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Title:States of discretion: Black migrating bodies and citizenship in the United States
Author(s):Sanya, Brenda Nyandiko
Director of Research:McCarthy, Cameron
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):McCarthy, Cameron; Nadeau, Chantal
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Greenberg, Jessica; Anderson, James D.; Perry, Theresa A
Department / Program:Educ Policy, Orgzn & Leadrshp
Discipline:Educational Policy Studies
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):African immigrants
Education as a category of preference
U.S. citizenship and immigration law
Abstract:My dissertation examines how race and education are imbricated in the construction and implementation of U.S. immigration law such that institutions of higher education in the United States now function as de facto extension offices of the Department of Homeland Security. Historically situating the changes wrought by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 in relationship to the Civil Rights Movement, U.S. Cold War policy, and the political achievements of the African decolonization movements as an entry point to understanding how U.S. immigration is governed, States of Discretion examines how the operationalization and discretionary application of U.S. immigration law and policy since 1965 impacts the lives of highly educated, documented African immigrants. I contend that as immigration policy has been politically transformed over time, the management of international students and scholars has been outsourced to academic institutions in important ways. Consequently, those who are engaged in teaching and monitoring students in academic institutions are made to function as part of a de facto apparatus of the Department of Homeland Security responsible for generating evidence in immigration applications using bureaucratic (academic) records. Juxtaposing immigration law, congressional records on immigration legislation, and immigration appeals case transcripts with media reports of police brutality against Black immigrants, my analyses unveil a disjuncture between laws and the interpretations of those same laws. Since education remains a major reason that Africans come to the United States, and education is embedded in the American dream, queer theory then is a critical posture, that provides insights into the exceptionalism and model minority narratives of privileged immigrant who also face institutionalized racial hierarchies. Furthermore, considering the racialized, gendered, sexuality systems that categorize immigrants as they cross the borders, and that define citizenship through reproduction, my dissertation foregrounds immigration (a pathway to citizenship) through this category that is disentangled from familial ties and reproduction alongside how racial logics regulate these immigrants. That is, while highly educated African immigrants can gain access to immigration documentation based on their educational credentials, such documentation and credentials provide no guarantee against anti-black violence and structural inequality endemic to U.S. society. And while one may object that credentialed citizenship never guarantees one’s immunity from such abuse, the discourse of citizenship in the United States, if not the very citizenship laws themselves, state otherwise. This, precisely, is the disjuncture at the heart of States of Discretion. Focusing on the process of documentation sheds light on the extensive requirements that immigrants must meet to gain their legal status. Moreover, analyses of immigration court case transcripts disclose how, in addition to having educational achievements used as evidence that these immigration appellants are indeed “the best and the brightest,” prospective immigrants must also be willing to submit to continued surveillance and tracking. This submission, as a means of persuading officials tasked with implementing racialized state security practices, is part of a pervasive surveillance that has continually marked Black life in the U.S. As such, I assert that surveillance for documentation normalizes and extends state surveillance without enhancing any promise of state protection, kept or not, as a result of that increased scrutiny. Building on scholarly understandings of how race is mapped onto phenotype with embodied political implications, my dissertation addresses how neither documentation nor educational credentials can insulate highly educated African immigrants from the structurally pervasive anti-blackness prevalent in U.S. society. While highly educated African immigrants can benefit from educational credentials obtained in the U.S. and in their home countries, as well as from U.S. Civil Rights laws in place after generations of African American struggles, nevertheless, anti-black racism – manifested in discretionary applications of the law, societal norms, and extralegal violence – renders the privileges of education and documentation precarious for all immigrants racialized as Black. Queer theory methodologically operates as a frame to understand the connection between education and the law as well as racial slavery’s temporality to articulate how the law preserves historical structural inequality with future repercussions. States of Discretion ultimately argues that all Black people living in the U.S. continue to have their lives marked and shaped by contemporary institutional manifestations of the legacies of slavery, whether they are the genealogical descendants of enslaved people or not.
Issue Date:2017-04-18
Rights Information:Copyright 2017 Brenda Nyandiko Sanya
Date Available in IDEALS:2017-08-10
Date Deposited:2017-05

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