I conduct ethnographic research on transnational migration, (im)mobilities, and socio-legal inequalities. My work asks how movement across borders and encounters with immigration policies and enforcement practices impact migrants’ everyday lives and experiences. Over the past decade, my research has centered on Indigenous migration in the Americas, with particular attention to Maya migration between the Yucatán region of Mexico and the San Francisco Bay Area. Through my transnational research on the Maya Diaspora, I analyze how race, legal identity, and claims to space, place, and movement co-construct Indigenous experience and imaginaries.
My first book project, Belonging Out of Place, addresses a critical “new wave” of Indigenous migration between Latin America and the United States. Between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s, over 50,000 people of Maya heritage migrated from Mexico to California, with the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles as the two major receiving hubs. Within this ethnographic framework, my research documents Maya migrants’ experiences of, and responses to, racial and legal exclusion in an unexpected place: a zone that offers official “sanctuary” protections to immigrants lacking legal status. In Belonging Out of Place, I argue that the confluences of “illegalized” immigration status and racialization produce a particular politics of (im)mobility for Indigenous migrants. Emerging from this project, I have written about the relationship between law enforcement, migrant imaginaries, and Indigenous (im)mobilities in the context of particular immigration policies and deportation campaigns. I have also addressed the linkages between Indigenous heritage, material culture, and historical legacies of dispossession.
My next major research project, Illusion of Return, looks at the effects of return migration, deportation, and familial separation on migrants’ transborder identities. I’m particularly interested in return migrants’ creative uses of new media technologies, and in the ways that such technologies allow migrants to imagine return, sustain existing relations, as well as expand their felt sensibilities of transborder citizenship and belonging. In a related avenue of research that addresses the affective dimensions of immobility, “illegal” immigration status, and indigeneity, I trace the connections between nationalist xenophobic anxieties and expressions of grief, mourning, and psychiatric distress among undocumented immigrants.