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Immigration legislation's panoptic gaze through a legal, theoretical and empirical lens

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From its founding, the United States has always claimed to be a nation of immigrants, yet in the past century the issue of immigration has become an even more contentious

From its founding, the United States has always claimed to be a nation of immigrants, yet in the past century the issue of immigration has become an even more contentious political issue surrounded by heated rhetoric filled with passion, but devoid of information. This thesis hopes to interrupt this rhetoric with a thorough analysis of immigration politics in Arizona through a legal lens, a theoretical lens and an empirical lens. While this thesis by no means looks at all facets of immigration politics, it informs in a manner that adds depth by providing information on the history behind, and legal arguments surrounding, the most contentious piece of immigration legislation in the United States at the moment. It then provides a theoretical analysis of how immigration legislation has created carceral networks and a panoptic gaze in Arizona specifically. It ends with a recommendation for further empirical research to partner with both the legal and theoretical frameworks. This thesis concludes that, fortified with over a century of case law, the plenary power doctrine is unwavering, and it makes federal immigration legislation an overly powerful tool in our political system from which the courts can offer little if any protection. Congress walks a fine line between preempting immigration regulation and devolving immigration regulation. SB 1070 and the 287(g) program are two contested areas of immigration regulation, which both exhibit and alter the power relationships of immigration politics in Arizona. Additionally, the application of the theories of Michel Foucault illuminates the power relationships at play in Arizona - from the power relationships among nation states in the broader political arena of geopolitics and colonialism to the face-to-face power relationship between a police officer and a stopped/detained/arrested person in a Foucauldian carceral network. This thesis ends with a call for empirical research that would yield an opportunity to analyze these relationships. This thesis discusses the importance of empirical study. It situates the study within the genre of surveillance studies and its theorists. It analyzes similar studies, and identifies the variables the most illuminating for this analysis. This thesis is written in the hope that a researcher will pick up where this thesis has left off.

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  • 2011