Central American immigrant women and the enactment of state policy : everyday restriction on Mexico's southern border
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Central American immigrant women living in the Mexico-Guatemala border city of Tapachula routinely face multiple barriers to availing themselves and their children of rights entitled to them by law. In many cases, these denials unfold at the scale of the everyday, through interactions with low-to mid-level officials. As embodiments of the state, low-to mid-level officials such as bureaucrats, educators, social workers and healthcare officials possess the power to regulate immigrant citizenship and belonging through their everyday actions. However, we know very little about how officials working on the ground interpret and implement their power on an everyday basis; how this impacts immigrant experience and exercise of social and political citizenship rights; and how immigrants in turn respond to and negotiate results of interactions in their lives. Women and their Mexican-born children are disproportionately affected by this phenomenon, inducing consequences, such as exclusion from political and social citizenship, barring of children from the education system, and increased vulnerability to exploitation and domestic violence. Building upon literature on the changing geographies of the state, citizenship and migration in Geography, this dissertation seeks to broaden and deepen our understanding of how interactions between immigrant women and the micro-level state play out at the scale of the everyday and how these processes are significant in the lives of immigrants as well as low-to mid-level officials. Another goal of this work is to go beyond one-sided views of officials, to understand the overarching institutional contexts for their actions. To meet these objectives, I analyze data obtained during over a year of fieldwork conducted in Tapachula. My research consisted of in-depth interviews with low-to mid-level officials and Central American immigrant women, participatory workshops, and participant observation working in a local government agency. My findings suggest that low-to-mid level officials' actions constitute a form of everyday restriction, which, implemented through minute, mundane actions has major impacts on immigrant women's sense of citizenship in Tapachula. However, officials' actions are informed by complex institutional and socio-spatial factors and power-relations, which provide valuable context for our understanding of this phenomenon.