The Scars of Legal Violence: State and local immigrant policy, surveillance, and enforcement and population health inequality


Mencoff Hall 205

Courtney E. Boen, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract: A surge federal and state policies in the United States over the past three decades has restricted immigrant access to public services, increased immigrant detention and deportation, and contributed to heightened levels of xenophobic and racist hostility. In this talk, I will share findings from research examining the bodily manifestations of these forms of legal violence. Merging a variety of longitudinal survey, administrative, and policy data and employing an array of analytic techniques, this research examines how changes in state and local immigration enforcement and policy pattern individual trajectories of physiological and physical health over a fourteen-year period. Results show that as local levels of immigration enforcement intensify and state policy contexts become more restrictive, foreign-born Latinx adults experience accelerated physiological and physical decline relative to other groups. Like episodes of physical violence that leave lacerations and damage—both visible and invisible—these results provide evidence of the bodily scars of state sanctioned legal violence. Taken together, this research shows how policies governing the surveillance and control of immigrants not only shape structures of immigrant exclusion and racial domination but the embodied health inequities that flow them, with implications for understanding and redressing population inequalities in health and aging.

Bio: Courtney Boen is an Assistant Professor and Axilrod Faculty Fellow in the Department of Sociology and the Graduate Group in Demography at the University of Pennsylvania; a Research Associate in the Penn Population Studies Center and Population Aging Research Center; a Senior Fellow in the Leonard Davis Institute for Health Economics; and an Affiliate in the Center for the Study of Ethnicity, Race, and Immigration. Her research combines critical and relational theories of race and racism, insights from the life course perspective, and a variety of social demographic techniques to: 1) provide detailed and accurate estimates of racialized and socioeconomic inequities in health and aging; and 2) interrogate and reveal the structural, institutional, and sociopolitical determinants of population health inequality. Her current research agenda can be divided into three key themes: 1) interrogating the role of the U.S. criminal legal system in generating, maintaining, and exacerbating population health inequities; 2) investigating how shifts in immigration policy, surveillance, and enforcement over time and across and within the U.S. have patterned racial-ethnic and legal status inequities in health ; and 3) examining the roles of life course socioeconomic and stress exposures in shaping population health disparities across the lifespan. Together, Dr. Boen’s work aims to improve understanding of the social and political factors generating population health inequality and offer insights into potential leverage points for ameliorating health inequities. Dr. Boen’s research has been published in a number of journals, including the Demography, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Social Science and Medicine, The Journals of Gerontology, Biodemography and Social Biology, Journal of Marriage and Family, Demographic Research, the Journal of Aging and Health, and Health Affairs, among others.  Her work has received funding support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Boen received a PhD in sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MPH from Tufts University.

Click here to add this event to your Google Calendar.