Conceptualizing U.S. Immigrant Sanctuary as a Process

Authors: Serin Houston*, Mount Holyoke College
Topics: Immigration/Transnationalism, Legal Geography, Human Rights
Keywords: immigration, legislation, sanctuary, United States
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Wilson C, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This article draws on an archive of U.S. immigrant sanctuary legislation from 2000-2014 to illustrate that sanctuary is a process. While contentious national debates persist about the promise or peril of so-called “sanctuary cities,” I examine executive orders, ordinances, policing policies, and resolutions, the four main categories of sanctuary legislation in the archive, to argue that sanctuary constitutes a process rather than a binary state of being. Such a conceptualization underscores gradations of sanctuary and shifts the focus away from a reductionist question about whether or not a place is a sanctuary to inquiries into how sanctuary as a process could cultivate membership and belonging in places. Textually analyzing sanctuary legislation in this way highlights how recognition of common humanity and the assertion of local values can drive internal bordering practices.

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