Graduation Year


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Legal Studies

Second Department

Latin American Studies

Reader 1

Carmen Sanjuan-Pastor

Reader 2

Jennifer Groscup

Reader 3

Gabriela Bacsán


Asylum declarations are performances of identity. To be granted asylum in the United States, a claimant must prove that they belong to a particular social group (PSG), that they faced persecution in their home country, and that the persecution was due to belonging to their claimed PSG. In a process that favors linear narratives and binary identity constructions, claimants must wade through the multilayered preconceptions of nation and identity held by decision-makers to present an acceptable and convincing identity-based narrative. Considering the social, political and ideological foundations of legal categories in colonial hierarchies, non-white claimants from post-colonial regions claiming asylum based on non-normative genders and sexualities are placed in an unreasonably defensive position in seeking bodily safety in the U.S. through asylum. I investigate the impact of such constraints on claimants from Mexico and Central America seeking asylum in the U.S. due to persecution based on gender and/or sexuality. I explore criminalized perceptions of deviance, and the way that the state regulates constructions of difference through the process of asylum. The second part of my thesis is devoted to examining more creative processes of self-representation that subvert such constraints. Analyses of documentary testimony of transgender asylum seekers in Crossing Over: Stories of Immigration and Identity (2014) and visual protest art by undocuqueer artist Julio Salgado demonstrate ways that queer migrants from Central America and Mexico are resisting imposed categories and contributing to a more nuanced and humane legal mythos through decolonial self-representations.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.