When U.S. citizens petitions for a visa for a non-citizen spouse, U.S. immigration investigates the couple to determine if the relationship is 'fraudulent' (i.e. for immigration papers) or 'genuine' (i.e. for love). Since love is intangible, suspicions of marriage fraud rest on beliefs about what a relationship should be like. I argue that nativist discourses of racialized and gendered legitimacy, applied to family and sexuality, are used to define marriage fraud. This paper focuses on U.S. citizen women who are petitioning for visas for men of color from mid-developing countries. The evidence combines an online ethnography and textual analysis of a large-online immigration forum. I find that citizen women construct marriage fraud around a hegemonic U.S. family ideal that emphasize racial purity and procreation. As petitioners try to leverage their own family ties to make claims for their foreign partners' access to citizenship, other forum members use counter-narratives that deploy stereotypically negative images and narratives about Black men's sexuality and family commitments. Both family statuses and racial distrust inform how men from Sub-Saharan Africa are viewed with suspicion. Intersectional racial and gender inequalities of citizenship are no longer explicitly named in the law but continue to be used to police U.S. women's relationships with men of color.
Community Diversity and Governance
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session
Gina Marie Longo
Research Associate, Sociology and the Law School, University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States
Gina Marie Longo is a Research Associate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Law School and is affiliated with the Department of Sociology. She specializes in the sociology of gender, race and ethnicity, immigration, citizenship, and digital sociology. Her current research focuses on how U.S. citizens negotiate immigration officials' demands that they prove their marriages are authentic to obtain their foreign-national spouses' permanent residency. Her most recent work will be featured in Gender & Society in August 2018.