Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2019


California Western Law Review





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This essay explores the masculinities underpinnings in modern immigration law, policy, and rhetoric. Existing analysis has captured the ways in which Trump-era immigration laws, policies, and rhetoric are explicitly and implicitly packaged in alarming racism and xenophobia. These critical lenses continue a long and deeply worrisome legacy of “othering” and dehumanizing immigrants and, more broadly, marginalizing communities of color in the United States.

Outside of the immigration law lens, separate strands of scholarship and media coverage have highlighted the toxic masculinities of the Trump era. These discussions have generally focused on President Trump’s treatment of women, the gendered campaign dynamics with other candidates and reporters, the modern #MeToo movement, and Trump’s overall leadership style.

This essay brings these strands of scholarship together to examine the masculinities underpinnings of modern immigration law, policy, and rhetoric in addition to the much more examined racist and nativist frames. This masculinities lens continues my prior work from 2013 titled Enforcing Masculinities at the Border. This work concluded that masculinities theory offers an additional — even unifying — dimension to the study of disparate and divergent immigration laws and policies. It concluded that the history of American immigration law reveals rich, multi-dimensional narratives of class and race; but it also reveals a lesser-studied masculinities dimension. This prior work concluded, “our immigration laws and policies reinforce dominant masculinities at the border by excluding marginalized masculinities and admitting those who comport with dominant masculinity norms.”

This essay modernizes this earlier thesis to address Trump-era law, policy, and rhetoric. Trump distinctly leveraged anti-immigrant sentiment to catapult himself into the White House. Particularly, he channeled anti-immigrant sentiment around a strand of dominant masculinities that uniquely mobilized his white working to middle-class voter base and inflamed toxic masculinities systemically. The implications of this political strategy extend far beyond immigration law and merit deep scrutiny.



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