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Pregnant on Arrival

Making the Illegal Immigrant

2013
Author:

Eithne Luibhéid

Pregnant on Arrival

The case of Ireland reveals how the implications of pregnancy and sexuality figure in the determination of immigrants’ legal status

From 1997 to 2004, Ireland’s headlines recast pregnant immigrants as “illegals” entering the country to gain legal residency through childbirth. Eithne Luibhéid offers unvarnished insight into how categories of immigrant legal status emerge and change, how sexual regimes figure in these processes, and how efforts to prevent illegal immigration redefine nationalist sexual norms and associated racial, gender, economic, and geopolitical hierarchies.

Eithne Luibhéid exquisitely details how the Irish became embroiled in a politics over the sexuality and reproduction of mainly African refugees, leading to the controversial referendum denying birthright citizenship. Pregnant on Arrival is the story of a nation of emigrants that suddenly finds itself a nation of immigrants, with a wealth of insights for anyone interested in how the law constructs the ‘illegal alien’ and renders pregnant mothers and their babies as threats to the nation.

Leo R. Chavez, author of The Latino Threat: Constructing Immigrants, Citizens, and the Nation

“State alert as pregnant asylum seekers aim for Ireland.” “Country Being Held Hostage by Con Men, Spongers, and Those Taking Advantage of the Maternity Residency Policy.” From 1997 to 2004, headlines such as these dominated Ireland’s mainstream media as pregnant immigrants were recast as “illegals” entering the country to gain legal residency through childbirth. As immigration soared, Irish media and politicians began to equate this phenomenon with illegal immigration that threatened to destroy the country’s social, cultural, and economic fabric.

Pregnant on Arrival explores how pregnant immigrants were made into paradigmatic figures of illegal immigration, as well as the measures this characterization set into motion and the consequences for immigrants and citizens. While focusing on Ireland, Eithne Luibhéid’s analysis illuminates global struggles over the citizenship status of children born to immigrant parents in countries as diverse as the United States, Hong Kong, and elsewhere. Scholarship on the social construction of the illegal immigrant calls on histories of colonialism, global capitalism, racism, and exclusionary nation building but has been largely silent on the role of nationalist sexual regimes in determining legal status. Eithne Luibhéid turns to queer theory to understand how pregnancy, sexuality, and immigrants’ relationships to prevailing sexual norms affect their chances of being designated as legal or illegal.

Pregnant on Arrival offers unvarnished insight into how categories of immigrant legal status emerge and change, how sexual regimes figure prominently in these processes, and how efforts to prevent illegal immigration ultimately redefine nationalist sexual norms and associated racial, gender, economic, and geopolitical hierarchies.

Pregnant on Arrival

Eithne Luibhéid is associate professor of gender and women’s studies at the University of Arizona. She is the author of Entry Denied: Controlling Sexuality at the Border and coeditor of Queer Migrations: Sexuality, U.S. Citizenship, and Border Crossings, both published by the University of Minnesota Press.

Pregnant on Arrival

Eithne Luibhéid exquisitely details how the Irish became embroiled in a politics over the sexuality and reproduction of mainly African refugees, leading to the controversial referendum denying birthright citizenship. Pregnant on Arrival is the story of a nation of emigrants that suddenly finds itself a nation of immigrants, with a wealth of insights for anyone interested in how the law constructs the ‘illegal alien’ and renders pregnant mothers and their babies as threats to the nation.

Leo R. Chavez, author of The Latino Threat: Constructing Immigrants, Citizens, and the Nation

Pregnant on Arrival makes an enormous, essential contribution in demonstrating how women’s bodies and their sexuality become central to immigration controls. By bringing the question of queerness to bear on the ‘threat’ of pregnant asylum seekers in Ireland, Luibhéid charts how a queer migration framework that simultaneously attends to geopolitics, nation-building, gender, and race, can shed light on the sexual politics of determining who is a legitimate immigrant, asylum seeker, and neoliberal subject worthy of citizenship.

Monisha Das Gupta, author of Unruly Immigrants: Rights, Activism, and Transnational South Asian Politics in the United States

An eminently readable book.

Dublin Review of Books

Overall an engaging and thought-provoking intervention in debates about to politics of sexualities and migration in Ireland—and beyond. An important and groundbreaking book.

Race & Class

Pregnant on Arrival

Contents

A Note on Terminology
Introduction

1. Shifting Boundaries through Discourses of Childbearing
2. Counternarratives of Migration Law and Childbearing
3. Baby Gives Birth to Parents: Direct Provision and Subject Formation
4. The “Right to Life of the Unborn” and Migration Controls
5. Reproductive Futurism and the Temporality of Migration Control
6. From Childbearing to Multiple Sexuality and Migration Struggles
Conclusion

Acknowledgments
Notes
Index

Pregnant on Arrival

UMP blog - Nationalist heterosexuality and migrants' (il)legal statuses

At the turn of the millennium, how did the general public come to believe that pregnancy might provide a visible sign that a woman was an undocumented migrant? And how did concerns about migrants’ pregnancies and childbearing become the basis for expanding laws and policies in ways that resulted in more migrants actually becoming classified by states as undocumented?

Read the full article.