Clements Center Monthly Talks

Instrumental Il/legality: Transnational Mexicans and the Family-Based Immigration System

Jennifer A. Cook
Postdoctoral Fellow in Latino Public Policy at the John Tower Center for Political Studies, SMU

Wednesday, March 6, 2019 |  Heroy Hall #153, 3225 Daniel Avenue, SMU  |  12 noon to 1 p.m. | 
No registration necessary. 

In an era of heightened immigration enforcement and anti-immigrant sentiment, what does it mean to be “legal”? In this talk, Jennifer Cook will discuss the findings from a chapter in her book manuscript project, tentatively titled Lawful Permanent Migrant: Legality and Mobility in Transnational Mexico. Drawing on more than five years of multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork in Mexico and Connecticut, this work examines the transnational social impact of U.S. immigration policy by analyzing Mexican im/migrants’ engagements with the family-based immigration system. Specifically, it explores the ways in which im/migrants and their families decide whether or not to pursue legal U.S. immigrant status for their spouses and children residing in Mexico. Ultimately, Cook’s work shows that transnational Mexicans perceive legal status as a powerful tool that can either lead to intergenerational upward social mobility, or familial disintegration. In the latter case, families may opt not to provide legal status to their eligible family members to preserve the family’s moral integrity. She argues that these parents use the specter of border danger to protect their children from the corruptive forces of labor migration.

Jennifer A. Cook is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Tower Center for Political Studies at Southern Methodist University. She received her PhD in Anthropology from the University of Connecticut in May, 2017, and specializes in the study of im/migration, il/legality, and social change in transnational Mexico. Cook is currently working on revising her dissertation for publication as a book manuscript, tentatively titled Lawful Permanent Migrant: Legality and Mobility in Transnational Mexico. She also teaches courses on Latino immigration and cultural diversity in the U.S. for the Department of Anthropology at Southern Methodist University.

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