Legal Borders, Racial/Ethnic Boundaries: Operation Streamline and Identity Processes on the US-México Border
AuthorFinch, Jessie K.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractHow do individuals navigate situations in which their work-role identity is put in competition with social identities of race/ethnicity, nationality, or citizenship/generational status? This research uses a controversial criminal court procedure (Operation Streamline) as an optimal setting to understand the strategies employed by lawyers and judges who manage such delicate identity processes. I examine how legal professionals assign salience to their various identities while developing a perspective of competing identity management that builds on and further integrates prior sociological research on identity. In particular, Latino/a judges and lawyers who participate in Operation Streamline (OSL) take on a specific work-related role identity that entails assisting in the conviction and sentencing of border-crossers with whom they share one social identity—race/ethnicity—but do not share another social identity—citizenship. I systematically assess identity management strategies used by lawyers and judges to manage these multiple competing identities while seeking to comprehend under what circumstances these identities affect legal professionals' job-related interactions. In this dissertation, I demonstrate that Latino/a lawyers and judges involved with OSL manage their potentially competing social and role identities differently than non-Latino/as whose social identities do not compete with their role identities, demonstrating variation between racial/ethnic social identities. I also find that some Latino/a lawyers and judges (those with higher racial/ethnic social identity salience) involved with OSL manage their potentially competing social and role identities differently than other Latino/a lawyers and judges (those with higher racial/ethnic social identity salience), demonstrating variation within racial/ethnic social identity based on the social identity of citizenship/generational status. Finally, I demonstrate that situationality is a factor in identity management because a shared social identity with defendants seems to be useful in the daily work of Latino/a lawyers and judges, but often detrimental in how they are perceived by outsiders such as activists and the media. From this case, we can take the findings and begin to create an outline for a new theory of competing identity management, integrating prior literatures on social and role identities. I have been able to elaborate mechanisms of some identity management processes while also developing grounded hypotheses on which to base future research. My research also contributes to improving how the criminal justice system deals with sensitive racial/ethnic issues surrounding immigration crimes and en masse proceedings such as OSL. Because proposed "comprehensive immigration reform" includes expanding programs like OSL, my research to understand the broader effects of the program on legal professionals is especially important not only to social scientists but to society at large. The fact that there is a difference in identity management strategies for Latino/a and non-Latino/a respondents helps demonstrate there is in fact an underlying racial tension present in Operation Streamline.
Degree ProgramGraduate College