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'Bad Hombres': The Effects of Criminalizing Latino Immigrants through Law and Media in the Rural Midwest

Andrea Gomez Cervantes, Daniel Alvord, Cecilia Menjívar


In this article we explore the policy and legal build-up that led to the 2017 Executive Orders targeting Latino/a immigrant families and communities. We provide a historical backdrop for the merging of criminal and immigration laws that has contributed to the criminalization of the behaviors, bodies, and communities of Latino/a immigrants. We then look at the media narratives that burry immigrants’ complex identities and reproduce daily the demonization of Latino/as as criminals. Together, these factors contribute to socially construct a “Brown Threat” which reproduces anxieties and fears about crime, terror, and threats to the nation, affecting the everyday lives of immigrants and non-immigrants alike, though in different ways. Based on an 18-month ethnography in a small Kansas town carried out before and after the signing of Executive Orders in 2017, we examine the spill-over effects of this environment on Guatemalan immigrant families as well as on non-immigrant Anglo-white residents in a rural community.


immigration policy; Latino/a; Executive Orders; Kansas; Midwest; criminalization; rural communities; media; stereotypes

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