Complexity below, complexity above: Intra-class conflict, immigration imaginaries, and elite alliances in the Arizona–Mexico borderlands

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This article develops an interdisciplinary, relational approach to political power as a theoretical framework for analyzing how grassroots immigration activists interact with and influence elites responsible for constructing immigration policy. We illuminate this theoretical approach with examples from ethnographic field research with pro- and anti-immigration grassroots activists in southern Arizona to show how competing narrative frames about the border are used by grassroots actors as part of their efforts to influence elite policy-making. We conclude that shifts in US immigration policy have been shaped by intra-class, racialized, conflicts between pro- and anti-immigration factions within the working class, and vertical alliances between elite factions from above and working-class factions from below. We suggest that the criminology of mobility can be advanced by utilizing an interdisciplinary, relational theory of political power to examine how intra-class struggle and inter-class alliances dynamically shape immigration narratives and policies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalTheoretical Criminology
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019



  • Borderlands
  • class and race conflict
  • immigration
  • populism
  • social movements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law

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