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date: 24 September 2017

Latinos and the Law

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History. Please check back later for the full article.

Latino Americans and the law have intersected in complex ways throughout American history. Latinos themselves are a diverse and multifarious racial, ethnic, and cultural group, with members hailing from all parts of the Spanish-speaking world and representing all variations on the spectrum of race. Each group has a unique origin story, but all have been shaped by law and legal process. Legal historians and legal scholars explore the role of law in incorporating Latino groups in American society, the effects of law on Latino communities, and the struggles against legal discrimination and for equality. The civil rights story bears strong resemblance to that of African Americans and the law: in each case, members have been subjected to de jure and de facto discrimination and social subordination. But the Latino civil rights story has unique valences, particularly in the areas of language discrimination and immigration law and policy. Latino legal history explores the complex ways that Latinos interact with the color line in American law and politics.