Don’t Hassle Me, I’m Local: The Integration of Latin American Settlers in the Delmarva Peninsula (Working Paper #152)

Alison Smith Gaffney, Center for Iberian and Latin American Studies and Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, University of California – San Diego

Abstract: This work is a case study of a ‘new destination’ for immigration to the United States, examining community changes and responses over time in the rural Delmarva Peninsula and contributing to an expanding literature on ‘best practices’ for immigrant integration. Significant numbers of Latin American immigrants first arrived in the early 1990s, settling out of the Eastern migrant stream and taking year-round jobs in the regional poultry-processing industry. The immediate concerns of this research are two-fold: first, to identify the successful practices and promising initiatives that have surfaced over the last fifteen years in Delmarva – successful and promising in enabling immigrants to participate as full members of their host communities – and second, to identify the current and future challenges that face Delmarva towns in the processes of accommodation and settlement. Data collection involved approximately thirty-five in-depth qualitative interviews, use of secondary sources such as newspaper articles and U.S. Census data, and participant observation through volunteering in three nonprofit organizations working with the Spanish-speaking immigrant community. Overall, public ambivalence towards immigration – anxiety about the sociocultural impact tempered by recognition of the importance of immigrant labor in the poultry industry – engenders acceptance, albeit an uneasy or reluctant acceptance. In this environment, many successful practices have arisen. However, a second wave of migration consisting of retirees and second-home buyers from overcrowded neighboring states is changing the Delmarva landscape and creating new challenges for immigrant integration, especially in terms of housing. In addition, the region faces challenges specific to the healthy development and education of the second generation.

Working Paper #152 »