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Everyday Illegal

Everyday Illegal: When Policies Undermine Immigrant Families

Joanna Dreby
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Everyday Illegal
    Book Description:

    What does it mean to be an illegal immigrant, or the child of immigrants, in this era of restrictive immigration laws in the United States? As lawmakers and others struggle to respond to the changing landscape of immigration, the effects of policies on people's daily lives are all too often overlooked.InEveryday Illegal,award-winning author Joanna Dreby recounts the stories of children and parents in eighty-one families to show what happens when a restrictive immigration system emphasizes deportation over legalization. Interweaving her own experiences, Dreby illustrates how bitter strains can arise in relationships when spouses have different legal status. She introduces us to "suddenly single mothers" who struggle to place food on the table and pay rent after their husbands have been deported. Taking us into the homes and schools of children living in increasingly vulnerable circumstances, she presents families that are divided internally, with some children having legal status while their siblings are undocumented. Even children who are U.S. citizens regularly associate immigration with illegality.With vivid ethnographic details and a striking narrative,Everyday Illegalforces us to confront the devastating impacts of our immigration policies as seen through the eyes of children and their families. As legal status influences identity formation, alters the division of power within families, and affects the opportunities children have outside the home, it becomes a growing source of inequality that ultimately touches us all.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95927-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Prologue
    (pp. ix-xiv)

    As this book was being prepared for publication, the Obama administration announced an executive order changing some of the policies it will use in dealing with unauthorized immigrants. How the order will play out in the deeply partisan political system, whether it will in fact be implemented, and what the effects of its implementation will be, are unclear. The actions, if executed, are unlikely to undo the damage done to families by the current restrictive immigration system. But the announcement does off er some hope.

    Symbolically, the announcement acknowledges that far too many individuals—people who have lived and worked...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvii)
    (pp. 1-17)

    Surmounting legal barriers, for many of the forty million foreign-born individuals who live in the United States, marks the first step on the yellow brick road toward the American dream.¹ To achieve legal status, immigrants have typically had to meet certain requisites. Today, however, we face an emerging social problem: the complete elimination of pathways to legalization for many US immigrants. This book focuses on the fallout, exploring what it means to have or not have a legal status under restrictive policy conditions. Accounts from children and parents in Mexican immigrant households show that illegality—the term I use for...

    (pp. 19-55)

    Inés doesn’t look nervous. The fifty-two-inch TV in her apartment immediately ensnares my two boys, along with Inés’s seven-year-old, Lesly, who is watching a Disney Channel soap opera. The show fills the living room of this one-bedroom apartment, which is furnished with a dark blue velvet love seat and sofa, secondhand, and a glass coffee table decorated with white and pink crocheted doilies. Inés phones her husband, Adrián, from the walk-in kitchen. He isn’t working today at his construction job, again, because of the poor weather. I wait, admiring the red and blue betta fish Inés has mated in her...

    (pp. 57-97)

    Thirty-nine-year-old Isabel—dressed in a matching eggplant-colored sweatsuit—prepares a varied breakfast of eggs, quesadillas, sausages, and French toast in her newly updated kitchen. I perch on a stool facing the black and tan marbled countertop jutting out from the wall. Not sure how to help, I listen. Isabel, a good head shorter than me, hair dyed golden and face carefully made up for 11:00 a.m. on a Sunday, takes her time with breakfast, slowly grating cheese and deliberately breaking eggs, enjoying the ritual and explaining her stalled efforts to move on.

    Isabel relocated here only a few weeks ago...

    (pp. 99-131)

    I’m exhausted by the time we make it to the park. I’ve persuaded Temo and Dylan to come along by buying them vanilla ice cream cones, ordering them to lick the cones quickly so the drips don’t end up on the gray fabric seats of the car. Once I park in the now abandoned school lot, I relax. It is six o’clock. The heavy late afternoon air makes the ice cream drips come more quickly as we climb out. But now the seats won’t be ruined by the melting. And all the rushing has been for nothing. I do not...

    (pp. 133-171)

    “I don’t have friends,” he tells me, seriously, in carefully pronounced English. The accompanying smile, dimple on each cheek, makes me almost not believe him.

    Preciliano wears a stained school uniform: navy blue trousers and a white collared T-shirt. A rough-and-tumble third grader with a slight build, I imagine him the type to play a pickup soccer game on a dusty street in Mexico, not in the urban streets of central New Jersey. He has not yet learned that his uniform pants should look like neatly pressed baggy jeans or that his polo shirt should gleam as a sign of...

  10. 6 Conclusion: REFRAMING ILLEGALITY
    (pp. 173-195)

    By the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, the US foreign-born population numbered approximately forty million.¹ Of these, more than one in four were unauthorized, a significantly higher proportion than in the 1990s.² Enforcement policies have targeted this population, seeking to deport four hundred thousand individuals every year regardless of the length of time they have lived in the country and the types of family ties they have with US citizens. Legalization programs have diminished, so that most of the 11.7 million unauthorized migrants cannot regularize their status, no matter how long they have lived in the...

    (pp. 197-220)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 221-242)
  13. References
    (pp. 243-276)
  14. Index
    (pp. 277-288)