Moral Panic as Racial Degradation Ceremony: Racial Stratification and the Local-level Backlash against Latino/a Immigrants
Punishment & Society
State- and local-level ordinances attempting to "crack down" on undocumented immigration have been proliferating across the United States. Hazleton, Pennsylvania’s Illegal Immigration Relief Act (IIRA), passed in 2006, was one of the most visible of these laws. Using the events leading up to the passage of the IIRA as a case study and integrating racial stratification and moral panic theories, I conceptualize passage of this punitive law as a racial degradation ceremony performed in the wake of allegations of a Latino-on-white homicide and amid local demographic shifts and economic decline. Specifically, by comparing local media coverage of two homicides committed in Hazleton (one that led to the passage of the IIRA, a second that was far less impactful) and studying official discourse at city council meetings where the ordinance was introduced and passed, I find that officials relied heavily on the racialized tropes of the war on crime in constructing an ‘illegal’ immigration ‘problem’, thus degrading the city’s new immigrants, symbolically uplifting the white majority, and in turn reaffirming the racial order.
Copyright © 2012, Jamie Longazel
Longazel, Jamie, "Moral Panic as Racial Degradation Ceremony: Racial Stratification and the Local-level Backlash against Latino/a Immigrants" (2013). Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work Faculty Publications. 22.