Immigration Regime”

Michelle Chen

“Deportation Politics and Social Change under an Evolving U.S. Immigration Regime”

Friday, December 13


America has always been of two minds about its immigrants—often, it has been of a multitude of minds. Some are considered newcomers—those grainy figures flocking toward the beacon of freedom embodied in Manhattan’s totemic Statue of Liberty. Others are not so openly embraced, eking out a bare- bones existence in the dregs of the labor market, trying to do right at the edges of the promise of capitalist prosperity. Untold numbers are in a state of exit or exclusion—detained, forcibly removed, their possibility of citizenship denied in a state of sometimes indefinite exile. My research will focus on this latter group, who intersect heavily with the two other contingents of the immigrant population, across the twentieth century. This was the era in which the modern immigration system was legislated, its enforcement mechanisms hardened. It was also a period of social tumult that gave rise to a groundswell of popular resistance movements in ethnic communities. In all these movements, immigrant identity was at least an ancillary part of the social development of their institutions, culture and organizing tactics. Often, resistance to draconian immigration policy became central to their political platform.