Negotiating ‘Illegality’ in New Immigrant Destinations

Jacqueline Olvera

Negotiating Illegality event image

Conventionally, immigrant “illegality” has come to signify a status, assigned by law to migrants residing in the United States who arrive outside of authorized channels and without proper documentation. Conceptualizing illegality simply as status, however, overlooks the social consequences that this legal category has on the lives of the undocumented. In her study of Mexican migration to New England, Jacqueline Olvera, term assistant professor at Barnard College, examines how migrants, who are constructed as socially invisible yet physically present, negotiate the complexities that illegality introduces in their everyday lives. Arguing that illegality is a social sphere that unauthorized immigrants occupy, Olvera shows how illegality shapes the decisions and actions of the undocumented, and of citizens as well.

Professor Olvera teaches courses on immigration, poverty, communities and social change, and ethnic conflict. Prior to teaching at Barnard, she taught at Connecticut College and held a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the University of Michigan’s National Poverty Center. Professor Olvera has received funding from the Russell Sage Foundation for her research on Mexican migration in New England.

Rescheduled from last semester.