Gender(ed) Migrations: Shifting Gender Subjectivities in a Transnational Mexican Community (Working Paper #100)


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Deborah A. Boehm, Center for Comparative Immigration Studies and Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies

Abstract: In this paper, I discuss findings about gender subjectivities and gender relations among transnational Mexicans in San Luis Potosí, Mexico and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Drawing on ethnographic data, I outline the transforming roles of women and men within a community of Mexican “transmigrants” (Glick Schiller, Basch, Blanc-Szanton 1995: 48). I will argue that masculinity is both reconstituted and compromised by immigration to the United States, which in turn, simultaneously liberates and puts new controls on women, redefining femininity and what it means to be a woman. In a Mexican rancho, men are expected to migrate, and the masculinity of those who do not go north is called into question. Paradoxically, men may have their masculinity stripped from them once they are in the United States, as they leave behind their role as farmers to work in low-wage jobs. Meanwhile, women who stay in Mexico face new burdens alongside increased freedoms: still responsible for domestic chores and child care, women take on tasks that were previously understood as the sphere of men, such as farming and managing finances. The lives of women living in the United States also transform—they are often in wage labor for the first time, and their roles in the family are notably altered. Rosa’s assertion—“¡Ya soy hombre y mujer!/Now I am a man and a woman!”—underscores how (im)migration is bringing about striking changes in gender identities.

Working Paper #100»

Tendencias recientes de las remesas de los migrantes mexicanos en Estados Unidos (Working Paper #99)

Fernando Lozano Ascencio, Center for Comparative Immigration Studies

Abstract: Este trabajo se propone examinar algunas expresiones del discurso oficial mexicano sobre el papel de las remesas en el desarrollo nacional y sobre la necesidad de invertir productivamente estos recursos, como estrategia de combate a la pobreza y el rezago social. Se presenta un recuento de la evolución del flujo de remesas a México entre 1990 y 2003, a partir de la información del Banco de México, así como resultados de varias encuestas recientes –levantadas tanto en México como en Estados Unidos– que describen las características de los individuos que envían y reciben remesas. Concluye con una discusión sobre los distintos factores que podrían estar asociados al acelerado crecimiento de las remesas que ingresaron a México durante los últimos tres años.

Working Paper #99»

Marking the Queue: Latino Day Laborers in New York’s Street Corner Labor Markets (Working Paper #98)

Carolyn Pinedo Turnovsky, Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies and the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies

Abstract: While there have been many studies researching the incorporation of immigrants in the general labor market, few studies highlight the immigrants’ understandings of their own participation as influenced by positions of race and ethnicity, particularly in the informal economy. This presentation concerns the social processes and organization of day labor among Latino and Eastern European immigrants and American citizens at an informal worksite in New York City. The overall research project challenges conventional perceptions about day laborers, explores the social construction of identity, and analyzes the impact race and ethnicity in New York City has on the life experiences of the men. More importantly, this paper explores the active role the men play in their own work experience and describes a “visual queue” frequently used by the “employers” and by the workers. The research highlights the shaping, negotiation, and presentation of identity as it relates to the employment experiences of the different groups of men working at this site and uncovers how these larger social processes are manifested in the visible and less visible everyday practices on a New York City street corner.

Working Paper #98»

On Deconstructing Immigrant Generations: Cohorts and the Cuban Émigré Experience (Working Paper #97)

Susan Eckstein, Boston University

Abstract: This article offers a new approach for deepening our understanding of the immigrant experience. It describes how and explains why a historically grounded cohort analysis brings to the fore aspects of émigré views and involvements, including within a single immigrant generation, other approaches leave undocumented and unexplained. Differences in pre-migration experiences are shown to shape both how immigrants adapt to their new country of settlement and how they relate to their homeland. The utility of the approach is illustrated by contrasting the experiences of different cohorts of Cuban immigrants: how they have adapted here and the nature of their transnational ties.

Working Paper #97»

The Impact of Political Engagement on Social and Political Tolerance Toward Immigrants in Southern Europe (Working Paper #96)

Xavier Escandell, Center for Comparative Immigration Studies

Abstract: Research in the area of attitudes towards immigration could benefit from a more thorough discussion of the relationship between degrees of political engagement and trust towards specific social institutions and the variance of political and social tolerance towards immigrants. Drawing upon three general theories: realistic group conflict theory, social identification theory, and institutional theory, I further refine a theory of ethnic competition and xenophobia in the Southern European context. I argue that popular attitudes towards immigration are correlated with a set of individual level factors (e.g. perceptions of personal and collective threat, as well as measures of political socialization), which are shaped and determined by the contextual characteristics (e.g. economic conditions and demographic characteristics) as well as the type of institutional environment (e.g. the presence or absence of support towards civic institutions) in which inter-group relations are embedded. The characterization of these institutional environments determine the type of ingroup-outgroup social relations. I first, empirically characterize the type of “civic communities” existing in 50 Southern European regions and then, empirically test its significance in preventing inter-group hostility and the fostering of tolerance towards minority groups. Results show that there is a strong significant effect between trust in institutions (such as NGOS and voluntary organizations) and decreased levels of anti-immigrant sentiment and intergroup conflict in Southern Europe. This paper provides evidence for the widespread effects that local minority group size and types of institutional trust have on political and social tolerance towards immigrants. Furthermore, evidence is provided that anti-immigrant sentiment has an extensive impact in Southern Europeans’ policy opinions. I explore thus the richness of civil society as a definitive characteristic of places and if/how it relates to people’s hostility towards immigrants and immigration policy.

Working Paper #96»

Foundations of U.S. Immigration Control Policy: A Study of Information Transmission to Mexican Migrants and the Role of Information as a Deterrent at the Border (Working Paper #95)

Adam Sherry, University of California – San Diego

Abstract: Current theoretical models do much to explore the economic motivation for the migration, the social networks through which information could pass, as well as the factors within sending communities that may serve to promote migration. These models rest largely on the assumption that migrants are rational actors who use the information available to them to make a decision to pursue marginal increases in well-being. But the scholars using such models usually fail to assess the quality of the information entering into decisions to migrate. This thesis investigates migrants’ information about the costs, risks, and benefits of unauthorized migration to the United States, as a way of explaining the limited effectiveness of U.S. immigration control policies.

Working Paper #95»

Chinese Globalization and Migration to Europe (Working Paper #94)

Frank Pieke, University of Oxford

Abstract: I will first briefly describe the ways and means of Fujianese migration to Europe. I will then turn to the larger conceptual issue of how to account for the growing variety and scale of Chinese migration as part of fundamental changes in the world order, avoiding the dangers of feeding the fears of Chinese domination drummed up by politicians, journalists and certain scholars alike that Wang Gungwu so rightfully warned against. Concluding that it is neither possible nor desirable fully to stem the tide of the new Chinese migration, I then turn to the question of the principles that should guide policymaking. Against this background I will in the concluding part of this presentation evaluate some of the recent changes that have taken place in Britain’s immigration policies, and provide some pointers where I think we should go from here.

Working Paper #94»

Self Selection among Undocumented Migrants from Mexico (Working Paper #93)

Pia Orrenius, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

Abstract: This paper examines the effect of changes in migration determinants on the skill level of undocumented immigrants from Mexico. We focus on the effect of changes in economic conditions, migrant networks, and border enforcement on the educational attainment of Mexican-born men who cross the border illegally. Results from hazard models using data from the Mexican Migration Project indicate that improvements in U.S. and Mexican economic conditions are associated with a decline in the average educational level of undocumented immigrants. Stricter border enforcement is associated with higher average skill levels. Access to a network of previous immigrants appears to lower the cost of migrating but has no differential effect by skill level.

Working Paper #93»

Controlling ‘Unwanted’ Immigration: Lessons from the United States, 1993-2004 (Working Paper #92)

Wayne A. Cornelius, University of California – San Diego

Abstract: This paper evaluates the strategy for controlling ‘unwanted’ immigration that has been implemented by the US government since 1993, and suggests explanations for the failure of that strategy to achieve its stated objectives thus far.  Available evidence suggests that a strategy of immigration control that overwhelmingly emphasises border enforcement and short-changes interior (especially workplace) enforcement has caused illegal entries to be redistributed along the south-west border.  The evidence also suggests that the financial cost of illegal entry has more than quadrupled; that undocumented migrants are staying longer in the United States; that migrant deaths resulting from clandestine border crossings have risen sharply; and that there has been a surge in anti-immigration vigilante activity.  Consequences predicted by advocates of the concentrated border enforcement strategy have not yet materialised: there is no evidence that unauthorised migration is being deterred at the point of origin; that would-be illegal entrants are being discouraged at the border after multiple apprehensions by the Border Patrol and returning home; that their employment prospects in the US have been curtailed; or that the resident population of undocumented immigrants is shrinking.  It is argued that a severely constrained employer-sanctions enforcement effort that has left demand for unauthorised immigrant labour intact is the fundamental reason why steadily escalating spending on border enforcement during the last ten years has had such a weak deterrent effect.  Reasons for the persistence of a failed immigration control policy are discussed, and alternatives to the current policy are evaluated.

Working Paper #92»

Our Place in Someone Else’s House: Korean Americans and Gendered Identity in Global/Local Context (Working Paper #91)

Nadia Kim, Center for Comparative Immigration Studies (CCIS)

Abstract: In recent years, students of gender and migration have established that ethnic immigrant families and communities are sites of both oppression and resistance. Less is known, however, about how immigrant women respond to their “double-edged” lives; how, in light of cultural globalization, their responses are forged in a global/local context; and what these responses reveal about larger processes of assimilation and transnationalism. As Korean immigrants hail from a country that has had long-standing ties to the US via US imperialist projects starting in World War II, they are a fitting case study of the ways immigrant women in particular wrestle with global/local dimensions of “race”/ethnonationality and gender, of “tradition” and modernity. Drawing from indepth, open-ended interviews with 32 non-immigrants in Seoul and 47 immigrants in Los Angeles County, Kim finds that globalized culture and US experience foster the women’s identification with white American marriages and husbands as more “gender-equal.” While the women desire these marital norms in part to approximate American “modernity”/“whiteness,” their Korean nationalism and sense of exclusion in the US foster hybridized identities. In contrast, the men counter women’s changes by clinging to more “traditional” Korean nationalistic identities necessarily rooted in patriarchy.

Working Paper #91»