Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Writing Immigration

Writing Immigration: Scholars and Journalists in Dialogue

Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco
Vivian Louie
Roberto Suro
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 296
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Writing Immigration
    Book Description:

    Bringing nuance, complexity, and clarity to a subject often seen in black and white,Writing Immigrationpresents a unique interplay of leading scholars and journalists working on the contentious topic of immigration. In a series of powerful essays, the contributors reflect on how they struggle to write about one of the defining issues of our time-one that is at once local and global, familiar and uncanny, concrete and abstract. Highlighting and framing central questions surrounding immigration, their essays explore topics including illegal immigration, state and federal mechanisms for immigration regulation, enduring myths and fallacies regarding immigration, immigration and the economy, immigration and education, the adaptations of the second generation, and more. Together, these writings give a clear sense of the ways in which scholars and journalists enter, shape, and sometimes transform this essential yet unfinished national conversation.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95020-7
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xxiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxv-xxvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    Over three decades ago a congressionally mandated commission on immigration proposed a sweeping overhaul of laws, policies, and procedures. The core recommendation, as summarized by the chairman, the Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh, then president of the University of Notre Dame, was to close the “back door” of illegal migration so as to keep the “front door” open to a reasonable number of legal arrivals.¹ If that sounds familiar, even hauntingly contemporary, it should. Hesburgh’s seemingly simple formulation has enjoyed an exceptional shelf life. Repeated time and again by politicians, advocates, and commentators, including a number of the authors in this...


    • [PART ONE Introduction]
      (pp. 19-22)

      In Part One of the book Nina Bernstein of theNew York Times, Cristina M. Rodríguez of the New York University School of Law, Dianne Solís of theDallas Morning News, and Peter H. Schuck of the Yale Law School debate the problem of writing about some of the most controversial and complicated topics in immigration today: raids on immigrant communities, deportations, family separations, and immigration-related ordinances at the local level. On top of a byzantine legal architecture—full of contradictions, good and bad laws—a human drama of broken family bonds, shadowed lives, and postponed dreams in un folding....

    • 1 The Making of an Outlaw Generation
      (pp. 23-43)

      In the fall of 2004, my first year covering immigration for theNew York Times, I met an eight-year-old girl named Virginia Feliz. Her last name means “happy” in Spanish, but she hated her name, she told me. She threw herself down on a couch in her family’s apartment in the Bronx, beside her father, Carlos Feliz, a U.S. citizen who was born in the Dominican Republic. She declared: “I’m not happy, I’m sad. Because it’s not fair that everybody else has their mom except me.” In an article on the front page of theTimes—one of the first,...

    • 2 The Integrated Regime of Immigration Regulation
      (pp. 44-61)

      State and local laws designed to address immigrants and immigration have proliferated in recent years,¹ and many of these measures have inspired considerable media scrutiny. In most of their assessments of this trend, commentators have juxtaposed a description of the local activity with either a causal account stressing the federal government’s failure to enact comprehensive immigration reform, or with a quasinormative statement that states have stumbled into the federal government’s jurisdiction by adopting measures designed to control immigrant movement. This assumption of federal exclusivity—that immigration ought to be handled solely by the federal government through uniform policy—shapes both...

    • 3 What Part of “Illegal” Don’t You Understand?
      (pp. 62-72)

      In the national shouting match over immigration, we are often asked, “What part of ‘illegal’ don’t you understand?”

      The answer isn’t easy.

      Immigration is one of the most complex and knotty areas of law (see Cristina M. Rodríguez’s and Peter H. Schuck’s chapters in this volume). It’s rapidly fusing with criminal law and known as “crimmigration” law. Due process issues crop up with frequency. The dragnet of the toughest crackdown in decades is even sweeping up the lives of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. New cases in the federal courts increasingly involve the use of criminal prosecutions for cases...

    • 4 Some Observations about Immigration Journalism
      (pp. 73-89)

      The topic of immigration journalism is of the utmost interest and public importance but it is seldom, if ever, systematically examined. Bringing academics, policy analysts, and policymakers together with journalists who cover immigration is a splendid idea whose time has come. Moreover, it has provided me the opportunity to interact with Nina Bernstein and Ginger Thompson of theNew York Times—whom I read regularly and gratefully.

      All Americans, of course, have a large stake in being well informed not only about immigration policy issues but also about the lives, struggles, achievements, and disappointments of immigrants, who truly are essential...

    • Interlude I Covering Immigration: From Stepchild Beat to Newsroom Mainstream
      (pp. 90-102)

      For the better part of two decades, I covered the U.S.-Mexico border and immigration issues for theLos Angeles Times. I watched the rapid growth of illegal immigration in the 1980s, witnessed the buildup of forces and barriers along the border, and was on the ground in California for the emergence of the immigration “backlash” movement, the groundswell of discontent that culminated in Proposition 187 and later spread throughout the country. I covered immigration “reform” laws and sundry efforts to alter refugee and asylum policy. I tracked demographic changes and wrote about conflicts linked to the migratory flow. I traveled...


    • [PART TWO Introduction]
      (pp. 103-106)

      In Part Two of the book, Edward Schumacher-Matos, formerly of theNew York Timesand theWall Street Journaland now at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and Barry R. Chiswick of George Washington University address the various socioeconomic claims and counterclaims that have informed the increasingly contentious debate about the economic causes and consequences of large-scale immigration. The economic firestorm that began on Wall Street in mid-2008 and raged through Main Streets all over the country, rapidly devouring large sectors of the economy, sets a new stage for examining the general relationship between the economy and large-scale...

    • 5 Consensus, Debate, and Wishful Thinking: The Economic Impact of Immigration
      (pp. 107-135)

      At the heart of the battle over immigration is an issue that all sides claim as their own but on which few agree: What is the economic impact of immigration on the nation? Since the early 1980s, economists and advocates have been waging an often fierce battle over the effect immigrants have had on jobs, taxes, and national income. One side argues that immigrants—legal and illegal, low- and high-skilled—have damaged all three. Others maintain the opposite. Which is it?

      Getting the answer right is crucial. Since the beginning of the republic, three factors—humanitarian refuge, family reunification, and...

    • 6 Ten Top Myths and Fallacies Regarding Immigration
      (pp. 136-148)

      Most Americans have strong feelings about immigration and immigrants—sometimes pro, sometimes con, and often contradictory. Part of the difficulty of coming to terms with a national immigration policy, however, is that much discussion in the press and by politicians, as well as among the populace, is dominated by myths and fallacies. A clarification of these myths and fallacies will not completely resolve the debate over immigration policy, but it will narrow the range of the discourse, thereby facilitating arriving at sensible, effective policies. In 1970 about 4.7 percent or one of every twenty persons living in the United States...

    • Interlude II A Son of Immigrants on Covering Immigration
      (pp. 149-154)

      In many ways, as my colleagues have captured so well with the depth and sophistication of their observations throughout this book, the quality of our best immigration coverage has improved considerably in the thirty years since I began my career as a kid reporter at theChicago Tribune. For my first year and a half, I was the only Latino on the staff, pretty incredible for an immigrant city like Chicago. Coverage of Hispanics was viewed as something exotic, a local version of foreign correspondence about strange people from strange lands, living in dangerous, segregated areas of the city that...


    • [PART THREE Introduction]
      (pp. 155-158)

      In Part Three of the book Ginger Thompson of theNew York Times; Carola Suárez-Orozco of New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development; Tyche Hendricks of the KQED Public Radio San Francisco and the University of California–Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism; Vivian Louie of the Harvard Graduate School of Education; and Mary C. Waters of Harvard’s Department of Sociology turn their attention to what will define the long-term consequences of the massive immigration wave of the past generation: the integration and well-being of the children of immigrants. They focus on the needs of immigrant families,...

    • 7 The Education Transformation: Why the Media Missed One of the Biggest Stories in America
      (pp. 159-170)

      At the end of 2007 theNew York Timesassigned a group of reporters to write a series of stories about immigration’s impact on America. The stories, published over seven weeks beginning in March 2009, explored the ways that record waves of immigrants had transformed workplaces, neighborhoods, and families. One story focused on public schools. Five decades afterBrown v. Board of Education, there are no “whites only” signs hanging on school bathrooms, but that doesn’t mean there are no barriers. It only means that they are harder to identify. This is the story behind the story that attempted to...

    • 8 Moving Stories: Academic Trajectories of Newcomer Immigrant Students
      (pp. 171-203)

      A powerful narrative of the struggles of immigration—particularly when focused on immigrant children and youth—rarely fails to move the reader. Individual stories or case studies are thus a device often shared by journalists and social scientists alike. But beyond this, what do journalists and social scientists writing about immigration share, and more important, how and why do our paths diverge? As a consumer of news stories, I am often moved by the journalists’ accounts I read. But as a social scientist, I am also, admittedly, envious of the apparent ease and supersonic speed with which the information seems...

    • 9 Who Will Report the Next Chapter of America’s Immigration Story?
      (pp. 204-217)

      At a San Francisco union hall, Ahmed Yahya Mushreh and his fellow janitors huddled around a table, planning a gathering to honor the memory of a young Yemeni immigrant who had died almost thirty years before, fighting for the cause of California farmworkers. The martyred activist, Nagi Daifullah, was a leader in the United Farm Workers (UFW) grape strike and became a legend among Yemeni immigrants, particularly the janitors of SEIU Local 87, many of whom had ties to the vineyards of the San Joaquin Valley. Mushreh, age sixty-five, picked grapes as a young man, still carried his UFW card,...

    • 10 Complicating the Story of Immigrant Integration
      (pp. 218-235)

      When I have spoken to journalists, I have tried to complicate two popular storylines. One has to do with the model minority image of Asian Americans, framing them as super academic achievers and a powerful example that race and class do not matter in minority achievement. This stereotype persists even in the face of substantial post-1960s class, ethnic, and educational diversity among Asian Americans due partly to immigration. Another has to do with the comparison often drawn between immigrants from Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, the two largest sources of immigration today. The comparison is of the so-called...

    • 11 Debating Immigration: Are We Addressing the Right Issues?
      (pp. 236-250)

      In my twenty-five-year career studying immigration and immigrant integration in the United States, I have been struck a number of times by the disconnect between the public debate about these topics and the findings of scholarly research. Debates about immigration in the news media and among politicians often focus on “problems” (see Roberto Suro’s introduction in this book) that social scientists can easily dismiss as misguided or lacking in factual basis. These public debates and news reports also often miss important topics that would profit from rigorous analysis, discussion, and good reporting. In this chapter I review two of these...

  9. Afterword
    (pp. 251-254)

    Imagine that this book had been written a hundred years ago at the height of the last wave of immigration, the one that came across the Atlantic. Some of the chapters would have focused on enforcement efforts to exclude contract laborers, epileptics, those with trachoma, and anarchists. Other contributions would have assessed the longstanding policy debate over whether immigrants should pass a literacy test—forty words in any language was a common measure—before gaining admission. Certainly some of the chapters would have discussed the forty-two-volume report presented to Congress in 1910 summarizing the “scientific” evidence on the racial inferiority...

  10. Contributors
    (pp. 255-256)
  11. Index
    (pp. 257-264)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 265-266)