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Brokered Boundaries

Brokered Boundaries: Immigrant Identity in Anti-Immigrant Times

Douglas S. Massey
Sánchez R. Magaly
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 316
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  • Book Info
    Brokered Boundaries
    Book Description:

    Anti-immigrant sentiment reached a fever pitch after 9/11, but its origins go back much further. Public rhetoric aimed at exposing a so-called invasion of Latino immigrants has been gaining ground for more than three decades—and fueling increasingly restrictive federal immigration policy. Accompanied by a flagging U.S. economy—record-level joblessness, bankruptcy, and income inequality—as well as waning consumer confidence, these conditions signaled one of the most hostile environments for immigrants in recent memory. In Brokered Boundaries, Douglas Massey and Magaly Sánchez untangle the complex political, social, and economic conditions underlying the rise of xenophobia in U.S. society. The book draws on in-depth interviews with Latin American immigrants in metropolitan New York and Philadelphia and—in their own words and images—reveals what life is like for immigrants attempting to integrate in anti-immigrant times. What do the social categories “Latino” and “American” actually mean to today’s immigrants? Brokered Boundaries analyzes how first- and second-generation immigrants from Central and South America and the Caribbean navigate these categories and their associated meanings as they make their way through U.S. society. Massey and Sánchez argue that the mythos of immigration, in which newcomers gradually shed their respective languages, beliefs, and cultural practices in favor of a distinctly American way of life, is, in reality, a process of negotiation between new arrivals and native-born citizens. Natives control interactions with outsiders by creating institutional, social, psychological, and spatial mechanisms that delimit immigrants’ access to material resources and even social status. Immigrants construct identities based on how they perceive and respond to these social boundaries. The authors make clear that today’s Latino immigrants are brokering boundaries in the context of unprecedented economic uncertainty, repressive anti-immigrant legislation, and a heightening fear that upward mobility for immigrants translates into downward mobility for the native-born. Despite an absolute decline in Latino immigration, immigration-related statutes have tripled in recent years, including many that further shred the safety net for legal permanent residents as well as the undocumented. Brokered Boundaries shows that, although Latin American immigrants come from many different countries, their common reception in a hostile social environment produces an emergent Latino identity soon after arrival. During anti-immigrant times, however, the longer immigrants stay in America, the more likely they are to experience discrimination and the less likely they are to identify as Americans.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-666-2
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. About the Authors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Chapter 1 Constructing Immigrant Identity
    (pp. 1-25)

    Many Americans view assimilation as a one-way street whereby immigrants arrive in the United States with distinctive languages and cultures and over time steadily adopt American values, acquire American tastes and habits, make American acquaintances, move into American neighborhoods, and eventually come to think and act more like “Americans.” Those born and reared abroad, of course, can never entirely shed the markers of a foreign upbringing, but second-generation immigrants born and raised in the United States experience its language, culture, and values firsthand and internalize its sensibilities as they grow up; American customs and values thus become a natural part...

  6. Chapter 2 Roots and Motivations
    (pp. 26-57)

    As argued in the last chapter, immigrants play an active role in constructing their own identities by brokering the social and psychological boundaries they encounter in the host society. A key input into the process of identity formation is what the immigrants bring with them to the United States—their traits and characteristics, their socioeconomic resources, and their motivations and aspirations. As described in appendix A, to learn about the process of identity construction we conducted in-depth interviews with Latin American immigrants living in the dense urban corridor that stretches south from New York through New Jersey and into Philadelphia....

  7. Chapter 3 The Rise of Anti-Immigrant Times
    (pp. 58-80)

    Whatever goals and motivations immigrants may have in migrating, their brokering of boundaries and construction of identities depend strongly on the context of reception they encounter in the United States (Portes and Rumbaut 2001, 2006). In this chapter, we argue that circumstances in the United States have not evolved in ways that favor a blurring of boundaries between immigrants and natives. On the contrary, economic, social, and political conditions have shifted so as to harden categorical divisions between immigrants and natives.

    Economically, the long postwar boom came to an end in the 1970s and gave way to an era of...

  8. Chapter 4 Worlds of Work
    (pp. 81-118)

    The primary point of contact between immigrants and U.S. society is usually the labor market. As we have seen, one of the most prominent reasons immigrants give for coming to the United States is economic conditions, and even those who were motivated by the pull of family ties, the fear of violence at home, or some other reason usually end up in the workforce. What happens to immigrants as they make their way through the world of work can thus be expected to play a disproportionate role in determining their perceptions of life in the United States and in shaping...

  9. Chapter 5 Dreams and Disappointments
    (pp. 119-146)

    Although the specific motivations for migration may vary from person to person, most Latin American immigrants have one broad goal in common in coming to the United States: one way or another, they are seeking to improve their lives. It is the details that differ. Whether they are pushed out by poverty and violence or pulled in by economic opportunity and family ties north of the border, migrating to the United States usually involves some dream of self or family improvement. Indeed, our respondents often referred to their “dreams” in talking about their decision to migrate to the United States,...

  10. Chapter 6 Transnational Options
    (pp. 147-182)

    The last two chapters painted a rather stark picture of how America’s society and its economy are experienced by Latino immigrants in urban areas of the Northeast. Although a few were able to land positions in the primary labor market and enjoy stable jobs with good pay, benefits, and real prospects for advancement, most were consigned to a string of poorly paid jobs in the secondary labor market that offered little hope of increased earnings or occupational advancement. We found that among those migrants who lacked education, one avenue of escape from a seemingly endless cycle of dead-end jobs and...

  11. Chapter 7 Verbalizing Identity
    (pp. 183-212)

    The evidence we have marshaled in the foregoing chapters finally puts us in a position to consider systematically the construction of identity among Latino immigrants to the United States—how they broker the group boundaries and manage the meanings they encounter as they move through American society. The data accumulated so far paint a decidedly mixed picture of life for Latin American immigrants in the United States. Most arrive with dreams of social or material improvement and initially perceive the United States as a land of opportunity. Over time, they encounter a harsh world of work and experience the indignities...

  12. Chapter 8 Visualizing Identity
    (pp. 213-239)

    The last chapter concluded an extended analysis of the narratives offered by immigrants in response to questions we put to them about their hopes, expectations, and experiences in the United States. Our purpose was to give voice to immigrants’ side of the identity issue, allowing them to speak for themselves in articulating the complex process of identity formation in the United States. Despite our efforts to peer directly into the immigrant mind through guided, in-depth conversations, however, the resulting textual data are inevitably filtered. It is the interviewer who asks the questions and decides in which direction to steer the...

  13. Chapter 9 Identity, Integration, and the Future
    (pp. 240-252)

    In this book, we have analyzed how immigrants living in the urban Northeast of the United States negotiate the social categories and manage the associated meanings that they encounter as they make their way through American society. We conceptualized assimilation and identity formation as a process of boundary-brokering and focused on how immigrants perceive and react to the boundaries that separate them from others in American life. To the extent possible, we have endeavored to let the immigrants speak for themselves, drawing on their own words and images to reveal how integration, adaptation, and identity appear to them. By learning...

  14. Appendix A Sampling, Interviewing, Coding, and Data Analysis
    (pp. 253-264)
  15. Appendix B Information Sheet Presented to Potential Respondents
    (pp. 265-266)
  16. Appendix C Guía de Entrevista: Primera Generación/Interview Guide: First Generation
    (pp. 267-271)
  17. Appendix D Guía de Entrevista: Segunda Generacion/Interview Guide: Second Generation
    (pp. 272-276)
  18. References
    (pp. 277-292)
  19. Index
    (pp. 293-306)