Issue 13.2 | Spring 2016 / Guest edited by Soniya Munshi and Craig Willse

Unsettling Innocence: Rewriting The Law’s Invention of Immigrant Woman as Cooperator and Criminal Enforcer


In February 2009, I sat down to speak with K.S., an attorney who worked with a nonprofit organization that primarily served domestic violence survivors from Asian immigrant communities in the San Francisco Bay Area.[1] We met earlier that year when I began working with K.S.’s organization. As she described the details of her daily routine, I was most struck by how frequently law enforcement agencies appeared in her stories. Without hiding my shock, I asked K.S. about her thoughts and she shared, “What else can I do? What do you expect me to do?” and continued to articulate a series of frustrations based in her own experiences with the criminal legal system, her clients’ frustrations, and frustration with my actual question.

This was the kind of moment ethnography tends to ignore, dreads, and would rather avoid, for it appears as an impasse devoid of dialogue and understanding. But such moments present a theoretical re-opening between political reimagining and legal practice, how we write about the law, and the law’s own telling of who immigrant women and their advocates ought to be. If in the work that legal-service providers do each day they cannot afford to ignore such moments, then our writings of law ought not to as well. Throughout the year, I thought often about K.S.’s question. What begins to unfurl, when the few legal options available for advocates are bound within institutions of punishment and agencies of enforcement? What modes of believing and belonging does the law ask of those who engage in this relationship? It was this identifiable limit and its almost defeating frustration that makes this moment paramount to political theory and transformative practices; it is a kind of frustration that we cannot afford to avoid. This limit, rather than being a marker of what ethnographic writing is unable to grasp, is instead an expression that opens up the possibility for a more careful understanding of the role of law in the lives of Asian immigrant women, whose experiences have never been free from the criminalization of legal status. Further, this regulation cannot be understood outside the bounds of both the criminal legal system’s racial logics of punishment over black life and the universalizing humanitarian discourses that couch the law’s attempt to provide protection from gender and sexual violence.[2]

Rather than relegate K.S.’s frustration to the oblivion of ethnographic misrecognition,[3] I seek to take up the spirit of this frustration through writing in hopes of building a relationship between the stakes of legal practice and the experience of writing about the law. This is in fact, what it has always meant, to lawyer on behalf of a person and for their communities, yet the urgency of such stakes are often understood as only relevant to activists, writers, and community organizers, and not to those who are social service and legal providers.[4] We can do more to develop methodological or theoretical analyses that resist this particular bifurcation. This article will take as its central focus laws that promise to protect immigrant women only when they and their legal advocates participate with institutions of criminalization. Can we configure an analysis specifically around the formation of legal protection—who is protected, what damage do they undergo to be worthy of protection, who even qualifies as “properly” damaged, and then, further, what must be exchanged in receipt for that protection? Such questions have long been addressed by feminist and queer of color antiviolence organizers and advocates whose analyses have made possible a host of questions now referenced and used in critical theory. In particular, contributors to the The Color of Violence and The Revolution Will Not be Funded anthologies, have argued that interpersonal violence within communities cannot be understood outside forms of state violence, and that state violence is not abstracted, but rather is normalized and maintained through gender and sexual violence.[5] Further, laws that promise safety and reduced violence by instilling legal punishment and increased policing do more to establish what Chinyere Oparah has argued is the “the state as a protector” than they do to imagine what safety would mean for communities.[6]

As few alternatives to law enforcement exist, the normalization of punishment as an accepted and embraced solution to the problem of violence against women continues what Saidiya Hartman theorizes as Western humanity’s configuration of black bodies in captivity within logics of criminality. What elides the material recognition of black bodies is the constant replacement of other signed bodies, or what Hartman theorizes as the fungibility of blackness.[7] What I hope to draw here, is that Hartman’s theorization necessarily requires us to build a critique of legal attempts to protect innocence and promise freedom. It pushes us to look carefully at which bodies become objects of protection and which are positioned as adequate for punishment and in turn, how we write about people, the experiences of our communities and others. In reference to Beth Richie and Dorothy Roberts’ writings on violence, the body, and black women’s experiences, Alexander Weheliye has argued that the disregard for black life reoccurs in legal adjudications of protection, always determining life in order to then value and regulate the terms of protection: “Black life simultaneously supplies the economic, psychic, cultural, sexual, legal, reproductive, and fleshly foundation for the humanist subject, i.e., white, Western, Man, and projects pathways to the abolition of this category. Which is to say that black life, rather than being ancillary to how life itself is imagined in the modern West, is constitutive of this domain.”[8] If we are to take up the grace of this insight, we might further explore how this legal schema of protection must invent new legal figures to carry out the determination of life. In other words, one of the ways we can think through what it means to lawyer and provide legal services or to be someone in a community that needs services, is to identify how immigrant women are made to occupy the legal position of the protected when the protection they are promised is carried out through a form of criminal enforcement that engulfs them and their representing attorneys in a racist and punitive criminal legal system—this is the frustration that K.S. shares.

This article will discuss immigration visas initially promoted to be a form of protection for immigrant women from violence only if they agree to assist law enforcement with criminal prosecutions. How did it come about that the law’s desire to protect undocumented immigrant women was able to produce a relationship with law enforcement as a prerequisite of sorts for legal relief? What are the terms on which the protection of immigrant women unfolds? I attend to these questions by tracing how advocates have had to navigate ways to inscribe their clients in shaky humanitarian discourses and I read the U Visa alongside feminist of color theorizations of policing and incarceration.[9] The overemphasis and reliance upon criminalization as a solution to violence against women has done little to address the lives of women of color, immigrant, and indigenous communities.[10]

In what follows, I discuss the U Visa, an immigration law designed to protect undocumented immigrant women from violence by enlisting them as “cooperators” in service of the police.[11] I argue that women are shuttled between positions of innocence and culpability and are invented as new kinds of legal subjects who expand criminal enforcement while being marked as objects of legal protection. What remains stable throughout this legal schema is the law’s ability to render itself steadfast and neutral with regard to violence toward immigrant women despite the anxiety the law sets in place if undocumented women waiver from their position as pure innocent legal objects unquestionably worthy of receiving temporary legal status. This anxiety is symptomatic of the U Visa’s legal design yet immigrant women bear its burden of experience.

The Violence Against Women Act called for the adoption of neoliberal policy approaches to address domestic violence and used white victimhood narratives to drive increased policing and sentencing against communities of color.[12] Such narratives of pure and universal victimhood not only erased women of color, indigenous, queer, and migrants from being “worthy” of legal protection, they marked them and their communities as perpetrators and threats to “public safety.” Since its passage in 1994, an overwhelming majority of federal funding designated by VAWA is allocated toward law enforcement efforts. In their article “VAWA Is Not Enough,” Kalei Kanuha et al., call for a stop to legislative action designed for mass incarceration, prosecution, and mandatory sentencing, and for a shift in Congress’s use of VAWA toward developing the economic, reproductive, and racial justice needed to end violence in the lives of women—particularly poor women, undocumented women, native women, and women of color. They note that the most recent reauthorization, in 2010, allocated $295 million to STOP (Services, Training, Officers, Prosecution) and GTEAP grants (Grants To Encourage Arrest and Enforce Protection Orders), greatly outweighing the funds dedicated to the immediate needs of survivors and the alleviation of economic, institutional, and legal conditions of violence: $57 million for civil legal assistance programs, $22 million for training of family court personnel and judges, and $39 million to assist with housing for battered women and their children.[13]

VAWA passed as a section of the nation’s largest comprehensive crime bill, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act—an origin that is often ignored in celebratory memories of this landmark legislation. Documenting early efforts within the battered women’s movement to accept the strategy of harsher criminalization based on the assumption that it would lead to reduced violence in women’s lives, Leigh Goodmark has argued that a number of feminist advocates turned toward the criminal legal system that was previously critiqued for reproducing patriarchy. Such strategies asked for legal protections through a very particular articulation of increased punishment, resulting in what Goodmark calls the “troubled marriage” between the criminal legal system and mainstream antiviolence movements today.[14] Further, Beth Richie argues that “the build up of a prison nation” targets black women as punishment’s desire—a desire glossed in the vein of rescue while lodged in the perpetual failure to prevent violence or ensure conditions of survival. Thus, she argues, while the mainstream was won when an unquestioned reliance on criminal enforcement dominated antiviolence political agendas, the broader movement for liberation was lost.[15] As Andrea Smith has argued, when we operate from “a point of crisis” rather than violence prevention, “it becomes clear that we must develop approaches that address interpersonal, state (for example, racism, colonization, police brutality, prisons), and structural (for example, racism, poverty) violence simultaneously.”[16] Our radical political practices must also turn a critical eye towards the set of solutions that presuppose a nonviolent landscape upon which reform and resolution are packaged.

For survivors of violence who are neither married or in possession of legal status, VAWA created the U Visa and highlighted this provision as the only available resource for undocumented survivors of domestic violence and severe forms of human trafficking.[17] Provided by the 2000 reauthorization of VAWA,[18] undocumented survivors are the legal subjects most associated with the visa but the letter of U Visa law included gender and sexual violence, but also a far larger number of over two-dozen qualifying crimes.[19] Additionally, applicants are only eligible if they agree to cooperate with law enforcement in criminal prosecutions, and prove that their willingness to cooperate is in “good faith.” They must also approach a qualifying agency (in most cases law enforcement) and obtain a certification form that legitimates their cooperation in criminal prosecution.[20] A successful application grants temporary legal status for a possible four years, potential work eligibility, and if those who receive the visa are able to prove that cooperation with law enforcement has not been “unreasonably refused” then they may be eligible for green card status at a later date.[21] While no other immigration provision made available through VAWA explicitly requires this cooperation, we should not read the U visa as an exception to the rule of VAWA but rather as a component prefigured by VAWA’s formulation of legal punishment as the only means to legal protection, which places high stakes on the requirement for cooperation as a prerequisite for temporary legal status.[22]

We cannot fully understand the complexities of the visa without considering why the law utilizes an undocumented survivor of violence to be its legal subject for all other “crime fighting” mechanisms. Indeed, the U visa scheme reads as a form of seemingly nonviolent cooperation and it is this legal fiction that continues to reinforce the long history of the criminality of blackness, tied to the notion of protection from gender and sexual violence. In what follows, I argue that the U visa is designed to enlist women in serving the purposes of police by inventing them as new kinds of legal subjects who expand criminal enforcement while remaining as objects of purported legal protection. Immigrant women are shuttled between culpability and innocence—innocence as victims of violent crimes, but marked as culpable in the crime of undocumented legal status.

The U visa makes evident a particular strategy of state violence where immigrant women’s lives are used for state survival, even as women themselves seek legal assistance for their own survival. In no way does the visa work to amend the laws which actually construct criminality but rather, seeks to provide an opening for immigrant women through a shaky expectation of them to be both innocent objects of the law and subjects who must disavow the criminality the law has already placed on them. In other words, immigrant women appear as ostensibly willing subjects who cooperate because of their status as victims innocent of crime. However, as I will discuss further, the very reason immigrant women come before the law seeking a U visa is to remedy their undocumented legal status for which they have already been held as culpable, not innocent. Without this legal move to seek the most pure form of innocence, the visa’s fiction of cooperation is easily undercut when the coercive conditions that undocumented immigrant women undergo reveal they have no choice but to apply for a visa. My concern is that this fiction of cooperation as nonviolent eschews any understanding of the socio-legal conditions advocates and their clients grapple with as they navigate the law to survive.

While providing a pathway for inclusion in the nation-state, the U visa does nothing to decriminalize the terms by which immigrant women are held culpable for their lack of legal status.[23] This is troubling. We are pushed to look more deeply at the racial logics of inclusion that drive the U visa’s promise to protect undocumented women. While inclusion in the nation-state is rarely the site where the violence of law is theorized (in comparison to legal exclusions), we cannot afford to continue rendering legal inclusion as a nonviolent, gender and race-neutral path, particularly as the convergence of immigration law and criminal enforcement is made evident by legal innovations like the U visa.[24]

This article draws primarily from stories told by legal advocates serving women from Asian immigrant communities in San Francisco, East Bay, and South Bay. The stories shared here, draws specifically from advocates who are practicing attorneys and who interpret and reflect on what it means to work with a client who is eligible for the U visa, gather the documentation necessary for the application, and mail it for review and servicing.[25] Because a visa application is not made available as a public record, in order for us to really grasp the scope of the visa in existing institutions and law we must talk to attorneys about their interpretations of their work and their articulations of what U visa law has meant in the lives of immigrant women.[26]

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  1. The writing presented here comes from collective-organizing spaces and legal-advocacy efforts that I am indebted to. Any errors and mistakes are my own. I thank those legal advocates I spoke with for sharing their interpretations of the law and their work; all interpretations are presented anonymously. I thank special issue editors Soniya Munshi and Craig Wilse; the editors at the Barnard Center for Research on Women; and Navaneetha Mokkil, Chris Finley, Kiri Sailiata, Jin Haritaworn, Nadine Naber, Charles Lawrence, and members of the Interdisciplinary Faculty Seminar on Race, Gender, Culture, and Community for their reading. [Return to text]
  2. Angela Davis writes: “This out-of-control punishment industry is an extremely effective criminalization industry, for the racial imbalance in incarcerated populations is not recognized as evidence of structural racism, but rather is invoked as a consequence of the assumed criminality of black people. In other words, the criminalization process works so well precisely because of the hidden logic of racism. Racist logic is deeply entrenched in the nation’s material and psychic structures. It is something with which we all are very familiar. The logic, in fact, can persist, even when direct allusions to ‘race’ are removed.” Angela Davis, In the House that Race Built (New York: Pantheon, 1997) 236. [Return to text]
  3. Often, we address movements only when they are already evidence for the analyses we have set out to provide. We conveniently use other movements that we find lacking in evidence to serve as reference points for those who we do not wish to align with. This method of writing, whether recognizable as ethnographic or not, is rampant throughout literary, anthropological, cultural, and social scientific texts, and unwittingly adopts a liberal placement of radical movements and peoples. Movements and organizations are referentially glossed without any critical engagement of the elements of organizing and the theories they make possible (whether in agreement or not). Further, this approach relies on a reading of movements and organizations as whole, discrete, unchanging, and insular objects. This is a violent form of erasure encouraged by neoliberal logics of scholarship and research that seek to delegitimize the intellectualism of movements and their legacies. Further, this move falsely renders creative and accountable ways of writing with and about movements as “risky.” We can resist this move by carrying the onto-epistemological struggles in organizing work to be struggles we can take-up in our writing as a method of theory. [Return to text]
  4. I thank Charles Lawrence for this insight—positioning legal practice within the broader history of laws set in place to limit the scope, reach, and impact of progressive lawyering and the kinds of work nonprofit legal centers are able to uphold in resisting what Dylan Rodríguez has called the non-profit industrial complex and its operations as a “shadow state.” See Incite! Women of Color Against Violence, ed. The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex (Cambridge: South End Press, 2007). [Return to text]
  5. See Incite! Women of Color Against Violence, Color of Violence: The Incite! Anthology (Cambridge: South End Press, 2006); Incite! Women of Color Against Violence, The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex (Cambridge: South End Press, 2007); Julia Chinyere Oparah, Global Lockdown: Race, Gender, and the Prison-Industrial Complex (New York: Routledge, 2005); and Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani, and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence within Activist Communities (Boston: South End Press, 2011). [Return to text]
  6. Julia Sudbury, “Rethinking Antiviolence Strategies: Lessons from the Black Women’s Movement in Britain,” Color of Violence: The Incite! Anthology, ed. Incite! Women of Color Against Violence, (Cambridge: South End Press, 2006) 14-24. [Return to text]
  7. Saidiya V. Hartman, Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America (New York: Oxford UP, 1997). See also Julia Chinyere Oparah, “Celling Black Bodies: Black Women in the Global Prison Industrial Complex,” Feminist Review 80 (2005): 162-79. [Return to text]
  8. Alexander G. Weheliye, “Introduction: Black Studies and Black Life,” Black Scholar 44.2 (2014): 5-10. Tyron Woods argues that the use of slavery as a narrative metaphor produces the erasure of black women’s bodies. Woods’ critique further draws our attention to the erasure of blackness that makes the criminal logics of “rescue” necessary. See Tyron P. Woods, “Surrogate Selves: Notes on Anti-Trafficking and Anti-Blackness,” Social Identities 19.1 (2013): 120-34. Julietta Hua further argues that the naming of sex trafficking as a form of modern-day slavery does little to address the conditions trafficked women experience, and furthers neoliberal racial logics. See Julietta Hua, Trafficking Women’s Human Rights (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2011). [Return to text]
  9. See Julia Sudbury, Global Lockdown: Race, Gender, and the Prison-Industrial Complex (New York: Routledge, 2005); Beth Richie Compelled to Crime: The Gender Entrapment of Battered Black Women (New York: Routledge, 1996); Nat Smith and Eric A. Stanley, Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex (Oakland: AK Press, 2011). [Return to text]
  10. For a discussion of what Andrea Ritchie has called “queer criminal archetypes” see Joey L. Mogul, Andrea J. Ritchie, and Kay Whitlock, Queer (in)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States (Boston: Beacon, 2011). See also Kimberlé Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color,” Stanford Law Review 43.6 (1991): 1241-99. For a discussion of the criminalization of black women’s reproduction, see Dorothy E. Roberts, Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty (New York: Pantheon, 1997). [Return to text]
  11. The visa presents itself as an application that is open and “gender-neutral” to all applicants. However, in order to critique the inherent violence of the universality of this legal scheme, I will continue to refer to the immigrant woman as the legal subject of the U visa, because the immigrant woman is this subject who is not only historicized by the visa’s legislative statute, the Violence Against Women Act, but who also drives protection as a legal discourse in this case. This article does not invoke the “immigrant woman” as a language of exclusion toward others who may have applied for the visa, but rather to acknowledge that the discourses around protection generate their possibilities through their basis in the legal figure of the immigrant woman in the U visa scheme and its purported rescue of the feminine subject—only by taking this position seriously can we theorize its violence. [Return to text]
  12. Kristin Bumiller, In an Abusive State: How Neoliberalism Appropriated the Feminist Movement against Sexual Violence (Durham: Duke UP, 2008). [Return to text]
  13. See [Return to text]
  14. Leigh Goodmark, A Troubled Marriage: Domestic Violence and the Legal System (New York: NYU P, 2012). [Return to text]
  15. Beth Richie, Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America’s Prison Nation (New York: NYUP, 2012). [Return to text]
  16. Andrea Smith, “Looking to the Future: Domestic Violence, Women of Color, the State, and Social Change,” Domestic Violence at the Margins, eds. Natalie J. Sokoloff and Christina Pratt (New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 2005) 416-34. For further discussion of antiviolence practices and multicultural inclusion, and a call for antiviolence approaches to take into account “multiplicities of violence,” both interpersonal violence and state violence, see Soniya Munshi, “Multiplicities of Violence: Responses to September 11 from South Asian Women’s Organizations,” Race/Ethnicity: Multidisciplinary Global Contexts 4.3 (2011): 419-36. For a discussion of administrative violence and the regulation of gender and sexuality in social-service providers and state-sponsored legal reform, see Dean Spade, Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law (Boston: South End Press, 2011). [Return to text]
  17. Prior to the U visa, immigrant provisions within VAWA were available only to those who were eligible crime victims and married to a US citizen or legal permanent resident, or a parent or child of a US citizen or legal permanent resident. [Return to text]
  18. P.L. 106-386. The VAWA was first passed by Congress in 1994 as a Title IV of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, P.L. 103-322. [Return to text]
  19. 8 C.F.R. § 214.14. Qualifying criminal activity includes: abduction, abusive sexual content, blackmail, domestic violence, extortion, false imprisonment, female genital mutilation, felonious assault, hostage, incest, involuntary servitude, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, obstruction of justice, peonage, perjury, prostitution, rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, slave trade, torture, trafficking, witness tampering, unlawful criminal restraint, and other related crimes. Leslye Orloff and Janice Kaguyutan, “Offering a Helping Hand: Legal Protections for Battered Immigrant Women: A History of Legislative Responses,” American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy, and Law 95 (2001); Leslye Orloff, Kathryn Isom, and Edmondo Saballos, “Mandatory U-Visa Certification Uncessarily Undermines the Purpose of the Violence against Women Act’s Immigration Protections and It’s ‘Any Credible Evidence’ Rules – a Call for Consistency,” Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law 11 (2010): 619-47. [Return to text]
  20. Current statutory language specifies that a “certifying official” from a qualifying agency must sign a form authorizing that women who wish to apply are “helpful, and currently being helpful, or will likely be helpful in the investigation or prosecution of the case.” See Department of Homeland Security, U Visa Law Enforcement Certification Resource Guide: For Federal, State, Local, Tribal and Territorial Law Enforcement (Washington D.C.: Department of Homeland Security, n.d.) 20. The U visa is open to “non-citizen crime victims,” and in the final regulations, 8 C.F.R. § 214.14, “alien victim of qualifying crime” refers to someone who is a not a citizen; there are many different categories for alien nonimmigrant/immigrant, resident/non-resident, etc. The U visa is categorized as a “nonimmigrant” visa within the Immigration and Nationality Act, meaning the visa is designed for temporary purposes only (a four-year period) with no long-term intended renewals, although the Attorney General can consider converting nonimmigrant status to legal permanent resident status if doing so furthers humanitarian interests. See VAWA 2000 § 1513, 8 U.S.C. § 1184. For a broader discussion of immigrant provisions in VAWA, see Deanna Kwong, “Removing Barriers for Battered Immigrant Women: A Comparison of Immigrant Protections under Vawa I and II,” Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice 17.1 (2002): 137-52; Maribel Murillo, “Violence against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005: A Policy Analysis,” M.S.W. thesis, California State University, Long Beach, 2008; National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “Comparison of Vawa 1994, Vawa 2000 and Vawa 2005 Reauthorization Bill.” (Washington D.C.: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2006): 1-19. [Return to text]
  21. See [Return to text]
  22. Testifying before Congress, Leslye Orloff, representing Legal Momentum, cautioned Congress against requiring survivors to cooperate with police, as this requirement could place women in additional conditions of violence and danger. See “Battered Immigrant Women Protection Act of 1999,” Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims, (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2000). [Return to text]
  23. See Jennifer M. Chacon, “Citizenship and Family: Revisiting Dred Scott,” Washington University Journal of Law and Policy 27 (2008); Kamala Kempadoo, Jyoti Sanghera, and Bandana Pattanaik, Trafficking and Prostitution Reconsidered: New Perspectives on Migration, Sex Work, and Human Rights (Boulder: Paradigm, 2005); Julietta Hua, Trafficking Women’s Human Rights (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2011); Grace Chang and Kathleen Kim, “Immigrant’s Rights & Critical Perspectives on Immigration Reform,” Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties 3 (2007). [Return to text]
  24. Jin Haritaworn has called for a critique of the violence of inclusion within the sexual terrain of politics and argues that those who are folded into the liberal positioning of the nation-state—particularly injured white queer subjects who demand inclusion into the civil body—the white homonormative claim for inclusion is invoked through the expulsion of racialized bodies rendered improper for inclusion. Citing this particular set of political claims as “murderous inclusions,” Haritaworn provides an invaluable theory leading to a more attentive and accountable approach in antiracist, decolonial, and transformative justice movements. This insight made possible by queer-of-color critique, reformulates our understandings of inclusion completely. Jin Haritaworn, “Beyond ‘Hate’: Queer Metonymies of Crime, Pathology and Anti/Violence,” Jindal Global Law Review 4.2 (2013): 44-78; Jin Haritaworn, Adi Kuntsman, and Silvia Posocco, “Murderous Inclusions,” International Feminist Journal of Politics 15.4 (2013): 445-52. See also, Anna M. Agathangelou, M. Daniel Bassichis and Tamara L. Spira, ” Intimate Investments: Homonormativity, Global Lockdown, and the Seductions of Empire,” Radical History Review (2008). Sarah Bracke has also called for similar accountability around shifting movements “from saving women, to saving gays,” where war tropes of white Western rescues attempt to “civilize” Islamic subjects, seen in white feminist humanitarian projects and now in white queer narratives of civil injury. Sarah Bracke, “From ‘Saving Women’ to ‘Saving Gays’: Rescue Narratives and Their Dis/Continuities,” European Journal of Women’s Studies 19.2 (2012): 237-52. See also Jin Haritaworn, “Women’s Rights, Gay Rights and Anti-Muslim Racism in Europe: Introduction,” European Journal of Women’s Studies 19.1 (2012): 73-78. For a discussion of transnational feminist critiques against rescue and against culture as a site of war, see Paola Bacchetta et al., “Transnational Feminist Practices against War,” Meridians 2.2 (2002): 302-8. [Return to text]
  25. I first heard about the U visa while working with a domestic violence organization in 2006. At the time, the regulations for the visa were not yet released. While there was still little understanding about what the visa would do in the broader scope of antiviolence legal advocacy, it was clear that a wide-scale sense of hope and anticipation circulated in public discussions about the visa. This article is based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted a throughout 2009 and 2010 in San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose with nonprofit attorneys working at legal centers that focused primarily on Asian immigrant communities. The stories and experiences presented in this article draw from their interpretations of their work in representing Asian immigrant women specifically. All are anonymous. [Return to text]
  26. I practice the writing of interpretations from advocates engaged in legal practice specifically as a method of theorization, which makes possible the specific arguments around the law I present here. Secondly, the legal ethnography in this article does not draw from the spoken words of survivors themselves as a form of accountability I take up in my writing. I will discuss this in further depth in forthcoming publications. [Return to text]