Pruitt on Latina/os, Locality, and the Law in the Rural South

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Feminist Law Prof Lisa Pruitt (UC Davis) has published her essay Latina/os, Locality, and Law in the Rural South,  at 12 Harv. Latino L. Rev. 135-169 (2009).  Here is the abstract:

In this era of municipal anti-immigrant ordinances and federal-local cooperation to enforce immigration laws, legal issues associated with immigration are playing out at multiple scales, from the national down to the local. Legal actors at the municipal, county, and state levels have become front-line policymakers and law enforcers in relation to immigrant populations. This essay calls attention to phenomenal surge in Latina/o immigration into the rural South in recent years, and it considers how that socio-spatial milieu may influence these legal matters at the local level.

Among other issues, the essay discusses the enhanced opportunity for racial profiling in the context of communities where law enforcement officers are more familiar and socially integrated with the populations they patrol. It also considers how bias may be fueled by the static nature of rural communities, many of which are historically ethnically and racially homogeneous, while others have been socially and racially defined by a Black-White divide. In assessing these legal issues, the essay considers how rural places in the South construct the Latina/o experience differently than “gateway” cities and states in the West and Southwest. In turn, it looks at how the Latina/o in-migration is remaking these rural places, these “quintessentially ‘American’ spaces.”

While the impact of this demographic shift is ongoing, studies suggest that Latina/os are revitalizing the South economically, as they also re-shape the rural socio-cultural milieu. Nevertheless, many of the deep-rooted economic and social problems associated with the region persist, as does distrust between long-time residents and Latina/o newcomers. Just as sociologists, demographers, and economists are studying the phenomenon of immigration into the rural South, this essay argues that it also merits the attention of legal scholars.

Pruitt’s full essay is available here.

-Bridget Crawford

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