The trial of Ricardo Aldape Guerra
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Ricardo Aldape Guerra was an undocumented Mexican migrant who was wrongfully convicted and given a death sentence for the murder of a white Houston police officer in 1982. In the absence of any physical evidence that implicated Aldape Guerra for the crime, Harris County prosecutors appealed to extreme anti-Mexican immigrant hostility in Houston by repeatedly emphasizing Aldape Guerra’s undocumented immigration status to the jury in order to construct him as a dangerous “illegal alien” deserving of severe punishment. This thesis situates Aldape Guerra’s encounter with the Texas legal system within related histories of social, cultural, economic, political, and legal phenomena in the United States in order to obtain a more complete understanding and to excavate critical lessons about the overall treatment of undocumented Mexican migrants in the U.S. legal system. It argues that the isolation of law from histories of racialization of Mexican migrants renders the U.S. legal system inadequate to protect undocumented Mexican migrants against racial discrimination, even in the court of law. It also argues that the U.S. legal system also cannot account for the material effects of transnational neoliberal capitalism on the cross-border movement of Mexican labor forces. This failure cultivates flawed legal reasoning in immigration jurisprudence that equates “illegality” with danger and criminality.