The power of the law: Central Americans' legality and everyday life in Phoenix, Arizona

Cecilia Menjívar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


This article examines how a multi-pronged legal regime, composed of laws at the federal, state and local levels, shapes the everyday lives of Guatemalans, Hondurans and Salvadorans in Phoenix, Arizona, with special attention to the ambit of the family. On the basis of qualitative fieldwork conducted over a decade in the Phoenix metro area, and moving away from a focus on undocumented statuses per se, the article shifts attention to how changes in the law affect how immigrants live with their families as well as the separations they experience, and how the effects of the law are felt beyond US borders in multiple forms. Following the pivotal role that the law plays in the immigrants' lives, the article also notes that the immigrants' hyper awareness of the law makes them cognizant of the power of the law and how it can be used in other areas of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-395
Number of pages19
JournalLatino Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • Guatemalans
  • Hondurans
  • Salvadorans
  • immigration
  • legal consciousness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'The power of the law: Central Americans' legality and everyday life in Phoenix, Arizona'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this