Building on the anthropologist Didier Fassin’s theory of punishment, this project seeks to understand how penal power is woven within the U.S. criminalization of migration, including the state’s response to undocumented border crossings, as well as the mass criminal prosecution and deportation of non-citizens. In doing so, this project aims to answer the following questions: What is punishment? Why do we punish immigrants? And how is punishment deployed within crimmigration processes? The answers to these questions will illuminate how, for instance, the state targets the family as a place for inflicting suffering and carrying out its objectives in the criminology of mobility.
This project adopts a multi-sited and critical policy ethnographic approach to comprehend contemporary manifestations of punishment through the U.S. criminalization of migration. It will draw upon ethnographic observations and interviews along the U.S.-Mexico border, within Mexican migrant shelters and U.S. District Courts, as well as a range of sources involving photographs, government documents, news articles, and secondary literature.