Suspicious motherhood: marriage migration, borders, and precarity

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 16:00
Oral Presentation
Sohoon LEE, University of Toronto, Canada
In the event of a divorce, marriage migrants in South Korea are able to extend their stay on the same visa if they have South Korean children who are minors. The visa, however, is temporary and local immigration authorities grant visa extensions based on evidence of maintaining a connection between the migrant-mother and the citizen-child. As such, migrant-mothers present compelling stories regarding the boundaries of citizenship, gendered geographies, and stratified forms of motherhood in their struggle to maintain their legal status and exercise their right to parenthood after divorce. This paper examines the patterns of mobilities and immobilities of migrant-mothers, which is decided by the immigration regime on the basis of the migrant mothers’ ability to prove their existing care ties with their citizen-child. By paying attention to the ‘legal grey area’ produced at the intersection of family and immigration mechanisms during, and in preparation for, the scrutinization by immigration authorities, the paper analyses how the immigration institutions affect the family justice system. While the family court and immigration offices are two separate bodies of the state with dissimilar mandates and mechanisms, the immigration authorities have adopted the language and instrument of the family court to used them to enforce immigration measures. The stories in this paper map the margins of discretionary power that the immigration authorities utilize to manage migrants’ motherhood practices and their effect on the everyday lives of marriage migrants.