Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Criminal Justice


David Brotherton

Committee Members

Monica Varsanyi

Ramiro Martinez

Subject Categories

American Politics | Criminal Law | Criminal Procedure | Criminology | Criminology and Criminal Justice | Immigration Law | Law and Politics | Law and Society | Law Enforcement and Corrections | Legislation | Politics and Social Change | Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance | Social Psychology | Social Psychology and Interaction | Social Work


Immigration and Crime, Immigration, Deportation, Immigration Enforcement, Legal Violence, Fear, Social Disorganization


This qualitative study explores the impact that the fear of deportation has on the lives of noncitizen immigrants. More broadly, it explores the role that immigration enforcement, specifically deportation, plays in disrupting the process of integration, and the possible implications of this interruption for immigrants and their communities. The study aims to answer: (1) how vulnerability to deportation specifically impacts an immigrant’s life, and (2) how the vulnerability to deportation, and the fear associated with it, impacts an immigrant’s degree of integration. Data were gathered through a combination of six open-ended focus group interviews of 10 persons each, and 33 individual in-depth interviews, all with noncitizen immigrants. The findings reveal several ways in which the vulnerability to deportation impacted noncitizen immigrants’ lives: the fear of deportation produces emotional and psychological distress, which leads immigrants to have negative perceptions of reception into the United States, all which create barriers to integration. In addition, the findings reveal that the fear of deportation and the resulting psychological distress constitutes a form of legal violence. Legal violence is an emerging framework by Menjívar & Abrego (2012) that builds upon structural and symbolic violence, and refers to state-sanctioned harm perpetuated against immigrants via harsh immigration laws. The fear of deportation, combined with the structural reality of legal violence, creates an environment that impedes integration. The effect of deportability on immigrants’ lives is of interest on the level of both individual integration and community cohesion.