Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Immigrant Women Workers in the Neoliberal Age

Immigrant Women Workers in the Neoliberal Age

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 352
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Immigrant Women Workers in the Neoliberal Age
    Book Description:

    To date, most research on immigrant women and labor forces has focused on the participation of immigrant women on formal labor markets. In this study, contributors focus on informal economies such as health care, domestic work, and the garment industry, where displaced and undocumented women are more likely to work. Because such informal labor markets are unregulated, many of these workers face abusive working conditions that are not reported for fear of job loss or deportation. In examining the complex dynamics of how immigrant women navigate political and economic uncertainties, this collection highlights the important role of citizenship status in defining immigrant women's opportunities, wages, and labor conditions. Contributors are Pallavi Banerjee, Grace Chang, Margaret M. Chin, Jennifer Jihye Chun, Hector R. Cordero-Guzman, Emir Estrada, Lucy Fisher, Nilda Flores-Gonzalez, Ruth Gomberg-Munoz, Anna Romina Guevarra, Shobha Hamal Gurung, Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo, Maria de la Luz Ibarra, Miliann Kang, George Lipsitz, Lolita Andrada Lledo, Lorena Murioz, Bandana Purkayastha, Mary Romero, Young Shin, Michelle Tellez, and Maura I. Toro-Morn.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09482-8
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)

    Reading Immigrant Women Workers in the Neoliberal Age, I reflected on the description from a PEN World Voices Festival 2012 panel, “There’s so much to say . . . ,” by members from Domestic Workers United. Writing, reading, and sharing their experiences through poetry, these immigrant domestic workers expressed the frustration, anger, loneliness, and humiliation of working in private homes, toiling long hours without breaks, being denied health care and social security benefits, receiving low wages, and being treated as unskilled labor. There is an irony that only these women experience because they are given the responsibility to care for...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Nilda Flores-González, Anna Guevarra, Maura Toro-Morn and Grace Chang
  5. Introduction: Immigrant Women and Labor Disruptions
    (pp. 1-16)

    In the middle of the first decade of the twenty-first century, a casual observer living anywhere in the United States would have concluded, without hesitation, that immigrant labor was indispensable to this country’s economy. Mexican filmmaker Sergio Arau capitalized on this observation, showing audiences what would happen if a sudden fog simply wiped out the Mexican population in the state of California. In A Day without a Mexican (2004), Arau humorously shows that in the absence of gardeners, nannies, painters, cooks, service workers, mechanics, and other low-wage workers, chaos ensues and the state is paralyzed. The film underscores the point...

  6. Part 1. Critique of the Neoliberal State

    • 1 Street Vendors Claiming Respect and Dignity in the Neoliberal City
      (pp. 19-37)

      On a cold and windy morning in February 2009, I traveled to downtown Brooklyn to attend a march in support of street vendors called by Esperanza del Barrio, an organization working with Latina street vendors in East Harlem. The objective of the march was to protest the existing caps on food cart permits and general merchandise licenses that New York City imposed two and a half decades earlier. According to the organization’s press release, “The City profits from hard working vendors by enforcing these antiquated and unjust regulations. Interactions between officials and vendors have also become increasingly aggressive. The unacceptable...

    • 2 Elvira Arellano and the Struggles of Low-Wage Undocumented Latina Immigrant Women
      (pp. 38-55)

      For more than a year, Elvira Arellano, a Mexican immigrant, took sanctuary from deportation at the Adalberto United Methodist Church in the heart of Chicago’s Puerto Rican community. Before leaving for Los Angeles she issued the following statement: “My decision to enter sanctuary was a decision based on my faith, my love and responsibility for my son Saúl and my commitment to my people and the 4 million other U.S. citizen children like Saúl. [We] must take action in September to stop the raids, deportations and separations of families that are destroying millions of lives across this country. . ....

    • 3 This Is What Trafficking Looks Like
      (pp. 56-78)

      In the twelve years since the passage of the landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000,¹ U.S. journalists, policymakers, heads of state, and celebrities have been greatly preoccupied with the issue identified in both popular and policy discourses as “sex trafficking.” This phenomenon is defined under U.S. federal law as “migration achieved through force or deception for the purpose of coerced prostitution or sex slavery” (TVPA 2000). Addressing the United Nations General Assembly in September 2003, U.S. president George W. Bush identified sex trafficking as “a special evil” and declared that “those who create these victims and profit from...

  7. Part 2. Ethnic Enclaves

    • 4 Gendered Labor: Experiences of Nepali Women within Pan-Ethnic Informal Labor Markets in Boston and New York
      (pp. 81-95)

      A mother who works as a nanny in New York City to provide a good life for her children reports, “I haven’t seen my children for five years. They were very young when I left. They were ten, eleven years old. Now, when I see their photographs, I can’t even recognize them. They’ve changed so much. They’ve grown so much.” This lament has become more familiar as a growing body of literature has begun to document the experiences of female migrants who work in the informal economy in wealthy countries while attempting to maintain transnational families. The literature on contemporary...

    • 5 Paradoxes of Patriarchy: Contradicting Experiences of South Asian Women in Ethnic Labor Markets
      (pp. 96-116)

      Sufia is a twenty-eight-year-old Pakistani woman who works in an ethnic jewelry store owned by her brother-in-law in the South Asian ethnic labor markets in a large midwestern city. She lives with her brother-in-law’s family in a neighborhood close to the ethnic market and earns between five hundred and one thousand dollars a month, depending on how well the business is doing. Her husband lives in Pakistan after being deported from the United States for overstaying his tourist visa. She has two children, aged four and two, and is their primary caregiver and provider. Her workday begins at around 6:00...

    • 6 Changing Expectations: Economic Downturns and Immigrant Chinese Women in New York City
      (pp. 117-130)

      This chapter elaborates on the evolving New York City Chinese ethnic economy, the changing job market, and the strategies that Chinese women use to find and keep jobs. In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and during the recession that began in 2008, at least a quarter of Chinatown’s workforce was unemployed. Most of these workers were women, who were less protected by their enclave affiliations than were their husbands. These workers looked for jobs in the remaining enclave garment factories and subsequently in other service industries—first restaurants in the enclave, then out of the enclave...

  8. Part 3. Informal Economies

    • 7 From Street Child Care to Drive-Throughs: Latinas Reconfigure and Negotiate Street Vending Spaces in Los Angeles
      (pp. 133-143)

      “¡Tamales! ¡Elotes! ¡Champurrado!” Maria’s voice makes a perennial imprint on a particular noisy Los Angeles intersection. Donning a long, floral print skirt, she seldom changes her ten-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week routine: selling home-cooked tamales, steamed corn, and fresh champurrado from a red grocery cart. Like thousands of Latino street vendors, her style (that is, her dress, behavior, and language) transforms the physical space that she occupies into that of a gendered, street-vending landscape. The result is an embodiment of her originating culture, a method by which street-vending immigrants carve a place in the urban landscape.¹

      Most research on this informal economy describes...

    • 8 Living the Third Shift: Latina Adolescent Street Vendors in Los Angeles
      (pp. 144-163)

      Adriana is a thirteen-year-old middle school student in East Los Angeles. During the day, she attends school, but on selected weeknights and on weekends, Adriana and her parents sell food at La Cumbrita, a small street in East Los Angeles where other street-vending families congregate to sell food from their home country, such as pupusas, tamales, atole, and tacos. Adriana has been street vending with her parents since they came from Puebla, Mexico, when she was five years old. Like Adriana, other children and teens sell food items with their parents after school and on the weekends to generate extra...

    • 9 Reinventing Dirty Work: Immigrant Women in Nursing Homes
      (pp. 164-185)

      Paula, a fifty-nine-year-old widow who emigrated from the Philippines in the mid-1980s, has worked at the same nursing home in California for sixteen years. When asked to describe her work as a certified nursing assistant, she joked that she refers to herself not as a CNA but as a “PAW—professional ass washer.” While she highlighted the dirtiness of the job, she also regarded it as caring, skillful work, and she took pride in performing it. She elaborated: “Giving a bath like that, cutting their nails. Everything, do everything. . . . CNA is a big responsibility. Not in bed...

    • 10 Extending Kinship: Mexicana Elder Care Providers and Their Wards
      (pp. 186-204)

      In the context of economic globalization, all postindustrial societies have experienced a dramatic growth in their elderly populations. In 2009, for example, three nations—Italy, Germany, and Japan—determined that more than 20 percent of their citizens were over the age of sixty-five (Sokolovsky 2009, 5). In North America, seniors now make up almost 14 percent of the population in Canada and 13 percent in the United States (Schellenberg and Turcotte 2007; U.S. Census Bureau 2010). In the United States, there are at present more than 37 million people age sixty-five or older. Moreover, as this population continues to grow...

  9. Part 4. Grassroots Organizing and Resistance

    • 11 Immigrant Women Workers at the Center of Social Change: Asian Immigrant Women Advocates
      (pp. 207-231)

      In early 2003, two Korean immigrant women, Chung Hee Cho and Hung Ja Kim, traveled from San Jose to San Francisco to lead a workshop on the topic of English-language dominance. This workshop was part of a core set of leadership trainings developed by Asian Immigrant Women Advocates (AIWA), a grassroots community-based organization aimed at improving the living and working conditions of Asian immigrant women employed in low-paid and socially devalued jobs. By linking the insistence on speaking English-only to a longer history of racial and colonial domination, AIWA’s English-language-dominance workshop sought to combat the stigma and humiliation that nonnative...

    • 12 Transfronteriza: Gender Rights at the Border and La Colectiva Feminista Binacional
      (pp. 232-246)

      To better understand the ways in which women border dwellers are responding to transnational processes and the effects of neoliberal policies, this chapter focuses on woman-centered activism projects and innovative forms of political organizing and community formation at the U.S./Mexico border. Building on the idea of transfronterismo (Ruiz 1992), or transborderness,¹ I highlight how the actual border should be seen not just as a site of passage but also as a site for gendered transformation where a politicized transfronteriza identity can emerge. I look specifically at the transborder space of the twin cities of Tijuana and San Diego and the...

    • 13 Formalizing the Informal: Highly Skilled Filipina Caregivers and the Pilipino Workers Center
      (pp. 247-261)

      Angel Roxas is a forty-year-old Filipino woman whose dream job is to manage finances and do accounting work.¹ She holds a master’s degree in business administration, and for several years before coming to the United States in 2001, she worked as an assistant to the dean of a college in the Philippines. She had a staff that supported her daily work and a personal assistant who ran her errands and was at her beck and call. She woke up every morning with the security of a job and the closeness of family. Now, she works tirelessly as a home-care worker,...

    • 14 FLOResiste: Transnational Labor, Motherhood, and Activism
      (pp. 262-276)

      FLOResiste is the name of a blog created by Flor Crisóstomo, an immigrant worker and mother turned activist, to denounce neoliberal policies that have led to the migration of women and indigenous people and resulted in the separation of families. In her own words:

      This blog is inspired in resistance to the actual economic policies (NAFTA) in Mexico and Latin America that have been imposed by the North American government that cause us to be displaced to the United States. The current repressive immigration laws in this country have caused Flor to flourish in these dark times. And this is...

  10. Afterword
    (pp. 277-278)

    The essays included in this volume make a unique contribution to our understanding of the current condition and position of immigrant women in the U.S. economy. The volume makes a number of significant contributions that set it apart from other works in the fields of gender, migration, and low-wage work.

    Essays in this volume seek to explain and situate the current status of immigrant women and work in larger global forces, state structures, and institutional mechanisms that set the context within which low-wage women operate and that constrain their access to better employment opportunities. The volume focuses on the specific...

  11. List of Contributors
    (pp. 279-286)
  12. Index
    (pp. 287-301)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 302-304)