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Mat Coleman

Tue, Apr 11, 2023    1:15pm

Copspeak, Racially Disproportionate Policing, and Immigration Enforcement in the U.S.

Lecture by Mat Coleman, Professor of Geography at The Ohio State University.

Mat Coleman is a political and legal geographer with a longstanding interest in political economy. His research focuses on the intersection of policing, race, immigration, and borders. Coleman’s most recent publications concern the political economy of racial profiling and policing in the US, and focus critical on the methodologies used to quantify and qualify racial profiling. In general, he is interested in policing as a neglected aspect of statecraft, on the racialized and classes technologies that underwrite police work, on policing beyond the power of individuals in uniform, on geopolitics as practice, and on the need to rethink geopolitics and state power topologically beyond the conventional foreign policy/domestic policy divide. Alongside Dr. Sapana Doshi, Coleman is an editor of the Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation series at the University of Georgia Press and is an editorial board member for the Annals of the Association of American geographers, Political Geography, Southeastern Geography, and Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space.

Over the past 20 years a rich scholarship on the criminalization of immigration—sometimes called “crimmigration”—has come to occupy center-stage in the critical literature on U.S. immigration policy. This research shows that criminal law enforcement has come to dominate U.S. immigration policy, such that the ‘how’ of managing immigration flows is more or less synonymous with broad criminal law enforcement practices including arrest, prosecution, and incarceration. This literature also suggests a geographical shift in the ‘where’ of immigration enforcement to include ‘non-border spaces’ in the U.S. interior. The new crimmigration reality has put pressure on immigration scholars to better document and theorize the intersection of race and police power in the U.S. In particular, proving the existence of racial profiling has become something of a gold standard for scholars working on crimmigration.

Professor Coleman’s goal in this presentation is to bring to light pronounced difficulties related to proving racial profiling in academic research on immigration enforcement, by reflecting on both fieldwork findings and on more general methodological principles. He is skeptical of accepted ‘best’ methodological practices in criminology, related to proving racial profiling, and which are readily used by critical scholars to talk about the ‘how’ of crimmigration initiatives, for example in the guise of §287(g) or Secure Communities. Using these ‘best’ practices to prove racial profiling is no easy matter in large part because they constitute police science, i.e., science in the service of the police. The bulk of Coleman’s analysis will focus on how chasing the gold standard of racial profiling leaves racially discrepant policing on the table as an apparently unproblematic, or perhaps even defensible, outcome of policing—and that critical scholars should instead focus on the problem of racially discrepant or disproportionate police practices and, in particular, on the routine devaluation of non–White spaces in police work, when striving to talk about the police—race—immigration trifecta.

LiPS events are open to the Columbia University community.