In the last decade, the U.S. has seen a rise in immigration to new destinations where residents may be unfamiliar with immigrants, coupled with an increasing fear of terrorism and other threats to U.S. safety, and, most recently, an economic downturn and widespread unemployment. All of these factors combined have led many to frame immigration to the U.S. as a security issue – based on the argument that immigrants have the potential to threaten the nation’s security (through terrorism) and economy (by taking jobs from the native-born). In response to this “securitization” of immigration, the government has increased border security, deportations of immigrants and surveillance of immigrants living in the U.S. What is the impact of this process of securitization on communities and individuals? How is this process different across racial/ethnic groups and across individuals with varied immigration status? How does securitization impact the political mobilization of immigrants?
Daniel Goldstein and Robyn Rodriguez of Rutgers University will conduct an ethnographic study of the process and consequences of turning immigration into a security problem in the context of Mexican immigration to new destinations in small towns and suburbs. Their project will focus on the suburban town of Freehold, New Jersey. Freehold has experienced significant tension over new Mexican immigrants and laws regarding immigrants in the last decade. The government has enacted or tried to enact a number of laws against undocumented immigrants, and in response an active immigrant advocacy community has developed.
During four months of field research, Goldstein and Rodriguez will observe and participate in a number of formal and informal events where issues of securitization may arise, including political meetings, in-home political discussions, demonstrations, and immigrant job-seeking activities. They will also conduct individual interviews and focus groups with documented and non-documented immigrants, non-migrant citizens, and second-generation immigrants. Their aim is to generate new hypotheses and examine how productive the proposed comparisons between and within community groups can be, in order to provide a building block for a larger project comparing several new destinations in New Jersey.