Immigrants and the Law: Crafting Moral Selves in the Face of Immigration Control

MAR 23, 2018 | 3:00 PM TO 6:00 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue


6112: Sociology Student Lounge


March 23, 2018: 3:00 PM-6:00 PM




Amada Armenta, University of Pennsylvania

U.S. immigration laws criminalize unauthorized immigrants and render many of immigrants’ daily activities “illegal.” How does this affect immigrants' attitudes and practices toward the law? Drawing on interviews with unauthorized Mexican immigrants in Philadelphia, I show how time spent in the United States transforms migrants’ legal attitudes from one of “resolviendo” (solving problems or getting by) to one of “doing things the right way.” I highlight the implications of this legal transformation for the moral economy of immigration policy, for immigrant claims-making, and for Latino immigrants’ place in the racial hierarchy.

Amada Armenta is an assistant professor of sociology at University of Pennsylvania where she specializes in the areas of Race and Ethnicity, Immigration, and Crime and Justice.  Her research examines government bureaucracies respond to the presence of Latino immigrants, and conversely, how Latino immigrants adapt to life in the U.S. Her recent book, Protect, Serve, and Deport: The Rise of Policing as Immigration Enforcement (University of California Press, 2017) exposes the on-the-ground workings of local immigration enforcement in Nashville, Tennessee.  Based on interviews and ethnographic observations with members of the police and sheriff’s department, and immigration advocacy groups, the book explains how local politics, state laws, institutional policies, and police practices work together to deliver immigrants into an expanding federal deportation system, conveying powerful messages about race, citizenship, and belonging. Armenta received her Phd in Sociology from UCLA and a BA in Political Science from Rice University.