Chapter 7

Policing the Borders in the Heartland

by Nancy A. Naples

In this chapter, sociologist Nancy Naples draws on long-term ethnographic study of two small Iowa towns, in which large numbers of Mexican and Mexican-American migrants have found work in meat packing and other food processing plants, to explore the ways that citizenship is policed within the borders of the United States. She finds that the social regulation of citizenship, through policing by federal, local and non-state agents, makes itself felt immediately by citizens as well as non-citizens as a source of increased risk rather than enhanced security. In reaction to INS raids and stepped up surveillance and harassment by local police, which swept up U.S. citizens and legal resident aliens as well as undocumented workers, long-term residents of the communities studied by Naples have surprisingly taken steps toward greater inclusion of recent immigrants within the boundaries of community membership.

Study Questions

  1. What does this case study reveal about how a person’s ability to achieve full membership in a particular locale is linked to citizenship rights?

Critical Thinking

  1. Compare the dilemmas of internal immigration law enforcement with the dilemmas of border control (as described by Josiah Heyman in chapter 2).
  2. According to Rutgers law professor, Linda Bosniak: “The lives of undocumented immigrants are at times governed by liberal individual rights norms, at times by exclusionary border norms, and very often by both at once.” Comment on the significance of competing immigration and civil rights laws in the case of the Iowa town studied by Naples.