Sovereignty and the City: Raiding, Detaining, and Domestic Immigration Policing

19 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2010 Last revised: 26 Mar 2017

See all articles by Inés Valdez

Inés Valdez

Ohio State University (OSU) - Department of Political Science

Date Written: March 25, 2010


In this paper I focus on the political spatiality of immigration enforcement. In particular, I suggest that in the last two decades a network of immigration enforcement has been layered over existing spatial features of the American landscape. I examine the network of highways and transportation, the growth in work and home raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the expansion of the immigrant detention network. About these, I suggest that they constitute spaces of racialized policing. The turn of these realms into spaces of security has reduced the capacity of migrants to access and create public spaces. The segregation of urban and suburban America, as well as the divergent meaning that the above-mentioned spaces elicit in non-racialized individuals, has hidden the growth in reach of the policing capacities of the state. These policing capacities are legitimized by the guiding fictions of external sovereignty and invade domestic spaces imperiling the capacity of migrants to take these spaces and - through democratic action - contests exclusionary discourses of citizenship and put forward claims for a right to membership. If rights, conceptualized by Don Mitchell as “a cry and a demand,” can only be heard when there is a space from which these cries and demands are visible, I suggest that the spatial transformations that characterized immigration enforcement have focused on reducing the spaces in which immigrants (and, through racialization, all Latina/os in the United States) can safely stand to contest and challenge the existing power relations.

Keywords: immigration, enforcement, space, democracy

Suggested Citation

Valdez, Inés, Sovereignty and the City: Raiding, Detaining, and Domestic Immigration Policing (March 25, 2010). Western Political Science Association 2010 Annual Meeting Paper , Available at SSRN:

Inés Valdez (Contact Author)

Ohio State University (OSU) - Department of Political Science ( email )

Columbus, OH 43210
United States

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