American Studies ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 6-19-2019


My dissertation argues that the U.S.-Mexico border, and the militarized operations of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security via Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement along the border, including state and federal anti-immigration law, are historically ongoing settler colonial structures of U.S. imperialism, and empire, which are asserted upon, and over Indigenous people and their land. I claim that these anti-immigrant, and anti-migrant structures and operations perpetuate Native dispossession, and removal, as well as deny Native presence and sovereignty. I also contend that undocumented immigrant and migrant justice must be accountable and responsible to Indigenous peoples, their land, and to their struggles for sovereignty. Hence, I illuminate the discrete and overlapping, simultaneous, complex struggle for Indigenous sovereignty, and undocumented immigrant and migrant justice at the border with specific focus on Tohono O’odham land, and the political work of and by O’odham activists in the settler state of Arizona. My methodology draws upon the analytics of “relationality,” and “difference” as used within the field of Critical Ethnic Studies. The conceptual language of “relationality” spotlights the converging points of tension, and silences among the differentially, devalued conditions of Indigeneity, and undocumented status within the United States. Moreover, “difference” pinpoints the jointed colonial processes of U.S. racialization at the border as they disjointedly happen among these distinct groups. Further, I ground these analytics within the field of Critical Indigenous Studies by foregrounding Native land, Indigenous presence, and by deploying U.S. settler colonialism as my analytic for interrogating the border. Accordingly, I call my methodology a critical relational framework.In this, I interrogate the differentially related complicated formations of U.S. settler colonialism and imperialism at the U.S.-Mexico border. I examine the inter-related points of struggle between Indigenous sovereignty, and undocumented justice. As such, my methods include textual and visual analysis. My sources of examination are imperial ethnographic texts, the 2015 American film Sicario, the Tohono O’odham Solidarity Across Borders website; and lastly, a 2018 public forum I attended in Albuquerque, New Mexico titled: “Sovereignty and Sanctuary.”




Critical Ethnic Studies, Critical Latinx/Indigeneities, Settler Colonialism, Borderlands, U.S.-Mexico Border, Immigration/Migration, Critical Indigenous Studies

Document Type


Degree Name

American Studies

Level of Degree


Department Name

American Studies

First Committee Member (Chair)

Antonio T. Tiongson Jr.

Second Committee Member

Jennifer Nez Denetdale

Third Committee Member

Bárbara O. Reyes

Fourth Committee Member

Jennifer Rose Najera