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September 28, 2022 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm EDT

Speaker Series: 2022-23 ABF Doctoral Fellows

Heba Alex & Oscar R. Cornejo Casares
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In-Person (American Bar Foundation)

Heba Alex: Rights Negotiation Within the Boundaries of Citizenship

Sociological studies widely acknowledge that rights contestation is a major tool in majority versus minority/marginalized struggles within the boundaries of citizenship. Often, however, these rights struggles are interrogated through a binary boundary framework of the majority vs. the minority in the context of group competitions over resources. Whether scholars examine how citizens differentiate themselves from noncitizens or contend that the unequal extension of rights creates hierarchical classes of “citizens,” the literature focuses on competitions over rights that occur along traditional axes such as race, religion, gender, and nationality. This suggests that similar struggles do not happen within the majority, defined by the literature as the group with the “most types of rights.” How rights play out in differentiation disputes within more or less homogenous groups, where classification struggles often defy binary boundaries, is much less understood.

For example, what happens in a hypothetical situation where rights are extended equally among, say, white, Protestant, native-born, male citizens? Who gets excluded, and how?  I explore this line of inquiry by tracing how rights to access certain occupations were mediated through the personal qualification of having a “good moral character,” a vague stipulation that was common in state statutes after the Civil War. Examining the consequential contestations that emerged as a result of including this substantive element in the formal legal code, while delegating the authority to adjudicate the good moral character requirement to different private actors, illustrates the ways rights remain in flux within the juridical field even when some appear more stable/settled than others. Moreover, it demonstrates that rights negotiations regularly construct ways to restrict privileges within categories, even if such limitations are not necessarily hierarchical.

View Heba’s ABF profile here.


Oscar R. Cornejo Casares: The Life and Afterlife of Migrant Illegality

Undocumented immigration has transformed American society. Yet, it remains a fundamentally misunderstood and controversial social problem. While migration scholars have developed significant contributions to the production of undocumented migration and/or the lived experience of undocumented status, sociological research has primarily directed its attention to the immediate and short-term effects of legal status. This dissertation study, thus, turns to the long-term intragenerational impact, investigating how legal status acts an axis of stratification with dynamic and cumulative consequences across the life courses of undocumented immigrants. I draw upon retrospective in-depth life history interviews of Latin American undocumented and formerly undocumented immigrants in the Chicagoland area. Thus, I seek to conceptualize the durability and temporality of migrant illegality as we as the power of the state and how immigrants respond, resist, or acquiesce to the immigration regime.

View Oscar’s ABF profile here.