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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Reinforcing Gendered Racial Boundaries: Unintended Consequences of the Mainstream Immigrant Rights Discourse


In this paper I analyze the story of Alma, a Mexican migrant woman deported after being imprisoned for five years, and Isabel, Alma’s fifteen year old daughter. Immediately after her deportation, Alma became active in the movement for immigrant rights. When Isabel joined her in Tijuana during her summer vacation, she suddenly became the voice for children of undocumented parents. Isabel was interviewed by the media and was scheduled to speak at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. However, the story that they were asked to tell was very different from their actual experience. Rather than speaking of Alma’s imprisonment, she was represented as a dedicated working mother who was detained by ICE while at work. Through an analysis of the media’s narrative, I argue that the representation of their story reinforces gendered racial ideas about who deserves protection and who deserves punishment.

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