The University of Chicago

School of Social Service Administration Magazine

New Book by Angela García

Her research offers a nuanced look at the lives of undocumented Mexicans in the United States.

New research combining social theory on immigration and race as well as place and law has uncovered the everyday failures and long-term human consequences of contemporary immigration laws in the United States.

Angela GarcíaUniversity of Chicago School of Social Service Administration Assistant Professor Angela S. García studied these failures and consequences and explores their implications in her first book, Legal Passing: Navigating Undocumented Life and Local Immigration Law. Legal Passing, published with the University of California Press, offers a nuanced look at how the lives of undocumented Mexicans in the US are constantly shaped by federal, state, and local immigration laws.

García compares restrictive and accommodating immigration measures in various cities and states to show that place-based inclusion and exclusion unfold in seemingly contradictory ways.

Instead of fleeing restrictive localities, undocumented Mexicans react by presenting themselves as “legal,” masking the stigma of illegality to avoid local police and federal immigration enforcement. Restrictive laws coerce assimilation, because as legal passing becomes habitual and embodied, immigrants distance themselves from their ethnic and cultural identities. In accommodating destinations, undocumented Mexicans experience a localized sense of stability and membership that is simultaneously undercut by the threat of federal immigration enforcement and complex street-level tensions with local police.

Legal Passing book coverAsked why she wrote this book, García explains, “scholars know much more about the immigration laws enacted across states and localities than about their effects on people who have to live with them. Comparative approaches that contrast the outcomes of these restrictions and accommodations are especially scarce, yet they are critical to developing an understanding of the full range of consequences emerging from subnational immigration law.”

The Seminary Co-Op Bookstore will host a joint book launch with Jennifer Jones on the topic of immigration and cities at their 5751 S. Woodlawn Ave. location on May 20, 4:30 – 5:30 pm. García and Jones will be joined by discussant Robert Vargas, a Neubauer Family Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Director of the Violence, Law, and Politics Lab.

Legal Passing will be available through the University of California Press on May 14, 2019.