The term “illegality” is  often used uncritically and   in facile fashion in public discourses of  immigration  to refer to the condition in which several million undocumented immigrants live today. As the political debate and public discourse shows, language matters a great deal. People  often think that they  know  exactly to what immigrants this term refers, as the term itself has become closely linked to the lives of Latina/o immigrants. Indeed, given the focus of the enforcement side of the immigration regime today, this term has become almost synonymous with Latina/o immigrants. And popular usage of the term “illegality” connotes association with criminality, with violation of the legal order, and, as such, it is often used to undermine the moral character of certain immigrant groups, as Peter Nyers (2010) notes. Thus, the popular use of this term does not simply reflect its technical legal meaning (Menjívar and Kanstroom 2014), and politicized …

This essay may be found on page 93 of the printed volume.

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