This article reviews how US deportations ballooned between 1997 and 2012, and underscores how these deportations disproportionately targeted Latino working class men. Building on Mae Ngai’s (2004) concept of racial removal, we describe this recent mass deportation as a gendered racial removal program. Drawing from secondary sources, surveys conducted in Mexico, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security published statistics, and interviews with deportees conducted by the first author in Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Jamaica, we argue that: (1) deportations have taken on a new course in the aftermath of 9/11 and in the wake of the global economic crisis – involving a shift towards interior enforcement; (2) deportation has become a gendered and racial removal project of the state; and (3) deportations will have lasting consequences with gendered and raced effects here in the United States. We begin by examining the mechanisms of the new deportation regime, showing how it functions, and then examine the legislation and administrative decisions that make it possible. Next, we show the concentration of deportations by nation and gender. Finally, we discuss the causes of this gendered racial removal program, which include the male joblessness crisis since the Great Recession, the War on Terror, and the continued criminalization of Black and Latino men by police authorities.
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In 2009 and 2010, the first author conducted 150 semi-structured interviews with deportees in Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Brazil, in addition to participant observation at airports where deportees arrive and interviews with government officials and NGOs in the four countries. Those interviews were part of a larger project focusing on the consequences of mass deportation.
The average number of “removals” between 1900 and 1990 was about 18,000. These figures did not include the hundreds of thousands of Mexicans who were repatriated in the 1930s, nor the million Mexicans who were returned during “Operation Wetback” in 1954. The reason for this is that, in the 1930s, hundreds of thousands of Mexicans departed “voluntarily” and thus were not recorded as removals. In 1954, the Border Patrol recorded 1 million “returns” as Operation Wetback was concentrated along border towns. See Lytle Hernandez (2010) for a discussion of Operation Wetback and Balderrama (1982) for a discussion of the mass repatriation of Mexicans and their children in the 1930s.
As of 1 April 1997, the government reclassified all exclusion and deportations procedures as “Removal proceedings,” but in this paper we use the terms deportation and removal interchangeably. 2012 figure from: www.ice.gov/removal-statistics/.
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The Bush administration also conducted several highly visible immigration raids. These immigration raids generated more fear than actual immigration enforcement, as they accounted for a very small percentage of actual deportations – less than 1 per cent. See Golash-Boza (2012) for an analysis of these raids.
DHS defines returns in the following manner: “In some cases, apprehended aliens may be offered the opportunity to return to their home countries without being placed in immigration proceedings. This procedure is common with non-criminal aliens who are apprehended at the border. Aliens agree that their entry was illegal, waive their right to a hearing, remain in custody and are returned under supervision. Return is also available for non-criminal aliens who are deemed inadmissible at ports of entry. In addition, some aliens apprehended within the United States agree to voluntarily depart and pay the expense of departing. These departures may be granted by an immigration judge or, in some circumstances, by a Detention and Removal Operations field office director. In certain instances, aliens who have agreed to a return may be legally admitted in the future without penalty.” www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/statistics/publications/enforcement_ar_2009.pdf.
In the Child’s Best Interest? The consequences of losing a lawful immigrant parent to deportation www.law.berkeley.edu/files/Human_Rights_report.pdf p. 4, accessed 1 February 2013.
The Criminal Alien Program is the largest of the four programs. In FY 2011, ICE issued 212,744 charging documents for deportation through the CAP. In that same year, 78,246 people were removed through Secure Communities, a program where the FBI automatically sends the fingerprints of people arrested to DHS to check against its immigration databases. 287(g) allows state and local law enforcement agencies to act as immigration law enforcement agents within their jurisdictions. In 2010, 26,871 people were removed through 287(g). Only about 1500 were removed through NFOP. Much of the attention on Police/ICE cooperation has been on Secure Communities and 287(g), yet the vast majority of removals are occurring through the Criminal Alien Program. (Rosenblum and Kandel, 2012).
“Walter” is a pseudonym. His story, like the other stories related in this article, comes from research the first author conducted with people who have been deported from the United States. The first author interviewed 150 deportees between May 2009 and August 2010 in Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Jamaica.
Most receiving countries do not distinguish removals from returns, which affects this estimate. A non-citizen who attempts to enter the United States or is found within the United States can either be (1) returned without a hearing; (2) subject to expedited removal; or (3) formally deported. The DHS distinguishes between these three types of removal, but receiving countries often do not. In DHS reports, only those subjected to expedited removal or formal removal count as deportees. DHS designates the remaining as “aliens returned.” The estimates from Mexico include repatriates formally removed and those returned without a formal order of removal.
EMIF refers to the Encuesta Sobre Migraciones en las Fronteras Norte y Sur de Mexico.
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The authors thank the anonymous reviewers, legal scholars Bill Ong Hing and Niels Frenzen, the Latino Studies editors Suzanne Oboler and Lourdes Torres, Helen Marrow for the Census data on non-citizens, and Sybil Adams for creating the map.
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Golash-Boza, T., Hondagneu-Sotelo, P. Latino immigrant men and the deportation crisis: A gendered racial removal program. Lat Stud 11, 271–292 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1057/lst.2013.14