English Proficiency and Social Assimilation Among Immigrants: An Instumental-Variables Approach (Working Paper #149)

Hoyt Bleakley, University of Chicago

Abstract: Using 2000 Census microdata on childhood immigrants, we relate family-formation variables to their age at arrival in the United States, and in particular whether that age fell within the “critical period” of language acquisition. We interpret the observed differences as an effect of English-language skills and construct an instrumental variable for English-language proficiency. Two-stageleast-squares estimates suggest that English proficiency raises the probabilities of marrying a native, being divorced, or having a high-earning and/or more educated spouse, and reduces the number of children.

Working Paper #149 »

The Mexican Government and Organised Mexican Immigrants in the United States: A Historical Analysis of Political Transnationalism, 1848-2005 (Working Paper #148)

Gustavo Cano, Mexico-North Research Network, Washington D.C. and Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, University of California, San Diego

Alexandra Delano, Oxford University

Abstract: This paper addresses the relationship between the Mexican government and the organised Mexican immigrant community in the US from a historical perspective and within a framework of transnational politics. We argue that transnational relations between the Mexican government and Mexican immigrants in the US are not new; however, the characteristics of these connections have varied across time depending on the evolution and characteristics of migrant organizations, political and economic circumstances in Mexico and foreign policy considerations involving US-Mexico relations. The historical links between the government and the Mexican population abroad have influenced the development of current organisations of Mexican immigrants in the US as well as the recent creation and development of the Mexican government’s institutions to manage this relationship.

In recent years, we identify a change in Mexico’s traditional approach to migration issues in the bilateral agenda, as well as a shift in the relationship between the Mexican immigrant communities and the government. The process of institutionalisation of this new relation began with the Program for Mexican Communities Abroad (PCME or Comunidades) in 1990, and was strongly consolidated in 2003 with the creation of the Institute of Mexicans Abroad (IME). We argue that the IME is the first transnational institution dealing with these issues and we explore some of the challenges it faces in order to achieve its objectives and exert a positive influence for Mexican migrants in the US.

In the first part of this paper we discuss the value of using a historical perspective for the study of transnational politics. The second part offers a historical account of the development of transnational relations between the Mexican government and the organised Mexican immigrant community from 1848 to 2005. In the third part we analyse the challenges faced by the IME as a transnational institution.

Working Paper #148 »

From Newcomers to Americans: An Integration Policy for a Nation of Immigrants (Working Paper #147)

Tomás R. Jimenez, Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, University of California – San Diego

Abstract: The United States long has been a nation of immigrants, but its policies are out of step with this reality. Public policies with regard to the foreign-born must go beyond regulating who is admitted and under what circumstances. The nation needs an immigrant-integration policy that effectively addresses the challenges and harnesses the opportunities created by today’s large immigrant population. It is not in the best interests of the United States to make integration a more difficult, uncertain, or lengthy process than it need be. Facilitating the successful and rapid integration of immigrants into U.S. society minimizes conflicts and tensions between newcomers and the native-born, and enables immigrants to more quickly secure better jobs, earn higher incomes, and thus more fully contribute to the U.S. economy.

Working Paper #147 »

State, Citizenship, and Diaspora: The Cases of Jordan and Lebanon (Working Paper #146)

Laurie A. Brand, University of Southern California

Introduction: In July 1995, Hisham bin `Abdallah al-`Alaoui, the nephew of King Hassan II of Morocco, published an article entitled “Etre Citoyen dans le Monde Arabe.”1 In it, the Moroccan prince discussed several factors that he regarded as having played key roles in thwarting the emergence of full citizenship in the region. Among them was the failure or lack of will on the part of the modern Middle Eastern state to displace or erase previous forms of authority and loyalty, such as tribal, ethnic, and religious ties, and the evolution of a form of state centralization intertwined with these existing authority structures. It was a bold and stinging indictment of the state’s failure to provide full participation or inclusion—citizenship—in the Arab world.

There is no question that Arab states, the successor administrations to the Ottomans as well as the other regimes across the region, have more often undermined than upheld conditions of meaningful citizenship, at least in the traditional Western sense. And few would argue that the state of citizenship in the Arab world has improved in the years since al-`Alaoui published his controversial analysis. Indeed, aside from a few relatively superficial developments in the electoral sphere in a handful of countries, the balance between rights and responsibilities continues to lean heavily to the side of a “citizen’s” duties, the most important of which is often to accept with minimal questioning continuing state repression and even corruption.

Moreover, whatever changes may be underway as a result of globalization, the international system is still one characterized by the presence and interaction of sovereign states, and citizenship is monitored, controlled by, and vested in those states. Only a state can apply and uphold the rights and obligations of citizenship within a particular territory, through attributes and institutions associated with its sovereignty. That said, states do not operate in a vacuum: myriad forces, many internal but others external, affect a range of state policies.

In the realm of citizenship, the examples of the French in Algeria and the British in Palestine are only two of the most striking regional examples of outside forces playing a devastating role in shaping the concept and practice of citizenship with continuing effects to this day. Yet most writings on citizenship in the Arab context focus on the domestic scene, on varying access to and practice of citizenship according to gender, ethnicity, religion, and the like. Just as important, aside from works in a variety of disciplines that address the conditions of non-nationals in the Gulf states or that deal with the status of the Palestinians (whether as second-class citizens of Israel, as an occupied population in the West Bank, or as refugee camps dwellers unwanted in Lebanon), there is little consideration of Arab nationals abroad and their relationships to the home state.

The literature broadly classified as part of the field of transnationalism has important insights for those concerned with questions of diasporas and citizenship, but has not had much impact on Middle Eastern studies.2 Given the long-standing authoritarianism in the Arab world it is perhaps understandable that little attention has been given to such issues in the Middle East/North Africa context. If civil, economic, and political rights of the average national are given short shrift on home turf, why should one expect the Arab state to engage in substantially different behavior toward nationals abroad? Nevertheless, for a more complete understanding, not only of citizenship in the region but also of the Arab state itself, consideration of how governments with sizeable numbers of nationals abroad deal with these citizens is critical. In the discussion that follows, the cases of Jordan and Lebanon, both of which have significant number of nationals living beyond their borders, are explored historically for the lessons about state, citizenship and diaspora that they offer.

Working Paper #146 »

From national inclusion to economic exclusion: ethnic Hungarian labour migration to Hungary (Working Paper #145)

Jon E. Fox, University of Bristol

Abstract: Over the past fifteen years, Hungarian nationalists have been redefining membership in the Hungarian nation to include all Hungarians in the region, irrespective of citizenship. This deterritorialised notion of the nation has been given increased discursive and institutional legitimacy. But ethnic Hungarians from Romania who have gone to Hungary in search of work have not discovered national unity. Rather, the vision of national inclusion preferred by elites has been met by the reality of economic and national exclusion engendered through labour migration. The migrants’ national self-understandings have taken shape not in accordance with the wishes of nationalist elites, but rather in response to the economic imperatives of labour migration. Rather than deducing the salience of national unity from its political privileging, the purpose of this paper is to explain how national disunity is experienced, constituted and reproduced in the context of ethnic Hungarian labour migration.

Working Paper #145 »

The Transformation of Ethnic Neighborhoods into Places of Leisure and Consumption (Working Paper #144)

Jan Rath, University of Amsterdam

Abstract: Urban public space is obviously a key site of host-immigrant encounter. The heated debates in Europe about the establishment of purpose-built mosques or in Canada about monster houses show the deeper impact of changes in the urban streetscape consequent upon immigration. The establishment of ethnic shopping malls or commercial precincts, such as Chinatown or Klein Turkei, with their specific shop windows, street furniture and the whole shebang, is another, perhaps more promising case. The proliferation of these precincts is interesting because it is—at least partly—driven by commercial intentions and ties in with the emerging service economy and the role of cities as sites of consumption. The commodification and marketing of diversity, i.e. the commercial use of the presence of the ethnic Others or their symbols in the urban streetscape, help explain the growing enthusiasm for ‘interesting’ landscapes that have the potential to draw tourists and visitors. This transformation is not a ‘natural’ process, but the product of social, cultural, economic and political developments and conditions. This presentation examines the transformation of ethnic neighborhoods into places of leisure and consumption by a wider public in a number of cities and countries, and deals with the question of how and under what conditions this process helps foster immigrants’ business success and the quality of the neighborhood at large. The primary focus is the role of immigrant entrepreneurs and their interaction with other relevant actors, especially the local government.

Working Paper #144 »

Illegal Migration from Mexico to the United States (Working Paper #143)

Gordon H. Hanson, University of California – San Diego

Abstract: In this paper, I selectively review recent literature on illegal migration from Mexico to the United States. I begin by discussing methods for estimating stocks and flows of illegal migrants. While there is uncertainty about the size of the unauthorized population, new data sources make it possible to examine the composition of legal and illegal populations and the time-series covariates of illegal labor flows. I then consider the supply of and demand for illegal migrants. Wage differentials between the United States and Mexico are hardly a new phenomenon, yet illegal migration from Mexico did not reach high levels until recently. An increase in the relative size of Mexico’s workingage population, greater volatility in U.S.-Mexico relative wages, and changes in U.S. immigration policies are all candidate explanations for increasing labor flows from Mexico. Finally, I consider policies that regulate the cross-border flow of illegal migrants. While U.S. laws mandate that authorities prevent illegal entry and punish firms that hire unauthorized immigrants, these laws are imperfectly enforced. Lax enforcement may reflect political pressure by employers and other interests that favor open borders.

Working Paper #143 »

Regularization Programs for Undocumented Migrants (Working Paper #142)

Sebastian Sunderhaus, Koeln/New York

Abstract: The study describes and analyzes the features and outcomes of regularization programs (also referred to as amnesty or legalization) for undocumented migrants in 16 countries distributed among all continents. It gives a general survey on reasons and expectations of governments conducting regularization drives, the different forms that the programs have taken, features and eligibility requirements most frequently used as well as a summary of the implementation and problems associated with this policy tool. The paper also tries to answer how governments might deal with the undocumented flow of people tomorrow. A country comparison table (53 pages) in the annex contains data on more than 60 regularization programs considered in this study.

Working Paper #142 »

Language Politics and Policy in the United States: Implications for the Immigration Debate (Working Paper #141)

April Linton, University of California – San Diego

Introduction: Language policies – established via legislation, court decisions, executive action, or other means – may 1) determine how languages are used in public, 2) abet the cultivation of language skills needed to meet national priorities, or 3) affirm and protect the rights of individuals or groups to learn, use, and maintain languages. They may also deal with a government’s own language use, e.g., by facilitating clear communication, guaranteeing due process, fostering political participation, and/or providing access to public services. The United States has never had a federal language policy. There is no federal agency charged with coordinating decisions about language use or resources. Yet it is impossible for the U.S. or any government to be neutral towards language because governments necessarily make choices about which language or languages to communicate in. These choices influence the value of the linguistic capital of various groups in the population, especially immigrants whose native language is not a primary language of the host country. The same is true of the institutional contexts for work and school. In the U.S., the dominance of English in government, industry, education, and popular culture has made it the most important element in the construction of national identity, both as a communicative instrument shared by members of the nation and as a boundary marker affirming their distinction from others (Zolberg and Long 1999).

This essay examines recent attempts to legislate language in light of historical and contemporary debates about immigration and immigrant assimilation. I briefly chronicle U.S. language politics, culminating with the emergence of Official English and English Plus movements in the 1980s and 90s. Next I look at language policy in public schools, especially ‘bilingual’ education and the backlash against it, and a much less politically charged ‘dual-language’ option. Finally I appraise national language and official English bills recently introduced in Congress in view of data on language usage and preferences, suggesting ways that this resurgence of a national debate about language could impact the larger debate about immigration.

Working Paper #141 »

Rising Tensions Between National and Local Immigration and Citizenship Policy: Matrículas Consulares, Local Membership and Documenting the Undocumented (Working Paper #140)

Monica W. Varsanyi, Arizona State University

Abstract: The matrículas consulares are identity cards issued by the Mexican government to its nationals living abroad. Since 9/11, businesses, local, and state governments in the US have started accepting them as a valid form of identification for undocumented immigrants living in their communities, who otherwise do not have any form of acceptable identification. In this article, I first outline the history and context of federal jurisdiction over immigration and naturalization policy in the United States, and then expand upon the case study of the consular ID cards. I argue that the increasing acceptance of the matrículas consulares provides an example of how, in confronting the local impacts of undocumented migration, communities are formulating both “foreign policy” (as immigration policy is considered as foreign policy in the United States), as well as “citizenship policy,” at the local scale. I conclude by taking the analysis one step further and arguing that this partial rescaling of membership policy enables the nation-state to better manage what political theorist, James Hollifield, calls the “liberal paradox,” or the growing tension between neoliberal economic openness and the continued necessity of national political closure.

Working Paper #140 »