Dr. Armenta's research examines how the law is understood, altered, and transformed by its principals and targets, and how socio-legal processes construct and reify ideas about race and citizenship.

Her first project, Protect, Serve and Deport: The Rise of Policing as Immigration Enforcement draws on ethnographic fieldwork, interviews, and archival materials to examine the close coupling of the nation’s immigration enforcement and criminal justice systems. The project documents how immigration control happens- not just through restrictive laws- but through the mundane work of local law enforcement agents who punish illegality through their daily practices. Articles drawing from this research, which was conducted in Nashville, Tennessee, have been published in Social Problems, Law & Policy, and Sociology of Race and Ethnicity. 

Dr. Armenta's new research examines how undocumented Latino immigrants in Philadelphia navigate laws and bureaucracies in their everyday lives. She asks how it feels to break laws with which it is impossible to comply (such as the requirement to drive with a state-issued license or have valid work authorization papers) and examines how residents understand their compliance and non-compliance. This project also addresses immigrants' experiences of victimization, decisions about whether and when to call the police, and residents understandings about race and ethnicity.  

In addition to these solo projects, Dr. Armenta has also participated in collaborative research projects. The first, developed in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania and Latino community members, draws from surveys of 310 Latino immigrant men and women. The second, developed in collaboration with former Penn postdoctoral fellow, Heidy Sarabia, draws on in-depth interviews with over 80 Mexican women in Philadelphia. In both projects, Dr. Armenta is primarily interested in Latino immigrants' contacts with bureaucracies and how these contacts affect legal attitudes, fear of deportation, and willingness to further engage with bureaucracies and organizations.