2019 | 7 | 1 | 197-213
Article title

Self-Deportation and Forced Choice as Discursive Maneuver: Force and “Voluntary” Migration

Title variants
Languages of publication
The words we use to understand migration underpin how we attempt to control it. This paper uses critical discourse analysis (CDA) to trace the use of “self-deportation.” I find the word was framed in different ways by media, academics and political experts. I focus on how political experts used self-deportation as a form of dog-whistle politics and associated it with a variety of enforcement-only approaches to immigration policy. I consider the relatively consistent political framing participated in shifting policy debates because they normalized the force and coercion implied by deportation.
Physical description
Document type
Original Article
  • Ajzenstadt, Mimi, and Assaf Shapira. 2012. "The socio-legal construction of otherness under a neo-liberal regime: the case of foreign workers in the Israeli criminal courts." British Journal of Criminology 52 (4):685-704.
  • Alexander, Michelle. 2012. The new Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness: The New Press.
  • Anderson, Bridget. 2013. Us and them?: The dangerous politics of immigration control: OUP Oxford.
  • Armenta, Amada. 2017. Protect, serve, and deport: The rise of policing as immigration enforcement: University of California Press.
  • Barbour, H., Bradshaw, S., Fleischer, A., Fonalledas, Z., & McCall, G. (2013). Growth and Opportunity Project. Retrieved from
  • Blitz, Brad K, Rosemary Sales, and Lisa Marzano. 2005. "Non-voluntary return? The politics of return to Afghanistan." Political Studies 53 (1):182-200.
  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1991. Language and social power. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Camacho, Alicia Schmidt. 2010. "Hailing the Twelve MillionU. S. Immigration Policy, Deportation, and the Imaginary of Lawful Violence." Social Text 28 (4 (105)):1-24.
  • Carter, Bob, and Alison Sealey. 2000. "Language, structure and agency: what can realist social theory offer to sociolinguistics?" Journal of Sociolinguistics 4 (1):3-20.
  • Chand, D. E., & Schreckhise, W. D. (2015). Secure communities and community values: Local context and discretionary immigration law enforcement. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 41(10), 1621- 1643.
  • Citrin, Jack, Morris Levy, and Matthew Wright. 2014. "Multicultural policy and political support in European democracies." Comparative Political Studies 47 (11):1531-1557.
  • Coleman, M. (2009). What Counts as the Politics and Practice of Security, and Where? Devolution and Immigrant Insecurity after 9/11. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 99(5), 904-913.
  • Dávila, Arlene. 2012. Latinos, Inc.: The marketing and making of a people: Univ of California Press.
  • De Genova, Nicholas. 2007. "The production of culprits: From deportability to detainability in the aftermath of “homeland security”." Citizenship studies 11 (5):421-448.
  • De Giorgi, Alessandro. 2010. "Immigration control, post-Fordism, and less eligibility: A materialist critique of the criminalization of immigration across Europe." Punishment & Society 12 (2):147-167.
  • Donato, Katharine M, and Amada Armenta. 2011. "What we know about unauthorized migration." Annual Review of Sociology 37:529-543.
  • Ellermann, Antje. 2007. "Street-level democracy: How immigration bureaucrats manage public opposition." In Immigration Policy in Europe: The Politics of Control, edited by Virginie Guiraudon and Gallya Lahav, 93. New York: Routledge.
  • Entman, R. M. (2004). Projections of Power: Framing News, Public opinion, and US Foreign Policy: University of Chicago Press.
  • Ewing, Walter A. 2010. "The many facets of effective immigration reform." Society 47 (2):110-117.
  • Fairclough, Norman. 2013. Critical discourse analysis: The critical study of language: Routledge.
  • Fassin, Didier. 2011. "Policing borders, producing boundaries. The governmentality of immigration in dark times." Annual Review of Anthropology 40:213-226.
  • Feagin, J. R. (2010). The White Racial Frame: Centuries of Racial Framing and Counter-framing: Routledge.
  • Fernandez, Luis, and Joel Olson. 2011. "To live, love and work anywhere you please." Contemporary Political Theory 10 (3):412-419.
  • Filindra, Alexandra. 2012. "The Myth of Self-deportation-How Behavioral Economics Reveals the Fallacies behind “Attrition through Enforcement”." Washington: Immigration Policy Center.
  • Foucault, Michel. 1972. The Archeology of Knowledge. New York: Pantheon Books.
  • Foucault, Michel. 1977. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Pantheon Books.
  • García, Angela S. 2012. "Return to sender? A comparative analysis of immigrant communities in ‘attrition through enforcement’destinations." Ethnic and Racial Studies 36 (11):1849-1870.
  • Geiger, Martin, and Antoine Pécoud. 2013. Disciplining the transnational mobility of people: Springer.
  • Goffman, Erving. 1974. Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience. Cambridge: HarvardUniversity Press.
  • Goodin, R. E., & Saward, M. (2005). Dog Whistles and Democratic Mandates. The Political Quarterly, 76(4), 471-476.
  • Goodman, A. (2017). The Long History of Self-Deportation: Trump’s anti-immigrant policies build on more th n a century of attempts to create fear and terror within US immigrant communities. NACLA Report on the Americas, 49(2), 152-158.
  • Gunkel, Steven E, and Ana‐María González Wahl. 2012. "Unauthorized migrants and the (il) logic of “crime control”: A human rights perspective on US federal and local state immigration policies." Sociology Compass 6 (1):26-45.
  • Haynes, Chris, Jennifer Merolla, and S Karthick Ramakrishnan. 2016. Framing immigrants: News coverage, public opinion, and policy: Russell Sage Foundation.
  • Hing, Bill Ong. 2010. "Reason over Hysteria." Loy. J. Pub. Int. L. 12:275.
  • Johnson, Kevin R. 2009. "The intersection of race and class in US immigration law and enforcement." Law and Contemporary Problems 72 (4):1-35.
  • Joppke, Christian. 1998. "Immigration challenges the nation-state." In Challenge to the Nation-State: Immigration in Western Europe and the United States, edited by Christian Joppke, 5-46.
  • Kinder, Donald R, and Cindy D Kam. 2010. Us against them: Ethnocentric foundations of American opinion: University of Chicago Press.
  • Knoll, Benjamin R, David P Redlawsk, and Howard Sanborn. 2011. "Framing labels and immigration policy attitudes in the Iowa caucuses: ‘Trying to out-Tancredo Tancredo’." Political Behavior 33 (3):433-454.
  • Koch, Anne. 2014. "The politics and discourse of migrant return: the role of UNHCR and IOM in the governance of return." Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 40 (6):905-923.
  • Koenig, Thomas. 2006. "Compounding mixed-methods problems in frame analysis through comparative research." Qualitative Research 6 (1):61-76.
  • Kretsedemas, Philip. 2012. "The Limits of Control: Neo‐Liberal Policy Priorities and The US Non‐Immigrant Flow." International Migration 50 (s1).
  • Krikorian, Mark. 2005. Downsizing illegal immigration: A strategy of attrition through enforcement. Center for Immigration Studies Washington, DC.
  • Lakhani, Nina. "This is what the hours after being deported look like." accessed 2018.
  • Leerkes, Arjen, Rianne Os, and Eline Boersema. 2017. "What drives ‘soft deportation’? Understanding the rise in Assisted Voluntary Return among rejected asylum seekers in the Netherlands." Population, Space and Place 23 (8).
  • López, Ian Haney. 2015. Dog whistle politics: How coded racial appeals have reinvented racism and wreckedthe middle class: Oxford University Press.
  • Martin, David Cook. 2008. "Rules, red tape, and paperwork: the archeology of state control over migrants." Journal of Historical Sociology 21 (1):82-119.
  • Matthews, D. (2018). Polls: Trump’s family separation policy is very unpopular — except among Republicans. Retrieved from border-trump-children-immigrant-families-parents
  • Marx, K. (2018). Capital Volume 1 (Vol. 1): Lulu. com.
  • Matthes, J., & Kohring, M. (2008). The Content Analysis of Media Frames: Toward Improving Reliability and Validity. Journal of Communication, 58(2), 258-279.
  • McGlone, M. S. (2005). Contextomy: the Art of Quoting out of Context. Media, Culture & Society, 27(4), 511- 522.
  • McDowell, Meghan G, and Nancy A Wonders. 2009. "Keeping migrants in their place: Technologies of control and racialized public space in Arizona." Social Justice 36 (2 (116):54-72.
  • Mehan, Hugh. 1997. "The discourse of the illegal immigration debate: A case study in the politics of representation." Discourse & Society 8 (2):249-270.
  • Mendieta, Eduardo. 2011. "The right to political membership: Democratic morality and the rights of irregular immigrants." Radical Philosophy Review 14 (2):177-185.
  • O'Leary, Anna Ochoa, and Azucena Sanchez. 2011. "Anti-immigrant Arizona: Ripple effects and mixed immigration status households under “policies of attrition” considered." Journal of Borderlands Studies 26 (1):115-133.
  • O'Neil, E. (2018). Immigration Issues: Public Opinion on Family Separation, DACA, and a Border Wall. Retrieved from daca-and-a-border-wall/
  • Parrado, Emilio A. 2012. "Immigration enforcement policies, the economic recession, and the size of local Mexican immigrant populations." The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 641 (1):16-37.
  • Pécoud, Antoine. 2013. "Disciplining the transnational mobility of people." In Disciplining the Transnational Mobility of People, edited by Antoine Pécoud and Martin Geiger, 1-14. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Plewa, P. (2012). The effects of voluntary return programmes on migration flows in the context of the 1973/74 and 2008/09 economic crises. Comparative Population Studies, 37(1-2).
  • Provine, D. M., & Varsanyi, M. W. (2012). Scaled Down: Perspectives on State and Local Creation and
  • Enforcement of Immigration Law. Introduction to the Special Issue of Law & Policy. Law & Policy, 34(2), 105-112.
  • Reinhart, RJ. 2018. In the News: Immigration. In Social & Policy Issues: Gallup.
  • Sandoval, Lisa. 2011. "Race and immigration law: A troubling marriage." Mod. Am. 7:42.
  • Santa Ana, O. (2002). Brown Tide Rising: Metaphors of Latinos in Contemporary American Public Discourse: University of Texas Press.
  • Scheff, T. J. (2005). The Structure of Context: Deciphering Frame Analysis. Sociological theory, 23(4), 368-385.
  • Shamir, Ronen. 2005. "Without borders? Notes on globalization as a mobility regime." Sociological theory 23 (2):197-217.
  • Suárez-Orozco, Marcelo M. 2012. "The Dream Deferred." Americas Quarterly 6 (2):142-147.
  • Thronson, David B. 2008. "Creating crisis: Immigration raids and the destabilization of immigrant families." Wake Forest L. Rev. 43:391.
  • Tope, Daniel, and Lisa N Hickman. 2012. "The politics of children's health insurance policy." Sociological Perspectives 55 (1):43-66.
  • Trujillo-Pagan, N. (2014). Emphasizing the ‘Complex’in the ‘Immigration Industrial Complex’. Critica sociology, 40(1), 29-46.
  • Walsh, James P. 2011. "Quantifying citizens: Neoliberal restructuring and immigrant selection in Canada and Australia." Citizenship Studies 15 (6-7):861-879.
  • Waslin, Michele. 2012. "Discrediting self-deportation as immigration policy: Why an attrition through enforcement strategy makes life difficult for everyone." Immigration Policy Center.
  • Webber, F. (2011). How Voluntary are Voluntary Returns? Race & Class, 52(4), 98-107.
Document Type
Publication order reference
YADDA identifier
JavaScript is turned off in your web browser. Turn it on to take full advantage of this site, then refresh the page.