Skip to Navigation

Immigration

RSF Author Catherine Lee Discusses the Role of Families in U.S. Immigration Policies, Past and Present

January 16, 2014

Today, roughly 70 percent of all visas for legal immigration are reserved for family members of permanent residents or American citizens. Family reunification—policies that seek to preserve family unity during or following migration—is a central pillar of current immigration law, but it has existed in some form in American statutes since at least the mid-nineteenth century. In her 2013 RSF book, Fictive Kinship: Family Reunification and the Meaning of Race and Nation in American Immigration, sociologist Catherine Lee delves into the fascinating history of family reunification to examine how and why our conceptions of family have shaped immigration, the meaning of race, and the way we see ourselves as a country.

In a new interview with the Foundation, Lee discusses some of the groundbreaking research from her book and offers recommendations for future immigration policies. To learn more about Fictive Kinship or to purchase a copy, click here.

Q. As you point out in your book, family reunification has long been a guiding theme of U.S. immigration policy and has significantly influenced the changing demographics of the country. Can you give some examples of how family reunification policies have shaped the way we think about race and ethnicity in the U.S. today?

A Chance for Immigration Reform in the New Year

January 10, 2014

In a move that could signal the end of the deadlock on immigration reform that stifled Congress for the better part of 2013, Speaker of the House John Boehner has indicated his willingness to address immigration laws. As the New York Times reports, though Boehner continues to voice reservations about a single, comprehensive bill to create additional pathways to U.S. citizenship, he also condemned the hardline stance of conservative Tea Party groups opposed to any immigration compromises.

Republicans have increasingly struggled to find a balance between appeasing their conservative constituents while also attempting to court Latino voters. According to the New York Times, Romney won only 27% of the Latino vote in the 2012 presidential election due to his views on immigration. But the Democratic Party has also suffered for its failure to implement significant immigration reform. A September 2013 Pew study showed that the Obama administration deported more immigrants annually than the George W. Bush administration, and that 59% of Latinos disapproved of Obama’s handling of deportations.

The 2013 RSF book Immigration, Poverty and Socioeconomic Inequality, co-edited by David Card and Steven Raphael, explores the rapid rise in immigration to the U.S. since the 1960s and analyzes the economic and political shifts that have occurred as a result of this increase—including changes in the national poverty rate, labor market fluctuations, and the evolution of immigration policies. In his chapter, “Immigration Enforcement as a Race-Making Institution,” sociologist Douglas Massey traces the surge in deportations, border patrol budgets, and border enforcement agents over the last several decades:

Working Paper: Immigrant Assimilation into U.S. Prisons, 1900-1930

June 6, 2013

With the Foundation's support, Carolyn Moehling and Anne Morrison Piehl have released a working paper on historical patterns of immigrant incarceration. Here is the abstract:

The analysis of a new dataset on state prisoners in the 1900 to 1930 censuses reveals that immigrants rapidly assimilated to native incarceration patterns. One feature of these data is that the second generation can be identified, allowing direct analysis of this group and allowing their exclusion from calculations of comparison rates for the “native” population. Although adult new arrivals were less likely than natives to be incarcerated, this likelihood was increasing with their years in the U.S. The foreign born who arrived as children and second generation immigrants had slightly higher rates of incarceration than natives of native parentage, but these differences disappear after controlling for nativity differences in urbanicity and occupational status. Finally, while the incarceration rates of new arrivals differ significantly by source country, patterns of assimilation are very similar.

New Research Studies Impact of Religious Groups on Immigrants

April 11, 2013

Religious and nonreligious organizations may have a similar impact on the ability of immigrants to acclimate to life in the U.S., despite the organizations’ different motivations for providing charitable services, according to new research from Rice University and the Russell Sage Foundation.

“There’s been a lot of discussion as to whether religious organizations offer some special or unique benefit to immigrant groups that will help them better adapt to American society,” said the study’s lead author, Elaine Howard Ecklund, the Herbert S. Autrey Professor of Sociology and director of Rice’s Religion and Public Life Program. “We wanted to see at the organizational level whether there was any practical difference between these two groups.”

The study examined the behavior of two Mexican-American organizations, one religious and one nonreligious. The two groups identified different motivations for providing job placement, language and financial services to immigrants: The religious organization said its religious convictions necessitated service to the local community, whereas the nonreligious organization cited its commitment to at-risk groups. However, the study showed that there was was little difference in the impact of the two organizations – both sought to provide outreach and services to their respective communities.

The study’s co-author, Michael Emerson, the Allyn and Gladys Cline Professor of Sociology and Kinder Institute co-director, noted that although there is little difference between the organizations at the present time, that may change in the future.

“There may be significant changes as these organizations deal with second- and third-generation Mexican-Americans,” Emerson said. “These individuals might have different concerns, so the mission and services provided by these organizations very well may change.”

The Political Socialization of Adolescent Children of Immigrants

April 11, 2013

Social Science Quarterly has published a new RSF-funded paper that examines the politics of adolescent children of immigrants in the United States. Written by Melissa Humphries, Chandra Muller and Kathryn Schiller, the study "aims to evaluate the adolescent political socialization processes that predict political participation in young adulthood, and whether these processes are different for children of immigrants compared to white third-plus-generation adolescents." Here is a summary:

Methods
We use a nationally representative longitudinal survey of adolescents to evaluate the predictors of three measures of political participation—voter registration, voting, and political party identification—and whether the process leading to political participation varies by immigrant status and race/ethnic group.

Results
We find that the parental education level of adolescents is not as predictive for many minority children of immigrants compared to white children of native-born parents for registration. Additionally, the academic rigor of the courses taken in high school has a greater positive estimated effect on the likelihood of registration and party identification for Latino children of immigrants compared to white third-plus-generation young adults.

Conclusions
The process of general integration into U.S. society for adolescent children of immigrants may lead to differing pathways to political participation in young adulthood, with certain aspects of their schooling experience having particular importance in developing political participation behaviors.

The Diversity of Hispanic Populations in the United States

March 21, 2013

John Logan and Richard Turner have released a new U.S. 2010 report entitled "Hispanics in the United States: Not Only Mexicans." Here is the executive summary:

This report summarizes what is known about the sizes, social backgrounds and locations of each major Hispanic group. We emphasize the differences among them at the neighborhood level in the extent of their segregation from other groups, and the degree to which they form separate residential enclaves in the metropolis.

Analyses of the most recent data show how important are the differences among these Hispanic groups:

  • While Mexicans continue to be about 60% of the Hispanic population, growth of Puerto Ricans and Cubans lags behind and the New Latino groups are gaining much faster. The extreme case is Hondurans, up nearly 400% since 1990 and now numbering over 600,000. Except for Mexicans and Puerto Ricans, a large majority of all other groups (over 60%) is foreign-born. However the share of immigrants who arrived in the last decade is lower than it was ten years ago.
  • The socioeconomic ladder of groups shows advantages for Cubans (long considered an advantaged minority) but also for Puerto Ricans and South Americans. Other groups are more similar to Mexicans, with Guatemalans an extreme case of low education, low wages, and high poverty.
  • Each Hispanic group has its own pattern of regional concentration, including especially the Southwest, Northeast, and Chicago. The main trend over time is for dispersion from the
    metropolitan regions that historically housed the most group members.
  • Hispanic segregation from whites is dominated by the moderately high segregation of Mexicans, which has not changed since 1990. Dominicans and Central Americans are considerably more separated, while South Americans are more spatially assimilated. The striking finding is that all groups aside from Mexicans have become much less segregated
    over time.
  • Hispanics overall live in neighborhoods with poorer and less educated residents than do non-Hispanic whites. But South Americans are relatively advantaged and Dominicans are in the worst position. A positive trend is the increasing share of neighbors with college education, which reflects a national trend toward higher education levels.

Cross-Border Ties in Immigrant Families

January 31, 2013

RSF grantee Roger Waldinger has co-authored a new paper, "Inheriting the Homeland? Intergenerational Transmission of Cross-Border Ties in Migrant Families," in the latest issue of the American Journal of Sociology. Here is the abstract:

Theories of migrant transnationalism emphasize the enduring imprint of the premigration connections that the newcomers bring with them. But how do the children of migrants raised in the parents’ adopted country develop ties to the parental home country? Using a structural equation model and data from a recent survey of adult immigrant offspring in Los Angeles, this article shows that second-generation cross-border activities are strongly affected by earlier experiences of and exposure to home country influences. Socialization in the parental household is powerful, transmitting distinct home country competencies, loyalties, and ties, but not a coherent package of transnationalism. Our analysis of five measures of cross-border activities and loyalties among the grown children of migrants shows that transmission is specific to the social logic underlying the connection: activities rooted in family relationships such as remitting are transmitted differently than emotional attachments to the parents’ home country.

Cross-Deputization and Immigration Enforcement: An Interview with Dr. Liana Epstein

Rohan Mascarenhas, Russell Sage Foundation
January 16, 2013

cross-deputizationDr. Liana Epstein, a social psychologist connected with RSF's Racial Bias in Policing Working Group, recently co-published an article on cross-deputization, which mandates that police officers enforce immigration laws. The article, entitled "Safety or Liberty?: The Bogus Trade-Off of Cross-Deputization Policy" can be read here.


Q: Let's first define the issue -- what exactly is "cross-deputization" and why has it become such a prominent issue?

A: Cross-deputization (codified in 1996 as part of the Immigration and Nationality Act) is an optional federal training program that "deputizes" police officers to seek out undocumented immigrants and to charge them for their presence in the country without documents. This policy has gained significant popularity in recent years (U. S. Department of Homeland Security, 2008), culminating in laws such as Arizona’s SB 1070 (enacted in 2010). It has become a prominent issue because of its burgeoning popularity and the potentially negative consequences it engenders.

Q: Your paper argues that the debate over cross-deputization wrongly pits civil rights against safety. Instead, you say that ensuring civil rights is a "necessary precondition of public safety and lawfulness" because it protects police legitimacy. Why do you believe that police officers enforcing immigration laws would hurt the perception of police?

A: Our research operates from the premise that cross-deputization is "poisonous" because it is not applied equally across groups. When one is told to “find the illegal immigrant,” it is not Caucasians who have overstayed their visas who are likely to be asked for proof of their right to be in the country. We argue that as Latinos have become the accessible “picture in our heads” for undocumented immigrants there are no truly “race-blind” cues to documentation status, and thus any basis for enforcement will ultimately target Latinos disproportionately. Thus cross-deputization is inherently racialized and becomes not a question of legal versus illegal, but Latino versus non-Latino. Consequently police officers are then seen as racist. My dissertation explored this in more detail.

Schools in New Immigrant Destinations

December 17, 2012

Chandra Muller, a sociologist at the University of Texas, as co-authored a new article in the latest issue of Social Forces. Funded by an award from the Russell Sage Foundation, Muller's study examines school stratification in new and established immigrant destinations. Here is the abstract:

The growth and geographic diversification of the school-age Latino population suggest that schools in areas that previously had very few Latinos now serve many of these students. This study uses the 1999-2000 Schools and Staffing Survey and the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 to compare public high schools in new and established Latino destinations. We examine school composition, school quality indicators, instructional resources and access to advanced math courses. We find that schools in new destinations display more favorable educational contexts according to a number of measures, but offer fewer linguistic support services than schools in established destinations. We also find evidence of a within-school Latino-white gap in advanced math course taking in new destinations, suggesting greater educational stratification within schools in those areas.

Immigrants and Elections: Does a Lack of Citizenship Rights Translate into a Lack of Voice?

James A. McCann, Purdue University
October 18, 2012

election-2012As part of our Election 2012 series, James A. McCann evaluates the political voice of non-citizens during an election season. A political scientist at Purdue University, McCann is also a former RSF Visiting Scholar.

At present, some forty million residents of the United States – or about one-eighth of the total population – are foreign-born. The number of immigrants in the U.S. is now at an all-time high. To find a period in history when as large a proportion of the mass public was foreign-born, we must look back a century to the first great wave of migrant settlement. Immigrants today vary widely with respect to country of origin, language use, cultural practice, family structure, and job skills. There is also considerable variation in formal civic and migration status. According to the most recent Census estimates, 37 percent of the foreign-born are naturalized American citizens, 35 percent are permanent or temporary legal residents, and 28 percent are unauthorized to reside in the United States.

In this campaign season, much concern has been expressed about these latter two groups, and the possibility that immigrants without voting rights may gain access to the ballot box. Over a dozen states have sought to purge alleged non-citizens from electoral registration lists, and nine require voters to prove their identity by showing a government-issued document with a photograph at polling stations. To date, however, exceedingly little evidence of unlawful voting has emerged. Except in scattered municipalities around the country where non-citizens can vote in local elections, immigrants who have not completed naturalization cannot, and do not, cast ballots.

But does the lack of citizenship rights necessarily translate into a lack of voice during major national election campaigns? Large-scale telephone surveys of Mexican immigrants that I conducted with Stacey Connaughton (Purdue University) and Katsuo Nishikawa (Trinity University) during the 2008 campaigns with the support of the Russell Sage Foundation demonstrate that the foreign-born are far from disengaged from electoral politics. This holds true even for immigrants without voting rights. Below I point to three features of political engagement that we discovered among the foreign-born.

Syndicate content