Robin Valenzuela

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Indiana U., Bloomington

Grant number

Gr. 9676

Approve Date

April 19, 2018

Project Title

Valenzuela, Robin E., Indiana U., Bloomington, IN - To aid research on 'Navigating Parental Fitness: Noncitizen Parents and Transnational Family Reunification,' supervised by Dr. Sara Friedman

Preliminary abstract: One of the many consequences of an increasingly aggressive immigration enforcement system is the separation of U.S. citizen children from their unauthorized immigrant parents–particularly those from Mexico. This separation often entails the convergence of immigration enforcement, child welfare, and Family Law systems, as well as institutional networks involved in transnational reunification cases. Ultimately, the separation of mixed-status families in the United States raises important questions regarding the linkages between parenting, citizenship, and children’s ‘best interests’. First, how is parenting legislated through a complex network of institutions that seek to protect children and uphold their ‘best interests’? Second, how do noncitizen Mexican parents navigate, challenge, or perform these notions of good parenting in order to reunify with their U.S citizen children? Third, how does the state’s regulation of parenting reveal and enforce particular understandings of national belonging and ideal citizenship? Lastly, how do family reunification and/or the termination of parental rights operate as bordering practices that reconfigure the socio-spatial ties between parents and their children? To explore such questions, this study engages in multi-sited ethnographic research in both Chicago, Illinois and the Tucson-Sonora-Nogales region of the Arizona-Mexico border zone, examining how noncitizen Mexican parents, child protection workers (in the U.S and Mexico), attorneys, and Family Law judges experience and navigate the child protection system domestically and transnationally. In so doing, it considers how bordering practices operate as an effect of state surveillance and intervention, whether they occur at the physical U.S-Mexican border or in the Midwest.