Call for Papers deadline 1 February 2013: Illegality Regimes: Mapping the Law of Irregular Migration

Illegality Regimes: Mapping the Law of Irregular Migration

A Conference at the VU University Amsterdam

30 May – 1 June 2013
Recent years have seen the development of increasingly sophisticated legal and policy approaches to address the phenomenon of irregular immigration. Many states have moved beyond traditional means of law enforcement, such as criminalization, without necessarily abandoning them. In addition, they have begun to employ other areas of law (such as administrative law and labor law) in pursuit of controlling irregular immigration.

For example, the verification of legal residence status, by means of ID-controls, has become increasingly necessary in the day to day life of all people: citizens and non-citizens alike. Private citizens, and not government agents, are evolving into the primary enforcers of these policies, as they have been made legally responsible for the control of legal residence status, for example in the case of employment.

These legal and policy instruments have sometimes been justified with reference to economic theories, such as ‘attrition through enforcement’, the broken window theory, and most recently ‘self-deportation’, a term that ironically originated in a stand-up sketch performed by two Hispanic comedians in the mid ’90s, and was briefly promoted to a major policy proposal in the Romney campaign for the US presidential elections.

Among economic scholars, a debate about the (lack of) effectiveness of these policies has been growing the last couple of years. What is still absent, however, is a more rigorous analysis by legal and other social science scholars. This conference aims to explore the more systemic dimensions of these responses to irregular migration. For this purpose, scholars from all disciplines are invited to consider (any of) the following questions, or to respond with additional insights and approaches:

What are the various legal and policy tools that have been developed to move beyond, or away from the criminalization of irregular migrants? In other words, how have the various innovations sought to counter the inflow of irregular migrants? Have these policies had a significant impact within their legal or policy field?

Consider the following examples:

o What effect have programs such as e-Verify (in the US) had on labor law and labor relations?
o What effect has the use of administrative detention as the primary means of coercion had on the field of administrative law?
o What effect has the widespread use of immigrant detention regimes had on criminal (procedural) law?
o What are the various ways in which illegality regimes have imposed a growing reliance on ID-verification? How should the consequences of this development be assessed?
o By what means have private agents been increasingly ‘deputized’ into becoming enforcers of these policies? How should the legal and other consequences of this development be assessed?
o How has the regulation of surveillance technologies impact these various developments?
We are also interested in philosophical or theoretical analyses that consider the background themes that underlie this topic, such as the spread of securitization & surveillance, the increased reliance on ‘profiling’ in the construction of (legal) identities, and the idea that illegality regimes are a manifestation of neo-liberal approaches to governmentality.

Additionally, we welcome historical, sociological, and ethnographic ventures into these questions. We also welcome contributions from as many countries as possible, so that we can benefit from a plurality of experiences and approaches.


Abstracts of no more than 500 words should be emailed (preferably attached in .pdf format) to by 1 February 2013. Please also include a short bio in the same document as the abstract. The closing date for submissions of (full) papers will be 30 April 2013.

Organizing Committee

Dr. Juan M. Amaya-Castro (VU University) & Dr. Bas Schotel (University of Amsterdam)

For information, please contact us:


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