'Bad Hombres': The Effects of Criminalizing Latino Immigrants through Law and Media in the Rural Midwest


  • Andrea Gomez Cervantes University of Kansas
  • Daniel Alvord University of Kansas
  • Cecilia Menjívar University of Kansas




immigration policy, Latino/a, Executive Orders, Kansas, Midwest, criminalization, rural communities, media, stereotypes


In this article we explore the policy and legal build-up that led to the 2017 Executive Orders targeting Latino/a immigrant families and communities. We provide a historical backdrop for the merging of criminal and immigration laws that has contributed to the criminalization of the behaviors, bodies, and communities of Latino/a immigrants. We then look at the media narratives that burry immigrants’ complex identities and reproduce daily the demonization of Latino/as as criminals. Together, these factors contribute to socially construct a “Brown Threat” which reproduces anxieties and fears about crime, terror, and threats to the nation, affecting the everyday lives of immigrants and non-immigrants alike, though in different ways. Based on an 18-month ethnography in a small Kansas town carried out before and after the signing of Executive Orders in 2017, we examine the spill-over effects of this environment on Guatemalan immigrant families as well as on non-immigrant Anglo-white residents in a rural community.


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Author Biographies

Andrea Gomez Cervantes, University of Kansas

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Sociology

Daniel Alvord, University of Kansas

Doctoral Candidate, University of Kansas

Cecilia Menjívar, University of Kansas

Foundation Distinguished Professor, Department of Sociology




How to Cite

Gomez Cervantes, A., Alvord, D., & Menjívar, C. (2018). ’Bad Hombres’: The Effects of Criminalizing Latino Immigrants through Law and Media in the Rural Midwest. Migration Letters, 15(2), 182–196. https://doi.org/10.59670/ml.v15i2.368