‘I Do My Work but I Don’t Agree With the Law’: Police Agents Managing Deportation in Madrid, Spain
Proceedings of the 2018 American Anthropological Association (AAA) Annual Meeting, Washington DC
13 Pages Posted: 3 Jun 2019 Last revised: 17 Jun 2019
Date Written: July 31, 2018
Based on a nonconsecutive fieldwork of 6 months among different police units responsible for deportation in Spain, I explore the practices and dilemmas of police agents who detain and deport illegalized migrants. Police agents seem to be particularly torn between two dominant tendencies in enforcing deportation policies: first, the need to apply ambiguous policies and unsatisfying laws that can be interpreted in different ways by superiors and colleagues; second, the need to justify potentially immoral situations that are produced in interactions with deportable subjects. In addition, the work of police agents who handle deportation is often coming under heavy public critique by the media, NGOs and other non-state actors. The paper aims to highlights the ways in which the police are caught up in an indecisive space of implementation that is constructed top-down by policies and laws that are unable, or unwilling, to sensibly regulate the deportation terrain, and bottom-up by the complex lived realities of illegalized migrants and deportable subjects. Police agents are having much discretion in interpreting and implementing state policies according to their views and by injecting meaning into their deportation practices. An ethnographic exploration of police practices divulges the wide gamut of views and approaches that different agents adopt. The picture that emerges from this exploration is thus not of well-disciplined police that work in a regimented and uniformed manner, but of agents who struggle to reconcile their own moral and sense of doing meaningful policing work with the need to enforce deportation policies that are being ethically and legally contested by different state and non-state actors.
Keywords: Deportation, Detention, Illegal Immigration, Spain, Police
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