Latino Studies

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 320–343 | Cite as

Racialized illegality: The regulation of informal labor and space

  • Juan Herrera
Original Article


Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork in Oakland, California, this paper analyzes the construction of racialized forms of difference between indigenous and nonindigenous Latino workers, based on an examination of their solicitation practices at day labor hiring zones. I reveal how the construction of these racialized divisions shapes how workers organize themselves at hiring zones, and impacts their migration experience and relationship with the host community. I argue that migrants’ experience of illegality must be seen as coterminous with other forms of difference that produces new modes of discrimination not solely reducible to legal status. My concept “racialized illegality” draws attention to how migrants’ experience of illegality exacerbates racial divisions amongst Latino subgroups. Racialized illegality is an analytical tool to push scholarship to assess how an increasingly racially diverse group of Latin American migrants is experiencing migration and settlement processes.


illegality racialization Maya migration Latino identity indigeneity day laborers 



This article would not have been possible without a remarkable group of day laborers, nonprofit leaders, and activists in Oakland, California, that allowed me to be a part of their organizations and their lives. I thank UC Berkeley’s Institute for the Study of Societal Issues and the UC Office of the President for support and funding of this project. I am especially grateful for the generous feedback on previous versions of this article from Professors Donald Moore, Mauricio Magaña, Maylei Blackwell, and Leisy Abrego.


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juan Herrera
    • 1
  1. 1.Oregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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