Pathogenic Policy: Immigrant Policing, Fear, and Parallel Medical Systems in the US South

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Medical anthropology has a vital role in identifying health-related impacts of policy. In the United States, increasingly harsh immigration policies have formed a multilayered immigrant policing regime comprising state and federal laws and local police practices, the effects of which demand ethnographic attention. In this article, I draw from ethnographic fieldwork in Atlanta, Georgia, to examine the biopolitics of immigrant policing. I underscore how immigrant policing directly impacts undocumented immigrants’ health by producing a type of fear based governance that alters immigrants’ health behaviors and sites for seeking health services. Ethnographic data further point to how immigrant policing sustains a need for an unequal, parallel medical system, reflecting broader social inequalities impacting vulnerable populations. Moreover, by focusing on immigrant policing, I demonstrate the analytical utility in examining the biopolitics of fear, which can reveal individual experiences and structural influents of health-related vulnerability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)396-410
Number of pages15
JournalMedical Anthropology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 19 May 2017


  • biopolitics
  • health care
  • immigration enforcement
  • parallel medical systems
  • policing
  • Undocumented immigrants


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