Latina/os, Locality, and Law in the Rural South

Harvard Latino Law Review, Vol. 12, p. 135, 2009

UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 139

46 Pages Posted: 14 May 2008 Last revised: 22 Mar 2012

See all articles by Lisa R. Pruitt

Lisa R. Pruitt

University of California, Davis - School of Law

Date Written: August 25, 2008


In this era of municipal anti-immigrant ordinances and federal-local cooperation to enforce immigration laws, legal issues associated with immigration are playing out at multiple scales, from the national down to the local. Legal actors at the municipal, county, and state levels have become front-line policymakers and law enforcers in relation to immigrant populations. This essay calls attention to phenomenal surge in Latina/o immigration into the rural South in recent years, and it considers how that socio-spatial milieu may influence these legal matters at the local level.

Among other issues, the essay discusses the enhanced opportunity for racial profiling in the context of communities where law enforcement officers are more familiar and socially integrated with the populations they patrol. It also considers how bias may be fueled by the static nature of rural communities, many of which are historically ethnically and racially homogeneous, while others have been socially and racially defined by a Black-White divide. In assessing these legal issues, the essay considers how rural places in the South construct the Latina/o experience differently than "gateway" cities and states in the West and Southwest. In turn, it looks at how the Latina/o in-migration is remaking these rural places, these "quintessentially 'American' spaces."

While the impact of this demographic shift is ongoing, studies suggest that Latina/os are revitalizing the South economically, as they also re-shape the rural socio-cultural milieu. Nevertheless, many of the deep-rooted economic and social problems associated with the region persist, as does distrust between long-time residents and Latina/o newcomers. Just as sociologists, demographers, and economists are studying the phenomenon of immigration into the rural South, this essay argues that it also merits the attention of legal scholars.

Keywords: rural, South, Latina, Latino, Hispanic, race, ethnicity, geography, difference, discrimination, culture, socioeconomic class, labor, immigration

JEL Classification: J15, J31, J23, I31, D63, K10, O13, O15, O18, R23

Suggested Citation

Pruitt, Lisa R., Latina/os, Locality, and Law in the Rural South (August 25, 2008). Harvard Latino Law Review, Vol. 12, p. 135, 2009, UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 139, Available at SSRN:

Lisa R. Pruitt (Contact Author)

University of California, Davis - School of Law ( email )

Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall
Davis, CA CA 95616-5201
United States

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