Immigrant Rights in the Nuevo South

Enforcement and Resistance at the Borderlands of Illegality

Meghan Conley
Book Cover

PB: $29.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1645-2
Publication: Nov 19

HC: $94.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1644-5
Publication: Nov 19

Ebook: $29.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1646-9
Publication: Nov 19

224 pages
6 x 9
2 figs., 16 halftones

Examining the connections between repression and resistance for unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. Southeast

Read the Preface (pdf).


Every day, undocumented immigrants are rendered vulnerable through policies and practices that illegalize them. Moreover, they are socially constructed into dangerous criminals and taxpayer burdens who are undeserving of rights, dignity, and respect. Meghan Conley’s timely book, Immigrant Rights in the Nuevo South, seeks to expose and challenge these dehumanizing ideas and practices by examining the connections between repression and resistance for unauthorized immigrants in communities across the American Southeast.

Conley uses on-the-ground interviews to describe fear and resistance from the perspective of those most affected by it. She shows how, for example, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act in Georgia prompted marches and an action that became “a day of non-compliance.” Likewise, an “enforcement lottery” that created unpredictable threats of arrest and deportation in the region mobilized immigrants to organize and demonstrate. However, as immigrant rights activists mobilize in opposition to the criminalization of undocumented people, they may unintentionally embrace stories of who deserves to be in the United States and who does not. Immigrant Rights in the Nuevo South explores these paradoxes while offering keen observations about the nature and power of Latinx resistance.


In this moving account of contemporary immigrant life, Meghan Conley paints a vivid and textured portrait of struggle and resistance in the American South. Penetrating and skillfully told, Immigrant Rights in the Nuevo South is a story of structural constraints and self-determination. As immigration controls have drawn tight circles around migrants’ everyday lives, many have managed to carve out meaningful lives and to engage in acts of resistance. But, as Conley ponders, what is the price? A must-read for scholars and policy makers alike.
Roberto G. Gonzales, author of Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America

While never condemning the strategies and tactics of resistance and survival chosen by those under attack by U.S. immigration policies, every page of Conley’s thick analysis of the twenty-first century immigrant rights struggle in the Southeastern United States asks readers to look past the arbitrary boundaries of law and into the eyes of human beings. Scholars, students, and activists alike would be wise to grapple with Conley’s call to figure out how our struggles can truly ‘value people over things.’”
Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson and Rev. Allyn Maxfield-Steele, Co-Executive Directors, Highlander Research and Education Center

" Although Megan Conley focuses on the 'Nuevo South,' her contribution regarding illegalization extends beyond the US Southeastern geographic region. The book provides additional theoretical and analytical depth regarding how illegalization operates to maintain an unauthorized immigrant segment of the population.... Conley’s book adds clarity to immigrant enforcement processes while focusing on a new immigrant destination and highlighting the agency and resistance efforts against daily illegalization."
Social Forces

Table of Contents

Author’s Note

1. From Illegality to Resistance
2. New Destination Borderlands
3. Multiplying Forces in the Homeland Security State
4. The Enforcement Lottery
5. Welcome to Alabama
6. Building Structure, Building Power
7. Storytelling Resistance
8. Undoing Illegality


About the Author(s)

Meghan Conley is the Director of Community Partnerships in the Department of Sociology at the University of Tennessee. She is the co-author of Immigration and Population.