Mapping the denial of space : Latinos and United States immigration law

Access full-text files




Flynn, Paul Conan

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Immigration legal spaces such as courtrooms and national borders are constructed by the geopolitical tensions that exist between U.S. nationalism and foreign bodies traversing its territory. Mexican, Guatemalan, Salvadorian, and Hondurans—referred to as Latinos in this research—constitute nearly all of deportation from the United States in recent decades. In addition to these deportation trends, Latinos are also less likely to receive some form of relief from deportation despite increasing violence and political instability in Latin America. Immigration law is federal and therefore is supposed to provide the same standards and protocols for all nationalities in every immigration court. This thesis investigates how the immigration and asylum process is in fact spatialized and biased to regional politics. The connection between rituals, myths, and symbols of nationalism in the judgement of Latinos are also examined. A third component explores how migrant and refugee bodies are codified in immigration law through their experiences with immigration legal spaces. This thesis uses a mixed methods approach to understanding the spatial processes involved in the judgement and deportation of Latinos from the United States. GIS is used to validate the uneven geography of immigrant justice and identify specific locations of inequality. Reflected in the geospatial analysis, Texas’ courts are places of increased deportations and denials of asylum. Ethnographic observations in San Antonio and Pearsall’s courtrooms were conducted to extract qualitative information elucidating the asymmetric use of immigration enforcement. A second field site in Chicago was chosen to compare the impacts of border politics on Latinos in removal hearings. My research finds that immigration legal spaces are constructed through the use of nationalist myths and symbols to control the mobility of Latino bodies. Moreover, deportations are significantly influenced by geopolitics and the spatial relationship of immigration legal spaces.


LCSH Subject Headings