Title

Rhetorical Barriers to Mobilizing for Immigrant Rights: White Innocence and Latina/o Abstraction

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Summer 2014

Publication Source

Law & Social Inquiry

Abstract

In the summer of 2006, Hazleton, Pennsylvania, passed the Illegal Immigration Relief Act (IIRA). In this article, the politics that emerged in that law's wake are used as a case study to identify the rhetorical tools that justify and help achieve white dominance in local struggles over immigration in the United States. In tracing three successive waves of post-IIRA activism, what legal scholar Thomas Ross has termed white innocence/black abstraction—a racial narrative that absolves whites of wrongdoing and obfuscates minority suffering—is shown to be a central theme in the discourse of Hazleton's white majority. This colorblind rhetoric is used to make exclusionary legislation appear justifiable and to curtail the efforts of immigrant rights activists. By bringing Ross's insights into a new substantive context (i.e., immigration) and outside the confines of formal law (i.e., legal mobilizations rather than judicial opinions), this article demonstrates the centrality of innocence/abstraction in on-the-ground efforts to defend existing social arrangements.

Inclusive pages

580–600

ISBN/ISSN

0897-6546

Comments

Permission documentation is on file.

Publisher

John Wiley & Sons

Volume

39

Issue

3

Peer Reviewed

yes