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date: 14 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

In 2011, Georgia and Alabama passed laws that criminalized an immigrant presence, by restricting points of contact between undocumented immigrants and state resources and by heightening the consequences of immigrant encounters with law enforcement. Part of a wider devolution of immigration enforcement from the federal to the state level, legislation in both states reflected the South’s historically complex racial politics and created both extreme immigrant exclusions and new coalitions between advocates of immigrant and civil rights. Although southern states have historically been marginal to U.S. immigration debates, in recent years their efforts to discourage immigrant settlement became central to the nation’s overall approach to immigration and laid the groundwork for the dramatic shifts in the politics of immigration seen after the 2012 presidential elections. Legislative actions in both states also set the stage for the prominent role of Protestant and Catholic churches in the immigration debate. These shifts highlight the need for attention from immigration and law scholars to new immigrant destinations, which lack experience with immigration but increasingly shape national debates over the place of immigrants vis-à-vis the “public” served and represented by state governments.

Keywords: American South, immigration legislation, SB 1070, race, civil rights movement, churches

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