How has the proliferation of neoliberal ideas altered undocumented immigration policy? I argue three neoliberal principles – privatization, efficiency and personal responsibility – have impacted the implementation of American immigration policy, increasing the detention, abuse, and death of undocumented migrants. This change disproportionately affects Latinos, as they are more likely to either know an undocumented person, or be one themselves. Using an historical structural approach, this work problematizes the inevitability of privatization, discusses the influence of efficiency on the record number of deportations, and criticizes the principle of personal responsibility using the deaths of migrants at the border and in detention. This work is of special importance for Latinos as they disproportionately bear repression, abuse and death at the hands of a neoliberal immigration system.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
ACLU. 2008. “ACLU Obtains Government ‘Manual’ for Prepackaged Guilty Pleas for Prosecution of Immigrant Workers in Postville, Iowa.” American Civil Liberties Union, http://www.aclu.org/immigrants-rights/aclu-obtains-government-manual-prepackaged-guilty-pleas-prosecution-immigrant-work, accessed 9 November 2012.
ACLU. 2012. “Immigration Detention.” American Civil Liberties Union, http://www.aclu.org/immigrants-rights/detention, accessed 7 November 2012.
American Immigration Council. 2014. A Guide to the Immigration Accountability Executive Action: Immigration Policy Center. Washington, DC: American Immigration Council.
Anderson, D. 2008. “NCC Officials Thought Grounds for Homeland Security Training.” WCFCourier, 15 May.
Anderson, S. 2013. How Many More Deaths? The Moral Case for a Temporary Worker Program. Arlington, VA: National Foundation for American Policy.
Anderson, S., and D. Miller . 2006. Legal Immigrants: Waiting Forever. Arlington, VA: National Foundation for American Policy.
Arnold, D. 1990. The Logic of Congressional Action. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Associated Press. 2008. “Kosher Slaughterhouse Owners Surrounded by Scandal.” Ynetnews, 5 August.
Azstarnet.com. 2014. “Border Deaths.” Arizona Daily Star, 15 August.
Barry, T. 2009. “A Death in Texas.” Boston Review, November/December.
Beamon, T., and J. Bachman . 2013. “Rep. Steve King Slams Norquist over Attacks on Immigration.” Newsmax, 18 July.
Becker, A. 2012. “Border Agency Seeks More Unmanned Aircraft Use in Calif.” California Watch, http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/border-agency-seeks-more-unmanned-aircraft-use-calif-14326, accessed 17 March 2015.
Becker, A., and P.J. McDonnell . 2009. “U.S. Citizens Caught Up in Immigration Sweeps.” Los Angeles Times, 9 April.
Booth, W. 2011. “More Predator Drones Fly U.S.-Mexico Border.” Washington Post, 1 December.
Burawoy, M. 1976. “The Functions and Reproduction of Migrant Labor: Comparative Material from Southern Africa and the United States.” American Journal of Sociology 81 (5): 1050–1087.
Callimachi, R. 2006. “Study: Immigrant Workers Endure Hazardous Conditions, Abuse Post-Katrina.” Law.com, 8 June.
Camayd-Freixas, E. 2008. “Interpreting after the Largest ICE Raid in US History: A Personal Account.” New York Times, 13 June.
Carroll, S. 2008. “Undocumented Workers Will Be Linchpin in Ike Cleanup.” Houston Chronicle, 25 September.
Carroll, L. 2012. “N.C. Wary of Possible Farm Labor Shortage.” News & Observer, 18 July.
Cervantes, J.M., O.L. Mejía, and A. Guerrero Mena . 2010. “Serial Migration and the Assessment of Extreme and Unusual Psychological Hardship with Undocumented Latina/o Families.” Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences 32 (2): 275–291.
Collins, K. 2009. “N.C. Native Wrongly Deported to Mexico.” Charlotte Observer, 30 August.
Command and Control Technologies Corporation. 2009. “The Border and Transportation Security Data, Sensor, and Alert-Fusion Center Command and Control.” Command and Control Technologies Corporation, https://web.archive.org/web/20090411180950/http://www.cctcorp.com/BTSDSA-FC.htm, accessed 17 March 2015.
Corrections Corporation of America. 2005. FY05 Form 10-k for the Fiscal Year Ending 31 December 2004. Filed 7 March. Corrections Corporation of America. http://services.corporate-ir.net/SEC.Enhanced/SecCapsule.aspx?c=117983&fid=3330769, accessed 31 October 2015.
Corrections Corporation of America. 2014. CCA – SEC Filings. http://cca.com/investors/financial-information/sec-filings, accessed 6 November 2015.
De Genova, N. 2006. “Migrant ‘Illegality’ and the Metaphysics of Antiterrorism: ‘Immigrants’ Rights’ in the Aftermath of the Homeland Security State.” Border Battles: The US Immigration Debates. Social Science Research Council, http://borderbattles.ssrc.org/De_Genova/, accessed 31 October 2015.
Detention Watch Network. 2012a. “The Influence of the Private Prison Industry in Immigration Detention.”, http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/privateprisons, accessed 31 October 2015.
Detention Watch Network. 2012b. “The Money Trail.”, http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/privateprisons, accessed 31 October 2015.
Duara, N., W. Petroski, and G. Schulte . 2008. “Claims of ID Fraud Lead to Largest Raid in State History.” Des Moines Register 12 May.
Duggan, L. 2012. The Twilight of Equality? Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics, and the Attack on Democracy. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
Eschbach, K., J.M. Hagan, and N. Rodriguez, and University of Houston Center for Immigration Research, 2001. Causes and Trends in Migrant Deaths Along the U.S.-Mexico Border, 1985–1998. Houston, TX: University of Houston, Center for Immigration Research.
Feltz, R., and S. Bakash . 2008. “PROFITS.” The Business of Detention, http://www.businessofdetention.com/?p=71, accessed 17 March 2015.
Fernandes, D. 2007. Targeted: Homeland Security and The Business of Immigration. New York: Seven Stories Press.
Fox News Latino. 2013. “Border Patrol Beefs Up Surveillance through Tethered Spy Blimps in South Texas,”, http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2013/11/07/border-patrol-beefs-up-surveillance-through-tethered-spy-blimps-in-south-texas/, accessed 7 November.
Gambler, R. 2012. Border Security: Additional Actions Needed to Strengthen CBP Efforts to Mitigate Risk of Employee Corruption and Misconduct. Washington, DC: US Government Accountability Office.
Gambler, R. 2013. Border Patrol: Goals and Measures Not Yet in Place to Inform Border Security Status and Resource Needs. Washington, DC: US Government Accountability Office.
Gamboa, S. 2009. “AP IMPACT: Citizens Held as Illegal Immigrants.” The Monitor, 13 April.
Gamboa, S. 2013. “Conflicting Views on Approaching 2 Million Deportations.” NBC Latino, 16 October.
Garcia Bedolla, L. 2009. Introduction to Latino Politics in the U.S.. 1st ed., Cambridge, UK: Polity.
Golash-Boza, T. 2013. “Mapping the Shift from Border to Interior Enforcement of Immigration Laws during the Obama Presidency: Social Scientists on Immigration Policy,”, http://stopdeportationsnow.blogspot.com/2013/01/mapping-shift-from-border-to-interior_7232.html, accessed 17 March 2015.
Gruber, A. 2003a. “DHS Under Fire for Use of Consultants in Job Competition.” Government Executive, 24 October.
Gruber, A. 2003b. “Immigration Services Job Competition Moves Forward.” Government Executive, 11 September.
Haddal, C.C. 2011. Border Security: The Role of the U. S. Border Patrol. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service.
Heilbroner, R.L. 1986. The Nature and Logic of Capitalism. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Hendricks, T. 2009. “U.S. Citizens Wrongly Detained, Deported by ICE Immigration Law.” SF Gate, 27 July.
Hing, J. 2012. “How Did 15-Year-Old Jakadrien Turner, a U.S. Citizen, Get Deported?” COLORLINES, 11 January.
Hsu, S.S. 2008. “‘Virtual Fence’ Along Border to Be Delayed.” Washington Post, 28 February.
Hsu, S.S. 2010. “Work to Cease on ‘Virtual Fence’ Along U.S.-Mexico Border.” Washington Post, 16 March.
Immigration Equality. 2015. DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), http://www.immigrationequality.org/get-legal-help/our-legal-resources/path-to-status-in-the-u-s/daca-deferred-action-for-childhood-arrivals/, accessed 17 March 2015.
Johnson, K.R., B.O. Hing, and R. Cuizon Villazor . 2008. List of ICE Detention Facilities. Immigration Prof Blog, http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/immigration/2008/09/list-of-ice-det.html, accessed 31 October 2015.
Kolodner, M. 2006. “Immigration Enforcement Benefits Prison Firms.” New York Times, 19 July.
Kotz, D., and T. McDonough . 2010. “Global Neoliberalism and the Contemporary Social Structure of Accumulation.” In, Contemporary Capitalism and Its Crises: Social Structure of Accumulation Theory for the 21st Century, ed. T. McDonough, M. Reich and D.M. Kotz, 93–120. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Lavandera, E. 2010. “Drones Silently Patrol U.S. Borders.” CNN, http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/03/12/border.drones/, accessed 12 March.
Lieberman, J., P. Leahy, E. Kennedy, and R. Byrd . 2004. “Immigration Officials Opposed DHS Plan to Subject Immigration Functions to Possible Privatization.” U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs, http://www.hsgac.senate.gov/media/majority-media/immigration-officials-opposed-dhs-plan-to-subject-immigration-functions-to-possible-privatization, accessed 2 February 2013.
Lipton, E. 2013. “U.S. Military Firms Eye Border Security Contracts.” New York Times, 6 June.
Llorente, E. 2013. “Immigration Reform Supporters Gather by the Thousands for Rally in Washington, DC.” Fox News Latino, 10 April.
Lochhead, C. 2008. “Immigration Raids Called Harsh.” SF Gate, http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/Immigration-raids-called-harsh-3275802.php, accessed 25 July.
Lopez, V., J. Lyall, and D. Shapiro . 2013a. “Letter Regarding Unconstitutional Conditions at Pinal County Jail.” American Civil Liberties Union, http://www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/letter-regarding-unconstitutional-conditions-pinal-county-jail, accessed 17 March 2015.
Lopez, M.H., P. Taylor, C. Funk, and A. Gonzalez-Barrera . 2013b. On Immigration Policy, Deportation Relief Seen as More Important than Citizenship. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project.
Loven, J. 2008. “Bush Criticizes New Cuban Leadership.” USA Today 7 May.
Lowell, B.L., and R. Suro . 2002. How Many Undocumented: The Numbers behind the US-Mexico Migration Talks. Washington, DC: Pew Hispanic Center.
Martinez, E., and A. Garcia . 1997. “What is ‘Neo-Liberalism’?” Global Exchange, http://www.globalexchange.org/resources/econ101/neoliberalismdefined, accessed 27 January 2013.
McIntire Peters, K., R. Brodsky, and Z. Phillips . 2007. “Big Contracts, Big Problems.” Government Executive, 15 August.
Meissner, D., D. Kerwin, M. Chisti, and C. Bergeron . 2013. Immigration Enforcement in the United States: The Rise of a Formidable Machinery. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute.
Munck, R. 2005. “Neoliberalism and Politics, and the Politics of Neoliberalism.” In, Neoliberalism: A Critical Reader, ed. A. Saad-Filho, and D. Johnston, London: Pluto Press.
National Immigration Forum. 2013. The Math of Immigration Detention. Washington, DC: National Immigration Forum.
Navarrette, R. 2012. “GOP’s Problem with Latinos: As Big as Texas.” CNN, http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/29/opinion/navarrette-gop-latinos-texas/, 29 May.
Ngai, M.M. 2004. Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Norrell, B. 2007. “Indigenous Peoples Vow to Bring Down Apartheid Border Wall.” Americas Program, http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/853, accessed 28 January 2013.
Obama Administration. 2011. The President’s Blueprint for Building a 21st Century Immigration System. Washington, DC: The White House.
Ortega, B. 2014. “Border Patrol Agent Fatally Shoots Man.” AZCentral, 3 June.
Passel, J., and D.’V. Cohn . 2009. A Portrait of Unauthorized Immigrants in the United States. Washington, DC: Pew Hispanic Center.
Passel, J.S., and D.’V. Cohn . 2011. Unauthorized Immigrant Population: National and State Trends, 2010. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project.
Paul, N.C. 2001. “A Farm-Belt Town Goes Global, and Thrives.” Christian Science Monitor, 20 August.
Pearson, E. 2013. “Deported U.S. Citizen Finally Gets Passport Back.” NY Daily News, 1 December.
Plumer, B. 2013. “Study: The U.S. Stops about Half of Illegal Border Crossings from Mexico.” Washington Post, 13 May.
Preston, J. 2008. “270 Illegal Immigrants Sent to Prison in Federal Push.” New York Times, 24 May.
Preston, J. 2013. “U.S. Deportations Decline: Felons Made Up Big Share.” New York Times, 20 December.
Priest, D., and A. Goldstein . 2008. “System of Neglect: As Tighter Immigration Policies Strain Federal Agencies, the Detainees in Their Care Often Pay a Heavy Cost.” Washington Post, 11 May.
Richey, J. 2006. “Border for Sale: Privatizing Immigration Control.” Corpwatch, http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=13845, accessed 31 October 2015.
Robbins, T. 2011. “In the Rush to Deport, Expelling U.S. Citizens.” National Public Radio, 24 October.
Rose, A. 2012. “Migrants Dying on the U.S.-Mexico Border.” New York Times, 21 June.
Rosenblum, M.R., and D. Meissner . 2014. The Deportation Dilemma: Reconciling Tough and Humane Enforcement. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute.
Roybal-Allard, L. 2004. Roybal-Allard (CA34) – Press Release – Floor Statement by Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard against the Privatization of Immigration Officers, http://web.archive.org/web/20090202095443/, http://www.house.gov/roybal-allard/press/stmt040618.html, accessed 17 March 2015.
Rubiner, B. 2008. “A Kosher Meat Plant Struggles to Recover.” Time, 26 September.
Santos, F. 2014. “Detainees Sentenced in Seconds in ‘Streamline’ Justice on Border.” New York Times, 11 February.
Sawyer, M. 2008. “Commentary: On Black Leadership, Black Politics, and the U.S. Immigration Debate.” Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society 10 (1): 42–49.
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. 2008. “Senators Voice Concerns about SBInet Management and Effectiveness.” U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security, and Governmental Affairs, http://www.hsgac.senate.gov/media/majority-media/senators-voice-concerns-about-sbinet-management-and-effectiveness, accessed 31 October 2015.
Shear, M.D., and J. Preston . 2015. “Dealt Setback, Obama Puts Off Immigrant Plan.” New York Times 1 February: A1.
Sherman, C. 2013. “U.S. Citizen Deported to Mexico – Four Times.” Equal Voice News, 24 September.
Skoloff, B., and J. Billeaud . 2014. “How Tunnels Are Built, Used along US-Mexico Border.” Yahoo Finance, 14 January.
Stana, R. 2007. Secure Border Initiative: SBInet Expenditure Plan Needs to Better Support Oversight and Accountability. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Accountability Office.
Tifani, J. 2014. “Border Surge Could Be Windfall for Senate Candidate’s Air Charter Firm.” Los Angeles Times, 10 July.
Trevizo, P. 2013. “Some See ‘Border Surge’ as Too Costly.” Arizona Daily Star, 28 June.
United States v. Gonzalez. 2006. http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/05pdf/05-352.pdf, accessed 31 October 2015.
USCBP. 2015. “Border Patrol History.” United States Customs, and Border Protection, http://www.cbp.gov/border-security/along-us-borders/history, accessed 31 October 2015.
USDHS. 2012. “DHS: DHS Announces SBInet Contract Award to Boeing.” United States Department of Homeland Security, http://web.archive.org/web/20120212182644/, http://www.dhs.gov/xnews/releases/pr_1158876536376.shtm, accessed 17 March 2015.
USDOJ. 1998. Operation Gatekeeper: An Investigation into Allegations of Fraud and Misconduct. United States Department of Justice, http://www.justice.gov/oig/special/9807/gkp01.htm, accessed 4 February 2013.
USICE. 2008. “297 Convicted and Sentenced Following ICE Worksite Operation in Iowa.” United States Immigration, and Customs Enforcement, http://www.ice.gov/news/releases/297-convicted-and-sentenced-following-ice-worksite-operation-iowa, accessed 2 February 2013.
USICE. 2014. Number of I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals by Fiscal Year, Quarter, Intake, Biometrics and Case Status: 2012–2014. Washington, DC: United States Immigration, and Customs Enforcement.
Vargas Bustamante, A. et al 2010. “Variations in Healthcare Access and Utilization among Mexican Immigrants: The Role of Documentation Status.” Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health 14 (1): 146–155.
Waddington, L. 2008. “Postville More Diverse Now than at Time of Immigration Raid.” Iowa Independent, 8 December.
The author thanks Adalberto Aguirre, Rubén Martínez, Carlos Parodi, Maura Toro-Morn, Julie Webber and the anonymous reviewers for their suggestions.
About this article
Cite this article
Silva, A. Neoliberalism confronts Latinos: Paradigmatic shifts in immigration practices. Lat Stud 14, 59–79 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1057/lst.2015.50