Immigration is about Deportation: An Exploration of Immigration Hearings and the Penalization of Im/migrants in Canada
The year 2015 was characterized by large-scale movements of im/migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees who attempted to escape civil and political unrest and violence. Described as the “immigration crises” this movement of people generated international attention and caused concerns regarding border control, terrorism, national security, and humanitarianism. Whereas some countries constructed barricades and erected fences to keep out migrants, other countries altered their policies in order to resettle them. At the same time, nation-states are grappling with their own immigration law and its administration as more and more im/migrants cross borders “legally” or “illegally”. Situated within this context, my thesis research observes the process by which nation-states create and enforce immigration laws that restrict, exclude, and remove im/migrants who are considered to be “undesirable” or “harmful” to a country’s social and cultural mosaic. Through my analysis of immigration hearings, in-depth interviews, and archival research, I argue that im/migrant illegalization is a sociopolitical and juridical process that implicates various institutions and actors who are tasked with administering immigration law. By exploring the ways in which ideas like “deservingness”, “(im) morality”, “credibility”, and “rationality” operate in immigration hearings, I emphasize that illegalization is not simply about removal. It is about the legal and administrative interactions and processes that dehumanize and demean im/migrants who are constructed to be “illegal” in Canada.