Latino Studies Immigration to the United States
by
Greta A. Gilbertson, Mary G. Powers
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 November 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0088

Introduction

Major increases in the numbers of global immigrants over the last half-century have resulted in a large and growing literature on migration. As of 2010, the World Bank estimated there were about 215.8 million persons living outside their countries of birth compared to 76 million in 1965. In response, an increasing number of countries have developed data systems to identify the numbers and characteristics of immigrants in their own countries and policies specifying the numbers of immigrants they will accept. Large-scale immigration from Latin America to North America is a relatively recent part of a much larger movement of peoples to the Americas (north and south). Over the last three centuries, significant numbers of Europeans, Africans, and Asians have moved to the western hemisphere. Early immigration research focused on European immigration to the United States; more recently, however, the focus has shifted to Latino and Asian immigration to the United States. Migrants move in all directions but mostly from less-developed to more-developed countries. Most also move within major geographic regions (e.g., Europe, Asia, the Americas). Of the 215.8 million immigrants worldwide in 2010, 57.2 million were in the Americas and more than half of these (29.2 million) were from the Americas. This entry focuses on studies of immigrants and immigration from Latin America, Mexico, Central America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean to the United States since 1965, a period during which immigration from these areas increased dramatically. That research includes questions concerning why people move, the effects of the move on the migrants and on the sending and receiving countries, and the extent to which immigration policies affect immigration and settlement. Issues of assimilation and/or incorporation are addressed as are citizenship, undocumented immigration, and transnationalism. It is important to note that the terms “Latino” and “Hispanic” are broad ethnic categories, frequently loosely defined and used interchangeably. For example, in census data on Hispanics cited by many researchers, the Hispanic population count is derived from respondents’ self-identification to questions on the census or American Community Survey (ACS). Although the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” are used by the US government in census and other official publications to identify persons whose origins are in Spanish-speaking countries, a majority of such individuals identify themselves in terms of the countries of origin of their families (i.e., Mexican, Dominican, etc.). Moreover, the category Hispanic/Latino often includes Puerto Ricans who are not immigrants or children of immigrants but American citizens, born in the US Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Research focusing on immigration or immigrants to the United States will not include Puerto Ricans; research focusing on broad categories of ethnic groups may include them, however.

General Overviews

A large and diverse literature focuses on immigrants to the United States since 1965 and summarizes trends in numbers and origins of the immigrants. It also analyzes the experience of the immigrants in the labor force and other institutions and identifies issues related to assimilation and integration. Castles and Miller 1993 examine the nature of global migration and the resulting challenges with respect to ethnic diversity, citizenship, and national identity. The handbook by Hirschman, et al. 1999 bring together scholars from varied disciplines and perspectives to explore different research questions regarding immigration to the United States. The article by Hirschman 2005 examines the long-run patterns and consequences of immigration to the United States. Waters and Ueda 2007 provide not only a comprehensive overview of migration to the United States but also detailed chapters on immigration from the largest sending nations or regions. Pew Hispanic Center 2013 focus on undocumented immigration as part of overall immigration and on Hispanic immigration. Tienda and Mitchell 2006 include studies from several disciplines focusing on two broad questions: the first being whether the groups clustered under the panethnic label “Hispanic” are in fact distinct from other groups, and the second focuses on whether these immigrants and their children are assimilating into the mainstream along specific economic, social, and cultural dimensions. Donato 2010 reviews trends in migration from Latin America.

Data Sources

Two major sources for basic data on particular population groups such as immigrants and/or Latino/Hispanic populations are 1) the US Census Bureau decennial censuses and, since 2005, the American Community Survey (ACS) and 2) data collected by selected agencies within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Analyses of these data and other data are published by a number of organizations concerned with immigration issues such as the Migration Policy Institute and the Pew Hispanic Center (both located in Washington, DC) and by academic scholars in numerous professional journals. Batalova, et al. 2008 provide a guide that directs users to useful data sources and websites where credible and accessible US data may be found. The census has included a question on country of birth in every census from 1850 to 2000 and a differently worded question on the American Community Survey (ACS) since 2005. A question on citizenship was included as early as 1820 and 1830 and then omitted for several decades. It was included again for 1920–1950 and 1970–2000. It is currently collected in the ACS. Citro and Kalton 2007 provide insights into how such data in the long form of the census may be compared with the ACS in 2010. The US Census Bureau has published public use micro-data files (PUMS) for 1960 through 2000 and for the 2010 census short form. These allow researchers to design their own tabulations for use in multivariate analyses of population issues such as the socioeconomic characteristics of immigrants compared to native-born populations at state, local, and national levels (Salvo and Lobo 2010). The first and second editions of the Encyclopedia of the Census (Anderson, et al. 2012) provide a useful introduction to census data and materials. Until the 1990s, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, U.S. Department of Justice provided annual data on the numbers and origins of immigrants entering the United States. That agency was incorporated into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) after 9/11. DHS now publishes statistics on immigrants based on data collected on admissions and arrivals (Department of Homeland Security 2010). Data on admissions are maintained as administrative records by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) of the Department of Homeland Security 2010. These include the numbers and characteristics of immigrants granted lawful permanent residence and numbers approved as refugees and asylum seekers. Also data on other subcategories such as students and temporary workers, available from a variety of other sources, are used to estimate the size of these groups. Other research groups have developed survey data from specific countries (Latin American Migration Projects) and estimates of undocumented migration.

  • Anderson, Margo J., Constance F. Citro, and Joseph J. Salvo, eds. Encyclopedia of the Census. 2d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2012.

    DOI: 10.4135/9781452225272Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Many entries describe for each census what data were collected, definitions of concepts used, how data were captured and disseminated and the limitations of data for analyses of small areas, comparisons over time and much more. See also the first edition.

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  • Batalova, Jeanne, Michelle Mittelstadt, Mark Mather, and Marlene Lee. Immigration Data Matters. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute and Population Reference Bureau, 2008.

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    Provides a guide to data sources organized by key topics such as “Illegal Immigrants” and “Immigrant Children.” It notes what is available and where it can be found. It also evaluates the ease of use of the source.

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  • Citro, Constance G., and Graham Kalton, eds. Using the American Community Survey: Benefits and Challenges. National Research Council Committee on National Statistics. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2007.

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    The volume focuses on uses of the ACS. Several chapters discuss and compare the one-year, three-year, and five-year period estimates derived from the ACS compared to those from the census long form. Other chapters discuss the difficulties of making historical comparisons of smaller populations and small geographic areas because of differences in sample design and size.

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  • Department of Homeland Security. Yearbook of Immigration Statistics. Washington, DC: Office of Immigration Statistics, DHS, 2010.

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    These volumes are particularly useful for examining data on legal permanent immigration flows from specific countries over time.

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  • Gibson, Campbell, and Kay Jung. “Historical Statistics on the Foreign-Born Population of the United States: 1850–2000.” Population Division Working Paper No. 81. Washington, DC: US Bureau of the Census, 2006.

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    A review of census statistics on immigrants residing in the United States at each decennial census since 1850, based on the country of birth question. Describes trends in size, country of origin, state, and region of residence.

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  • Immigration and Naturalization Service, U.S. Department of Justice. Immigration Reform and Control Act: Report of the Legalized Alien Population. Washington, DC: Govt. Printing Office, 1992.

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    Profile of legal permanent residents in the United States.

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  • Mexican Migration Project and the Latin American Migration Project.

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    The Mexican Migration Project (MMP) has been collecting survey data on Mexican migration to the United States since 1982. These survey data are compiled in a database that is available to the public for research and educational purposes. The Latin American Migration Project (LAMP) includes survey data from Puerto Rico, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Haiti, Peru, Guatemala and Ecuador.

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  • Salvo, Joseph J., and Arun Peter Lobo. “The Federal Statistical System: The Local Government Perspective.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 63 (2010): 75–88.

    DOI: 10.1177/0002716210374414Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This demonstrates the importance of federal statistics, including those on immigration, to end users such as urban planners in state and local governments.

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Recent Global Immigration Initiatives

The increased importance of migration policy at the global level is apparent from a number of perspectives (Cornelius, et al. 2004 and Meyers 2004). At recent international meetings at the UN and its affiliated organizations, large numbers of both sending and receiving countries have expressed concern and participated in discussions and debates about immigration compared to the relatively few receiving countries participating in previous decades (United Nations 2006). Moreover, every year one observes increasing numbers of international conferences, forums, and publications discussing the implications of hundreds of thousands of migrants moving around the world. Global Commission on International Migration 2005 discusses the implications of such moves with particular attention to human rights issues. At the same time, for the UN the issue has not been raised to the level of importance of an international conference, such as those dealing with population, the environment, and women’s issues. At these conferences at least a few binding recommendations or goals are agreed to by member states. The UN did have a “high level” dialogue in 2006 and another in 2013. In 2003 the secretary general of the UN, along with five individual countries, identified migration as a priority issue and established the Global Commission on International Migration. It was to analyze gaps in current policy approaches and present recommendations to the secretary general and interested stakeholders. A final report was issued in 2005 and generated further interest and discussion, but it produced no binding actions at the global level as noted in Chamie and Powers 2006. The lack of action is largely the result of conflicting and uncompromising interests of sending and receiving countries. The former tend to want fewer restrictions and the latter more restrictions. Fitzgerald 2008 and Martin and Zurcher 2008 describe some of the sources of conflicting interests. Cornelius, et al. 2004 and Meyers 2004 compare migration policies across industrialized countries.

  • Chamie, Joseph, and Mary G. Powers. International Migration and the Global Community, A Forum on the Report of the Global Commission on International Migration. New York: Center for Migration Studies, 2006.

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    This volume provides a review and critique of the Global Commission report. Several papers criticize UN activities for producing too few binding agreements or major changes.

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  • Cornelius, Wayne, Takeuki Tsuda, Phillip Martin, and James F. Hollifield. Controlling Immigration: A Global Perspective. 2d ed. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004.

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    A comparative study of immigration policy across nine industrialized nations. The authors argue that the policies of industrialized nations have converged in significant ways and that the gaps between the goals and outcomes of policies have widened.

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  • Fitzgerald, David. A Nation of Emigrants: How Mexico Manages its Migration. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.

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    Analyzes the efforts of the Mexican state to manage emigration and Mexicans abroad. A good addition to the literature on Mexican migration to the United States because of the focus on Mexican policies, actions, and perspectives.

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  • Global Commission on International Migration. Migration in an Interconnected World: New Directions for Action. Geneva, Switzerland: SRO Kundig, 2005.

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    Focuses on migration within developing regions and from developing to developed states. The commission paid particular attention to governance and human rights issues.

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  • Martin, Philip, and Gottfried Zurcher. Managing Migration: The Global Challenge. Population Bulletin 63. Washington, DC: Population Reference Bureau, 2008.

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    Provides and overview of global and regional migration trends and of various and often conflicting perspectives on immigration.

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  • Meyers, Eytan. International Immigration Policy: A Theoretical and Comparative Analysis. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1057/9781403978370Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analyzes immigration policies in the United States, Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands and explains various dimensions of state action on immigration policy.

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  • United Nations. Global Migration Groups: Policy Research, Data Collection and Publications. New York: UN, Population Division, 2006.

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    Describes the ten organizations that are members of the Global Migration Group and provides an overview of their activities in the field. These activities include their data collection activities and publications.

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Post-1965 Immigration Policy in the United States

In the United States, 20th-century immigration policy and legislation was mostly defined in terms of numerical restrictions or quotas based on country of origin, which was a system that favored western European countries. The national origins quota system of the 1920s and its recodification in 1952 were perceived to be inconsistent with US domestic and global interests in the 1960s (Cafferty, et al. 1983). This was a period of civil rights movements at home and the development of political and economic relations with new nations in Asia and Africa. The 1965 amendments to the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act resulted in major changes in US immigration policy and law as described in Keely 1971. The 1965 legislation abolished the national origins quota system that severely limited immigration from Asia and, less so, from southern and eastern Europe. It did, however impose numerical limits on western hemisphere immigration and changed priorities from visas based on economic characteristics to visas based on family relationships. It had negative effects on Mexican immigrants and some from other western hemisphere countries already in the United States. The numbers waiting for visas exceeded the numerical limit.

The numerical restrictions contributed to an increase in undocumented immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries. Concern with “illegal immigration” has dominated discussions of immigration law ever since (Bean, et al. 1990 and Orrenius and Zavodny 2003). In the United States one major piece of immigration legislation was the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986. It was designed to reduce illegal or undocumented immigration by providing a mechanism to legalize those who had already been in the United States for five years or more. Almost three million unauthorized immigrants were legalized. The law also required US employers to verify the legal status of their employees, and instituted a temporary agricultural worker program. It also mandated the creation of a commission, The Commission for the Study of International Migration and Cooperative Economic Development. The commission report, delivered in 1990, focused on development needs in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean (Terrazas 2011). The Immigration Act of 1990 was, in part, the result of some of the recommendations of that earlier commission and made some important changes in immigration law. It created the H1-B visa program, which grants temporary visas to highly skilled workers; the act also authorized the Temporary Protective Status (TPS) program, which provided temporary humanitarian protection for persons fleeing natural disasters or political conflicts. It also created the diversity lottery and increased employment opportunities for foreign students in the United States. Much of the subsequent discussion of immigration policy has focused on the perceived failure of the 1986 act to reduce illegal immigration. Between 1980 and 2000, a series of task forces and panels were created by Congress and by other interested organizations to examine the issues and make recommendations (Commission on Immigration Reform, U.S. 1997, Kerwin 2010, Rosenblum and Brick 2011). Little in the way of comprehensive legislation or major policy changes occurred, however (Rosenblum 2011).

  • Bean, Frank D., Barry Edmonston, and Jeffrey S. Passel. Undocumented Migration to the United States: IRCA and the Experience of the 1980s. Washington, DC: Urban Institute, 1990.

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    The authors estimate IRCA’s impact on illegal immigration to the United States.

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  • Cafferty, Pastora San Juan, Barry R. Chiswick, Andrew M. Greeley, and Teresa A. Sullivan. The Dilemma of American Immigration: Beyond The Golden Door. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1983.

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    This is a review of immigration policy and legislation over the period from 1775 to 1980 by four social scientists from different disciplines. They use National Opinion Research Center data to examine how values and interests shape immigration and refugee policy and suggest some continuities over time.

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  • Commission on Immigration Reform, U.S.. Becoming an American: Immigration and Immigrant Policy. Washington, DC: U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform [Final Report to Congress], 1997.

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    Referred to as the Jordan Commission, the commission conducted an assessment of the state of the nation’s immigration policy in the early 1990s. The final report calls for the reduction of annual numbers and for a reduction of family-based migration. It also endorsed the enactment of a “comprehensive strategy” based on border enforcement to prevent illegal entries; improved worksite enforcement of the ban on employment of illegal immigrants and removal of those illegal immigrants apprehended within the country.

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  • Keely, Charles B. “Effects of the Immigration Act of 1965 on Selected Characteristics of Immigrants to the United States.” Demography 8 (1971): 157–169.

    DOI: 10.2307/2060606Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Good discussion of how the 1965 legislation changed earlier laws and practices and the characteristics of immigrants.

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  • Kerwin, Donald M. More than IRCA: US Legalization Programs and the Current Policy Debate. Policy Brief. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute, 2010.

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    This is a historical review of US legalization programs, their legal basis, numbers, and origin of persons legalized under each one. Finds that more immigrants have been legalized under population-specific and registry programs than through the legalization provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA).

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  • Orrenius, Pam, and Madeleine Zavodny. “Do Amnesty Programs Reduce Undocumented Immigration?” Demography 40.3 (2003): 437–450.

    DOI: 10.1353/dem.2003.0028Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Authors conclude that IRCA’s legalization did not change long-term patterns of undocumented immigration from Mexico. Includes a good review of earlier studies on the topic and overview of research seeking to measure the impact of IRCA.

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  • Rosenblum, Marc. U.S. Immigration Policy since 9/11: Understanding the Stalemate Over Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute, 2011.

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    Provides history of comprehensive immigration reform. Argues that asymmetries in the political process favor enforcement oriented responses; the timing of the reform debate—during the national electoral calendar in 2006–2007 and the economic downturn beginning in 2008—was another factor that made the passing of immigration reform difficult.

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  • Rosenblum, Marc R., and Kate Brick. U.S. Immigration Policy and Mexican/Central American Migration Flows: Then and Now. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute, 2011.

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    Argues that the scarcity of legal visas, the ending of guest worker programs, combined with economic opportunities in the United States, push factors in Mexico and Central America, and family networks resulted in the rapid growth in the numbers of Mexicans and Central Americans migrating to the U.S.

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  • Terrazas, Aaron. Migration and Development: Policy Perspectives from the United States. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute, 2011.

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    Explores the relationship between migration and development and its relationship to U.S. immigration and foreign policy.

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Borders and Enforcement

Since the mid-1990s, US immigration policy has emphasized “enforcement”: this means enhanced border policing, workplace audits, detention and deportation, and increased policing of immigrants at the state and local levels (Meissner, et al. 2013). A more critical literature looks at the impact of new laws and stricter enforcement, with a focus on the hardships imposed on immigrants and their families. Eschbach, et al. 1999 documents the increase in deaths at the Mexico-US border during the 1990s. Nevins 2002 looks at the origin and consequences of the border build up, specifically Operation Gatekeeper. Massey, et al. 2002 found that the expansion of border enforcement had not been effective in deterring increasing numbers of undocumented immigrants from Mexico and created many negative and unintended consequences. Spener 2009 argues that so-called coyotes are an integral part of the migration system, especially since border enforcement has made border crossing more difficult. Golosh-Boza 2012 provides a critical analysis of the impact of US immigration policy on human rights.

Theories of International Migration and Incorporation

As the literature on migration has become more interdisciplinary (Brettel 2000), so have the frameworks that scholars use to interpret it. One key transformation has been from macro theories that see migration primarily as the movement of labor, to more diverse conceptualizations such as those that emphasize the role of the state, gender, social networks, and social capital. Piore 1979 focused on the function of immigration labor for industrial societies and argued that the presence of a dual labor market drives migration to industrialized countries. Several authors note the importance of middle-range concepts such as the household (Wood 1982) and social networks (Boyd 1989). A substantial literature addresses the growth of globalization and its relation to migration. Sassen 1991 proposes the idea of the global city and argues that immigration was central to its growth. The literature on transnational migration poses further challenges, questioning the inevitability of assimilation as some immigrants maintain strong ties at both origin and destination and frequently move back and forth (Glick Schiller 1997). Massey 1999 provides a review of immigration theories and offers a synthetic account that incorporates both micro and macro concepts. Hollifield 2000 reviews the literature on the role of the state in influencing immigration policy. Alba and Nee 1997 provides a detailed review of assimilation theory and suggest modifications.

Integration and Assimilation

The concepts of assimilation, integration, and incorporation all seek to explain how immigrants and their children become part of a host society. Although frequently used interchangeably, each has been defined somewhat differently over nearly a century of research. An understanding of Latino immigration to the United States requires a review of earlier as well a current research. Assimilation theory was initially proposed by Robert Park and Ernest Burgess and developed by Park 1930 based on studies of 19th- and early-20th-century immigrants in the United States. It assumed 1) a single majority culture and 2) a one-way process during which immigrants changed their characteristics to become more like the majority population. Three decades later, research on assimilation and integration (Gordon 1964) recognized a more gradual process (across generations), some accommodation by the host society to immigrant cultures, and the existence of more than a single dominant group within the host society. More recent research, much of which focuses on Mexican and other Latin American immigrants to the United States, posits that assimilation is not a singular or one-way process but one that takes different paths: the path taken depends on the characteristics of immigrants and their children, settlement patterns, and the context of reception (i.e., labor market conditions, government policies, and group reception). The literature on assimilation/integration includes contributions from numerous disciplines such as sociology, economics, and political science as well as interdisciplinary studies. Obviously not all these efforts are included here. Several core indicators have been identified (socioeconomic standing, residential segregation, language proficiency, intermarriage) and used to measure the extent of assimilation or integration of various immigrant groups and trends over time and across generations.

Much recent research on integration has focused on the second generation. Portes and Zhou 1993 developed a segmented assimilation argument that considered the context of incorporation and also discussed the possibility of downward assimilation due to structural barriers limiting access to employment and other opportunities (see also Gans 1992). Portes and Rumbaut 2001 uses a large-scale survey and found that the one and a half generation and second generation immigrant youth in San Diego and Miami do better than the native born on a variety of educational outcomes. Mollenkopf, et al. 2008 find that second generation immigrants in New York City tend to do better than similar native born groups. Although most studies find that Hispanics are assimilating, some research has found evidence of decline for the third generation among Mexican Americans (Bean, et al. 1994 and Telles and Ortiz 2009). The results may be influenced by two other findings. Cohn 2014 notes that a significant number of people change their race and Hispanic identity from one census to the next, ten million between 2000 and 2010. Hispanics were more likely to change their racial or ethnic self-identities than non-Hispanic whites, blacks, or Asians. In addition, more than half the Hispanic population report identifying themselves by their family’s country of origin rather than as Hispanic or Latino. Also, some authors have called attention to the impacts of continued immigration on the assimilation and identities of immigrants and the descendants of immigrants (Jimenez 2008).

  • Bean, Frank D., Jorge Chapa, Ruth Berg, and Kathleen Sowards. “Educational and Sociodemographic Incorporation among Hispanic Immigrants in the U.S.” In Immigration and Ethnicity: The Integration of America’s Newest Arrivals. Edited by E. Edmonstron and Jeffrey Passel, 73–96. Washington, DC: Urban Institute, 1994.

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    Overview of incorporation trends for Hispanics that finds some evidence for the downward assimilation of third generation Mexicans.

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  • Cohn, D’Vera. “Millions of Americans Change Their Racial and Ethnic Identity from One Census to the Next.” Washington, DC: Pew Research Center, 2014.

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    This paper is based on restricted access to confidential census data, matched census forms for 2000 and 2010 for millions of people, and analyzed responses to the race and ethnicity questions at the two points in time. Comparisons were made among several major groups and changes in self-identification were described.

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  • Gans, Herbert. “Second Generation Decline: Scenarios for the Economic and Ethnic Futures of the post-1965 American Immigrants.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 15 (1992): 173–192.

    DOI: 10.1080/01419870.1992.9993740Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Early formulation of the segmented assimilation argument suggesting that some second generation immigrants were poised to join the ranks an urban underclass who are excluded from or marginal to the mainstream economy.

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  • Gordon, Milton M. Assimilation in American Life. New York: Oxford University Press, 1964.

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    Gordon advanced assimilation theory by distinguishing between cultural, structural, and marital assimilation. Gordon’s work identified indicators of the extent of integration or assimilation in a group.

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  • Jimenez, Tomas R. “Mexican Immigrant Replenishment and the Continuing Significance of Ethnicity and Race.” American Journal of Sociology 113.6 (2008): 1527–1567.

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    Suggests that continued immigration of Mexicans influences the assimilation of later generation Mexican Americans and calls for more careful attention to the concept of immigrant generations when assessing assimilation.

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  • Mollenkopf, John, Phillip Kasinitz, Mary Waters, and Jennifer Holdway. Inheriting the City: The Children of Immigrants Come of Age. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008.

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    Study of second generation immigrant groups and native-born whites, black, and Hispanics in and around New York City. Overall, the authors find that second generation immigrants tend to do better than racially similar native born groups.

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  • Park, Robert E. “Assimilation, Social.” In Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. Vol. 2. Edited by R. Edwin, A. Seligman, and Alvin Johnson, 281–283. New York: Macmillan, 1930.

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    Describes assimilation theory and process as it was originally conceived and formulated. The authors sought to explain how European immigrants to the United States became integrated into their new society. It was seen as a one-way process whereby immigrants accepted and adopted new cultural values and behaviors and, over time, became Americans.

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  • Portes, Alejandro, and Ruben Rumbaut. Legacies: The Story of the Immigrant Second Generation. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.

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    Based on a longitudinal survey of immigrant children in Florida and California, this study uses concepts linked to acculturation including dissonant and selective acculturation to explore the experiences of second generation children. Found that one and a half and second generation children do better than natives in many different educational outcomes.

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  • Portes, Alejandro, and Min Zhou. “The New Second Generation: Segmented Assimilation and its Variants.” Annuls of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences 530 (1993): 74–98.

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    Argues that second generation assimilation takes different forms and not a straight path. Working-class immigrant youth are at higher risk for downward assimilation due to racial discrimination, concentration in central cities, and worsening economic conditions.

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  • Telles, Edward, and Vilma Ortiz. Generations of Exclusion: Mexican Americans, Assimilation and Race. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009.

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    Measures integration of Mexican American cohorts using a longitudinal survey. Focus is on education, language, intermarriage, residential segregation, socioeconomic status, ethnic identity, and political participation. Argues that later generation Mexican Americans are not progressing as assimilation theory would predict.

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Economic Integration and Well-Being

Two aspects of economic integration dominate the literature: the impact of Latino immigration on the labor market and labor force in the destination country and the occupations and income levels of the immigrants relative to the native population, to minority populations, or to other immigrant groups. There appears to be a consensus that the impact on average income and earning in the destination country is relatively small, although persons in jobs that can easily be filled by immigrants are likely to be adversely affected. In the United States these are apt to be low-skilled workers, especially minority workers and immigrants already in the country. Entrepreneurship and the existence of immigrant niches also affect economic status and outcomes (Portes and Bach 1985; Waldinger 1994; Portes, et al. 2002; and Robles and Cordero-Guzman 2007). Various measures of economic well-being such as employment and earnings and household income have been used to describe variation in outcomes. Duncan, et al. 2006 demonstrates that Hispanics do almost as well as whites when compared using standardized employment and earnings rates. Using median household income and poverty rates, Reimers 2006 shows a broad dispersion of both and considerable disparity among specific nationality groups. Smith 2003 finds evidence for educational gains across generations for Hispanics. More research is needed to look at economic outcomes for undocumented immigrants; Powers, et al. 1998 explore gender differences in occupational status for undocumented immigrants.

  • Duncan, Brian, V. Joseph Hotz, and Stephen J. Trejo. “Hispanics in the U.S. Labor Market.” In Hispanics and the Future of America. Edited by Tienda Marta and Faith Mitchell, 228–290. Committee on Population, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: National Academies, 2006.

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    This study standardizes measures of employment and earnings by educational attainment and English language proficiency and compares Hispanics to other groups.

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  • Portes, Alejandro, and Robert Bach. Latin Journey: Cuban and Mexican Immigrants in the United States. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.

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    Comparative study on the economic incorporation of Mexican and Cuban men in the 1980s. Argues that an enclave form of incorporation characterizes Cuban incorporation in Miami, while Mexicans are concentrated in the secondary labor market.

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  • Portes, Alejandro, Luis Eduardo Guarnizo, and William Haller. “Transnational Entrepreneurs: An Alternative Form of Immigrant Economic Adaptation.” American Journal of Sociology 67 (2002): 1211–1248.

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    Analysis of transnational entrepreneurship among selected Latin immigrant groups in the United States.

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  • Powers, Mary G., William Seltzer, and Jing Shi. “Gender Differences in the Occupational Status of Undocumented Immigrants in the United States: Experience Before and After Legalization.” International Migration Review 32 (1998): 1015–1046.

    DOI: 10.2307/2547670Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the status of undocumented immigrants before and after the 1986 legalization and demonstrates that they do experience upward mobility in the labor force.

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  • Reimers, Cordelia. “Economic Well Being.” In Hispanics and the Future of America. Edited by Tienda Marta and Faith Mitchell, 291–361. Committee on Population, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: National Academies, 2006.

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    An analysis of total household income among Hispanics based on 2002 current population survey data. This indicator includes the incomes of all household earners plus unearned benefits. It demonstrates wide variations among specific national groups.

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  • Robles, Barbara L. and Hector Cordero-Guzman. Latino Self Employment and Entrepreneurship in the United States: An Overview of Literature and Data Sources. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 613 (2007): 18–31.

    DOI: 10.1177/0002716207303541Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Overview of data on self-employment and entrepreneurship among Latinos with comprehensive literature review.

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  • Smith, James P. “Assimilation Across Immigrant Generations.” American Economic Review 93 (2003): 315–319.

    DOI: 10.1257/000282803321947263Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines education and wages by generation for Hispanics and Mexicans. Finds evidence of substantial gains across generations.

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  • Waldinger, Roger. “The Making of an Immigrant Niche.” International Migration Review 28 (1994): 3–30.

    DOI: 10.2307/2547023Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Outlines the concept of an ethnic niche and demonstrates its significance for immigrant employment.

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Case Studies of Latino Immigrants

Over the past thirty years, studies of immigration and immigrants have shifted away from assimilation to new ways of conceptualizing incorporation. Rather than seeing incorporation as a single process leading to the eventual assimilation of all immigrants to the dominant American culture, more recent work focuses on the process of interaction between the host society institutions and structures and the characteristics of newcomers. In this vein, and given the growing diversity among Latinos, many studies explore the specific experiences of national origin groups and subgroups. Much of this literature uses qualitative research methods that include ethnographic methods and/or in-depth interviewing to provide a more nuanced approach to understanding immigrants and the immigration process. Newer studies of incorporation pay more attention to the gendered nature of immigration and incorporation, the impacts of policy on immigrants and immigrant communities, the new second generation, states and state systems, transnational communities, and cross-national comparisons. Massey, et al. 1987 documents the development of networks linking communities in Mexico to the United States. Pessar and Grasmuck 1991 also examines the linkages between sending and receiving communities in their study of Dominican migration to New York City. Hagan 1994 explored how Guatemalans in Houston responded to the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, bringing to light the disadvantages that women face in navigating the legalization process. Mahler 1995 is a study of El Salvadorans in suburban Long Island that underscored the precarious nature of immigrant relationships. Coutin 2000 is a study of El Salvadorans that shows the many ways that this group struggled to attain visibility in light of the denial of the US government to recognize them as refugees. Levitt 2001 details how migration between the U.S. and the Dominican Republic changes the everyday lives of both migrants and non-migrants. Hernandez 2002 documents the difficulties that many members of the Dominican community in New York City face as they deal with low-wage jobs and residence in impoverished communities. Menjivar 2006 documents the ways that Temporary Protected Status creates a limbo for El Salvadorans and other Central Americans in the United States. Smith 2006 finds that transnational practices are an important dimension of the incorporation experiences of Mexican immigrants residing in New York City: they vary across the life course, by gender and generation.

  • Coutin, Susan. Legalizing Moves: Salvadoran Immigrants’ Struggle for U.S. Residency. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000.

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    Study of Salvadoran asylum seekers in the United States. The author documents the ways that the government denies refugees status and the many strategies that Salvadorans use to contest their legal invisibility.

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  • Hagan, Jacqueline. Deciding to Be Legal: A Maya Community in Houston. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994.

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    Examines how a group of Mayan Guatemalans in Houston responded to the opportunity to legalize through the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act. Argues that women had a more difficult time with legalization because they were engaged in informal labor, mostly as domestics, and thereby lacked strong network connections.

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  • Hernandez, Ramona. The Mobility of Workers Under Advanced Capitalism: Dominican Migration to the United States. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.

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    Political economy approach arguing that Dominicans are a source of cheap labor in the United States and are not only marginal in the Dominican labor force but also in the US labor force as well.

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  • Levitt, Peggy. The Transnational Villagers. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.

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    Argues that Dominicans abroad retain strong social ties to their sending community; nonmigrants are influenced by the goods and ideas sent back. Also looks at organizational transnationalism by focusing on how religious and political organizations worked in both the U.S. and the Dominican Republic.

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  • Mahler, Sarah J. American Dreaming: Immigrant Life on the Margins. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995.

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    Early study of the suburban settlement and incorporation of immigrants. Focus is on how El Salvadoran immigrants survive on low incomes and without legal status. Argues that poverty and hardship push immigrants to exploit each other.

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  • Massey, Douglas, Rafael Alarcon, Jorge Duran, and Humberto Gonzalez. Return to Aztlan: The Social Process of International Migration from Western Mexico. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987.

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    Using an “ethnosurvey” the authors investigated multiple dimensions of migration in both the United States and Mexico.

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  • Menjivar, Cecelia. “Liminal Legality: Salvadoran and Guatemalan Immigrants’ Lives in the United States.” American Journal of Sociology 111.4 (2006): 999–1037.

    DOI: 10.1086/499509Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that many Salvadorans and Guatemalans, many of whom have “temporary protected status,” endure harsh conditions due to their uncertain legal status.

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  • Pessar, Patricia, and Sherri Grasmuck. Between Two Islands: Dominican International Migration. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.

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    Seminal study of Dominican migration to New York City based on survey and ethnographic data from both the United States and the Dominican Republic. It addresses the issue of who migrates and why, the gendered nature of settlement in New York City, return migration, and the experiences of undocumented immigrants.

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  • Smith, Robert. Mexican New York: Transnational Lives of New Immigrants. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.

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    Ethnographic study of Mexican migration and incorporation in New York City.

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Gender and Family

Early migration research focused on men and mostly excluded women. This section looks at the growing literature on immigration, gender, and the family. Early studies emphasized women’s labor market participation and its role in empowering women immigrants (Fernandez-Kelly and Garcia 1989). More recent work has approached migration from a more explicitly gendered perspective. Hondagneu-Sotelo 1994 focuses on the gendered process of migration and settlement for Mexican women and men. Hondagneu-Sotelo 2003 presents an overview of the field and a variety of case studies that address different dimensions of gender in the migration and settlement process. Segura and Zavella 2007 focuses on the gendered dimensions of the border and the borderlands. New perspectives on gender include a focus on carework (Alicea 1997), transnational families and the impacts of family separation (Dreby 2010), and intergenerational relations (Foner 2007). New work on gender and migration from a global perspective is also apparent (Oso and Ribas-Mateos 2013).

  • Alicea, Marixsa. “A Chambered Nautilas’: The Contradictory Nature of Puerto Rican Women’s Role in the Social Construction of a Transnational Community.” Gender and Society 11.5 (1997): 597–626.

    DOI: 10.1177/089124397011005005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Focusing on Puerto Rican migration and return migration, the author explores women’s unpaid domestic labor and its role in the construction of transnational communities.

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  • Dreby, Joanna. Divided by Borders: Mexican Migrants and Their Children. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010.

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    Focus on family separation in the migration process in both the United States and Mexico. Explores the nature of and consequences of family separation from the vantage point of mothers, fathers, and children. Includes a discussion of the role of immigrant fathers.

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  • Fernandez-Kelly, Patricia, and Ana M. Garcia. “Informalization at the Core: Hispanic Women and Homework and the Advanced Capitalist State.” In The Informal Economy: Studies in Advanced and Less Developed Countries. Edited by Alejandro Portes, Manuel Castells, and Laura Benton, 247–264. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989.

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    Comparative study of the women’s work and family patterns, focusing on Cubans and Mexicans. Finds that industrial “homework” is a temporary strategy for Cuban families but not so for Mexicans.

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  • Foner, Nancy. Across Generations: Immigrant Families in America. New York: New York University Press, 2007.

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    Edited volume emphasizing different aspects of intergenerational relations in immigrant families.

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  • Hondagneu-Sotelo, Pierrette. Gendered Transitions: Mexican Experiences of Immigration. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.

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    Early treatment of gender and its relation to the migration and settlement process. Finds that women have more power in the migration process than previously thought; they often initiate the migration process and rely on their own separate networks.

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  • Hondagneu-Sotelo, Pierrette. Gender and U.S. Immigration: Contemporary Trends. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.

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    Edited collection with essays on employment, ethnic identity, citizenship, as well as chapters on Central Americans, Mexicans, Dominicans, El Salvadorans among others.

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  • Oso, Laura, and Natalie Ribas-Mateos. Handbook on Gender, Migration and Transnationalism: Global and Development Perspectives. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2013.

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    Edited volume with chapters on gender and immigration from throughout the world.

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  • Segura, Denise A., and Patricia Zavella. Women and Migration: The U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007.

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    Edited volume by US and Mexican scholars that includes articles on violence, work, family, and identity.

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Old and New Spatial Transformations

Although recent work has focused on immigrants in “new destinations,” most immigrants still enter into traditional immigrant gateways. This section looks at studies of both traditional and new destinations and how they are shaped and influenced by immigrants. Portes and Stepick 1993 is an early study of Miami: it looks at how Cuban immigrants influenced the city and, conversely, how native-born residents responded. Rodriguez 1993 explores Latinos and labor market changes in Houston. Waldinger and Bozorgmehr 1997 explore the impacts of immigration on Los Angeles. The growth of studies on “new destinations” reflects changes in the settlement patterns of immigrants and Latinos to new destinations in southern and Midwestern states and sometimes resulted in states and localities responding negatively to immigrants (Waters and Jimenez 2005). The decentralization of cities, the restructuring of the US economy, and the growth of suburbs as major employment centers help to explain the growth of new destinations. Gouveia and Saenz 2000 discusses how economic restructuring in agriculture and the agroindustrial sectors in the Midwest has created demand for immigrant labor. Suro and Singer 2002 chronicles the rapid growth of Latino populations in cities and suburbs with little history of migration. Zuniga and Hernandez-Leon 2005 discuss the impact of Mexican immigration on new destination communities. Arreola 2006 discusses new and existing Latino communities from a geographic perspective.

Political Incorporation and Mobilization

The growing literature on political incorporation characterizes the field of migration and Latino studies in general and reflects its more multidisciplinary orientation. The literature emphasizes the role of the state in structuring formal membership (Oboler 2006) and different forms of political engagement, from exclusion (Jones-Correa 1998) to voting to mobilization (Cordero-Guzman, et al. 2008 and Pallares and Flores-Gonzalez 2010). The growth of enforcement and punitive immigration legislation has led to many studies of the responses of Latinos to these developments (Gilbertson and Singer 2003, Zloniski 2006, and Gonzales 2014). Fraga, et al. 2010 explores Latino engagement on a variety of political dimensions.

  • Cordero-Guzman, Hector, Nina Martin, Victor Quiroz-Becerra, and Nik Theodor. “Voting with Their Feet: Non-Profit Organization and Immigrant Mobilization.” American Behavioral Scientist 52 (2008): 598–617.

    DOI: 10.1177/0002764208324609Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the role of immigrant organizations in the immigrant rights mobilization of 2006. Argues that the mobilizations were not spontaneous but instead were an outgrowth of long-standing cooperative efforts and well-established institutional networks of immigrant-serving community-based organizations, social service providers, and advocacy groups.

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  • Fraga, Luis, John Garcia, Rodney Hero, Micheal Jones-Correa, Valeria Martinez-Ebers, and Gary Segura. Latino Lives in America: Making it Home. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2010.

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    Explores a variety of themes related to immigration and political incorporation using the 2006 Latino National Survey and qualitative data.

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  • Gilbertson, Greta, and Audrey Singer. “The Emergence of Protective Citizenship in the USA: Naturalization Among Dominican Immigrants in the Post-1996 Welfare Reform Era.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 26 (2003): 25–51.

    DOI: 10.1080/01419870022000025261Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Looks at how a large Dominican family in New York City naturalized in the late 1990s. Argues that impact of the 1996 welfare reform was a catalyst for changing ideas and practices regarding US citizenship.

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  • Gonzales, Alonso. Reform without Justice: Latino Migrant Politics and the Homeland Security State. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

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    Seeks to explain the interrelation of punitive US immigration policies and the challenges they present for Latino migrant activists.

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  • Jones-Correa, Michael. Between Two Nations: The Political Predicament of Latinos in the U.S. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998.

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    Case study of Latinos in New York City. Argues that immigrants have low rates of political participation because they have continued allegiances to their home country and because they are discouraged from formal participation due to dominance of local political process by established groups.

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  • Oboler, Suzanne. Latinos and Citizenship: The Dilemma of Belonging. Oboler, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230601451Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Edited volume with contributors addressing a variety of issues related to membership including dual citizenship, political participation, and civic engagement.

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  • Pallares, Amalia, and Nilda Flores-Gonzalez. ¡Marcha! Latino Chicago and the Immigrant Rights Movement. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2010.

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    Edited volume that explores different dimensions of the immigrant rights mobilizations in Chicago.

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  • Zloniski, Christian. Janitors, Street Vendors and Activists: The Lives of Mexican Immigrants in Silicon Valley. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.

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    Ethnographic study of a group of Mexican immigrants employed in low-wage jobs in Silicon Valley. Author documents how immigrant workers have organized for better living conditions while highlighting the structural forces that produce a demand for low-skilled labor in the midst of high-paying technology jobs.

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