Immigrants Under Threat

Risk and Resistance in Deportation Nation

256 pages

1 illustrations

June, 2018

ISBN: 9781479821464



Add to Cart Available: 6/1/2018

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Greg Prieto is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of San Diego.

All books by Greg Prieto

A portrait of two Mexican immigrant communities confronting threats of deportation, detention, and dispossession 

Everyday life as an immigrant in a deportation nation is fraught with risk, but everywhere immigrants confront repression and dispossession, they also manifest resistance in ways big and small. Immigrants Under Threat shifts the conversation from what has been done to Mexican immigrants to what they do in response.  

From private strategies of avoidance, to public displays of protest, immigrant resistance is animated by the massive demographic shifts that started in 1965 and an immigration enforcement regime whose unprecedented scope and intensity has made daily life increasingly perilous. Immigrants Under Threat focuses on the way the material needs of everyday life both enable and constrain participation in immigrant resistance movements.  

Using ethnographic research from two Mexican immigrant communities on California’s Central Coast, Greg Prieto argues that immigrant communities turn inward to insulate themselves from the perceived risks of authorities and a hostile public. These barriers are overcome through the face-to-face work of social-movement organizing that transforms individual grievances into collective demands.  

The social movements that emerge are shaped by the local political climates in which they unfold and remain tethered to their material inspiration. Immigrants Under Threat explains that Mexican immigrants seek not to transcend, but to burrow into American institutions of law and family so that they might attain a measure of economic stability and social mobility that they have sought all along. 


  • Immigrants Under Threat is a captivating text that renders heart-wrenchingly clear what it is like to live as a target during the current era of mass deportation. Drawing from extensive ethnographic work with immigrant communities, Prieto elucidates how immigrants’ vulnerabilities place severe constraints on their ability to organize. This book makes it clear that deportability, legal violence, and precarity shape the lives and possibilities of immigrants and their families today. Theoretically-informed and powerfully written, this book is a must read for both migration and social movements scholars and students.”

    —Tanya Golash-Boza, Author of Deported: Immigrant Policing, Disposable Labor, and Global Capitalism

  • “Greg Prieto deploys the concept of material moorings to illuminate immigrants’ dilemma: their trust in the police to address grievances and their rejection of police racialized tactics in immigration enforcement. At its core, this book makes a compelling case for linking immigrants’ private strategies of avoiding detection and deportation with their activism and public contention. It is rich, engaging, insightful, and a welcome exploration of the conditions that both constrain and inspire immigrant social movement organizing. Highly recommended.”

    —Cecilia Menjívar, Co-Author of Immigrant Families

  • A modest masterpiece, Immigrants Under Threat appears just when we need it most! Deeply immersed in the immigrant experience, Greg Prieto explores people’s sense of identity, their political orientation and activism, and their acute consciousness of repression and modes of resistance to it. With a thorough grasp of US immigration politics – historically and in the present – Prieto gives so much: a beautiful and respectful ethnography, a guide to the immigrants’ rights movement, and a probing glimpse of grassroots Latin@ politics today. Along the way, Prieto teaches community organization skills, reflects on US nativism and how to resist it, and shows what action research is all about. The strength and clarity of Latin@ immigrants in the US today, individually and collectively, comes through very strongly. Highly recommended for adoption in the social sciences and Latin@ studies, as well as in humanities and cultural studies courses across the disciplines."

    —Howard Winant, Co-Author of Racial Formation in the United States