Socially Undocumented: Identity and Immigration Justice

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Oxford University Press

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What does it really mean to “be undocumented,” particularly in the contemporary United States? Political philosophers, policymakers and others often define the term “undocumented migrant” legalistically—that is, in terms of lacking legal authorization to live and work in one’s current country of residence. Socially Undocumented: Identity and Immigration Justice challenges such a pure “legalistic understanding” by arguing that being undocumented should not always be conceptualized along such lines. To be socially undocumented, it argues, is to possess a real, visible, and embodied social identity that does not always track one’s actual legal status in the United States. By integrating a descriptive/phenomenological account of socially undocumented identity with a normative/political account of how the oppression with which it is associated ought to be dealt with as a matter of social justice, this book offers a new vision of immigration ethics. It addresses concrete ethical challenges associated with immigration, such as the question of whether open borders are morally required, the militarization of the Mexico-U.S. border, the perilous journey that many Mexican and Central American migrants undertake to get to the United States, the difficult experiences of many socially undocumented women who cross U.S. borders to seek prenatal care while pregnant, and more.


Immigration; Undocumented migration; Irregular migration; Identity; Social identity; Borders; Mexico; United States-Mexico border; Demilitarization


Migration Studies | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology



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