Of Radicals and DREAMers: Harnessing Exceptionality to Challenge Immigration Control

  • Luisa Laura Heredia


This article contributes to the literature on undocumented youth activism and citizenship by assessing undocumented youth’s challenges to a growing regime of migration control in the US. It uses Doug McAdam’s tactical interaction as an analytical lens to explore two consecutive high-risk campaigns, ICE infiltrations and expulsion/re-entry. In this subset of activism, undocumented youth have directly taken on technologies of migration control by forcing the state to adjudicate their status through direct action protest; they have exposed state abuses of law by infiltrating detention centers and have subverted deportation by seeking humanitarian aid and re-entry. Undocumented youth use their liminal legal status and their valorized social status to access and launch their challenges from these invisible spaces of migration control. In doing so, I argue, they are challenging the contours of citizenship and destabilizing the state’s power to police and criminalize the unauthorized. Assessing these challenges is especially timely given that political movements are expanding their tactics to challenge punitive enforcement measures that states are implementing to control these “illegal” and “expelled” populations.