From Deportability to "Denounce-ability": New Forms of Labor Subordination in an Era of Governing Immigration through Crime

Sarah Horton, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Colorado, explores "identity loan," the exchange of work authorization documents between laborers with legal status and undocumented laborers, in California's Central Valley in a free, public lecture on Wednesday, February 11, 2015, 4:00-6:00pm, in the Charles E. Merrill Lounge.

December 19, 2014


The highly-publicized Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) worksite raid in Postville, Iowa, in 2008 signaled a new strategy in interior immigration enforcement.  For the first time in history, ICE arrested unauthorized workers on charges of working with stolen documents (“aggravated identity theft”) and under invented Social Security numbers (“Social Security fraud”) and imprisoned them prior to their deportation.  Drawing upon interviews with 45 migrant farmworkers and six labor supervisors in a migrant farmworking community in California’s Central Valley, Professor Horton shows that the poverty and marginalization of migrant communities have led to the voluntary and mutually beneficial exchange of work authorization documents between donors with legal status and recipients without legal status, a practice she calls “identity loan.”  Using ethnography to recontextualize document loans within the workplace relations that give rise to them, she offers an alternative interpretation of the criminal charges levied against migrant workers in Postville.  This talk examines the effect on labor discipline of the trend of  “governing immigration through crime,” suggesting that migrant “denounce-ability” has joined migrant “deportability” as a powerful new tool of labor subordination.

Sarah Horton headshotSarah Horton is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Colorado, Denver.  Her areas of expertise include Latino health disparities, migration and transnationalism, health citizenship, and “illegality.”  She received her PhD in Anthropology with distinction from the University of New Mexico and was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Social Medicine at Harvard University from 2003 to 2005.  In 2011, she won the Steven J. Polgar Award from the Society for Medical Anthropology and is currently writing They Leave Their Kidneys in the Fields:  Injury and "Illegality" in California’s Central Valley, a book that examines the legal production of migrant farmworker vulnerability in California’s Central Valley.

Click here for the event flyer. 

The CLRC is proud to cosponsor this free, public lecture with the Center for Labor Studies, Oakes and Porter Colleges, and the Department of Anthropology.