Gatekeeping and acts of passage: battered immigrants, nonprofits, and teh state

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2007
Authors
Villalón, Roberta
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Gendered violence-based immigration laws and nonprofit organizations helping in their implementation have been considered crucial tools in providing access to citizenship for battered immigrants. Despite the progressive character of such institutions, barriers that filter immigrants as worthy to become legitimate members of the United States or as illegitimate subjects remain in place. I explore this paradox based on an in-depth case study of OLA, a nonprofit organization in Texas that provided legal services free of charge to immigrants who not only had been victims of violence, but also were economically impaired to afford the costs related to the application process. My dissertation shows how systems of class, racial/ethnic and gender inequality are formally reflected in the options available for them through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA), informally reproduced by immigrants' advocates in their daily work practices, and inadvertently reinforced by immigrant applicants. Immigration laws are a major component of the gates that the state creates to reaffirm its sovereignty since these regulate which individuals are welcomed to form part of its population. Legal nonprofits organizations, such as OLA, function as nongovernmental bureaucracies that mediate between the immigrants in quest of legal status, and the state granting legality. In assisting in the implementation of immigration laws, nonprofits inadvertently contribute to the procreation of the citizenship ideals and disciplines beneath state laws. In such manner, they become brokers of mainstream social norms, and reinforce the selective structure of and gated access to American society. Battered immigrants attempting to pass through the formal and informal gates to legality have to balance their obedient and dissident acts in order to satisfy the expectations of those who may grant them access, that is, both nonprofit staff and immigration officers. The interactions between immigrants, nonprofit workers, and the state reveal the intricate ways in which the stratified and stratifying quality of society is (intentionally and unintentionally) recreated on a daily basis.

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