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Living Documents in Transnational Spaces of Migration between El Salvador and the United States

  • Julie Mitchell and Susan Bibler Coutin

Abstract

The expansion of immigration enforcement in the United States has increased the documentation requirements to which immigrants are subjected. A case in point is birth certificates, which are used to establish identity, nationality, age, and kin relationships in myriad US immigration cases. This development gives highly localized bureaucratic practices in immigrants’ countries of origin transnational implications. Based on fieldwork in a registry of vital records in El Salvador, interviews with Salvadoran officials, and legal work with immigrants in the United States, this article analyzes birth certificates’ use as immigration documents, focusing on the understandings of legality and authenticity that underpin their circulation. This analysis contributes to theorizing citizenship by detailing the ways that immigration enforcement practices in immigrants’ country of residence can make their relationship to their country of origin both more important (in that they need identity documents) and less accessible (due to distance).

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References

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