Parents Without Papers

The Progress and Pitfalls of Mexican American Integration
Frank D. Bean
Susan K. Brown
James D. Bachmeier
Paperback or Ebook
6.00 x9.00 in.
304 pages
October, 2015

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Winner of the 2016 Otis Dudley Duncan Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Social Demography

Honorable Mention, 2016 Thomas and Znaniecki Award from the International Migration Section of the American Sociological Association

Parents Without Papers exposes the effects of legal status on immigrants’ life chances, which persist over generations. Through carefully collected data, meticulous analysis, and theoretical acuity, the authors offer a sobering account of the injurious consequences of an undocumented status on long-term patterns of immigrant integration, making a unique and significant contribution to immigration scholarship. Their findings also have much to offer for policy, making a compelling case for the legalization of undocumented immigrants to ensure a better future for the immigrants themselves and for the country as a whole.”

—CECILIA MENJÍVAR, Cowden Distinguished Professor, Arizona State University

Parents Without Papers is a major contribution to our understanding of immigrant incorporation and Mexican American mobility. Conceptually, theoretically, and empirically it shows the multifaceted impact that ‘illegal’ status has on Mexican American communities including immigrants and the native born second and third generations. The volume will become essential to scholars and policy makers seriously concerned about immigrant policy. “

—RODOLFO O. DE LA GARZA, Eaton Professor of Administrative Law and Municipal Science, Columbia University

For several decades, Mexican immigrants in the United States have outnumbered those from any other country. Though the economy increasingly needs their labor, many remain unauthorized. In Parents Without Papers, immigration scholars Frank D. Bean, Susan K. Brown, and James D. Bachmeier document the extent to which the outsider status of these newcomers inflicts multiple hardships on their children and grandchildren. Parents Without Papers provides both a general conceptualization of immigrant integration and an in-depth examination of the Mexican American case. The authors draw upon unique retrospective data to shed light on three generations of integration. They show in particular that the “membership exclusion” experienced by unauthorized Mexican immigrants—that is, their fear of deportation, lack of civil rights, and poor access to good jobs—hinders the education of their children, even those who are U.S.-born. Moreover, they find that children are hampered not by the unauthorized entry of parents itself but rather by the long-term inability of parents, especially mothers, to acquire green cards. When unauthorized parents attain legal status, the disadvantages of the second generation begin to disappear. These second-generation men and women achieve schooling on par with those whose parents come legally. By the third generation, socioeconomic levels for women equal or surpass those of native white women. But men reach parity only through greater labor-force participation and longer working hours, results consistent with the idea that their integration is delayed by working-class imperatives to support their families rather than attend college. An innovative analysis of the transmission of advantage and disadvantage among Mexican Americans, Parents Without Papers presents a powerful case for immigration policy reforms that provide not only realistic levels of legal less-skilled migration but also attainable pathways to legalization. Such measures, combined with affordable access to college, are more important than ever for the integration of vulnerable Mexican immigrants and their descendants.

FRANK D. BEAN is Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Research on International Migration at the University of California, Irvine.

SUSAN K. BROWN is associate professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine.

JAMES D. BACHMEIER is assistant professor of sociology at Temple University.


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