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Multigenerational Punishment: Shared Experiences of Undocumented Immigration Status Within Mixed‐Status Families


Estimates suggest that approximately 16.6 million people in the United States are members of mixed-status families composed of undocumented immigrants and U.S. citizens or documented immigrants. Drawing on interviews with 32 undocumented 1.5-generation parents, the author explores how immigration laws affect undocumented parents and their citizen children. She finds that U.S. citizen children and their undocumented parents often share in the risks and limitations associated with undocumented immigration status. She conceptualizes this phenomenon as multigenerational punishment, a distinct form of legal violence wherein the sanctions intended for a specific population spill over to negatively affect individuals who are not targeted by laws. Though not restricted to familial relationships, multigenerational punishment tends to occur within families because of the strong social ties, sustained day-to-day interactions, and dependent relationships found among family members. This sheds light on how laws can further the reproduction of inequality within families and over generations.

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