Immigration, Incorporation & Civic Engagement

Partnering and Parenting Among the Newly Latina/o Middle Class

Lorena Garcia, Sociology
2012-2013 Faculty Scholar

Phil Ashton, Urban Planning & Policy
Ralph Cintron, English & Latin American & Latino Studies
2011-2012 Faculty Scholars


Question: Remittances, or person-to-person money transfers, are a common and an important part of many immigrants’ lives. The purpose of this project to understand how the remittance industry is organized and how it is related to racialized regimes of labor migration. We focused our study on the Western Union company, reviewing financial statements, administrative documents, and trade press as well as conducting interviews with business people and activists.

Findings: There are three mechanisms that produce the remittance market, propel the growth of firms such as Western Union, and increase the vulnerability of immigrants who use their services:

  1. Legal regimes that distinguish migrant labor into legitimate and illegitimate flows, creating dense communities of captive labor in cities like Chicago;
  2. Marketing and branding practices that invoke financial subjectivities among migrants by appealing to themes of longing, loyalty, and socio-economic advancement or justice; and
  3. Financial practices, such as the use of current swaps and other derivatives, that fix the value of migrants’ remittances and enable profit-making within volatile global financial markets.

In addition, there are circumstances in which attempts to construct the remittance market as a seamless global market space challenges legal norms – for instance, where remittances from ‘legitimate workers’ become indistinguishable from those involving the drug trade or human trafficking. Our analysis of recent court cases involving the Department of Justice and the Arizona Attorney General suggests that the resolution of these disturbances only further estrange undocumented migrants from norms of legality.

Recommendations: Our analysis highlights a number of contradictions or dilemmas with implications for those seeking to expand legal frameworks of fairness for undocumented migrants. For example, legal action against Western Union by the Arizona Attorney General in 2008 claimed the company had profited by failing to distinguish between legitimate money transfers and those tied to either the cross-border drug trade or the lucrative ‘coyote’ business. Western Union settled this case for $94 million, committing the majority of those funds to a non-profit charged with enhancing border security. Attempts to promote transparency in the remittance industry require states to distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable cross-border flows of money and laborers. In our analysis, the legal resolution in this case – reinforcing the border and failing to develop legal norms around the status of undocumented migrants – serves to deepen the political and economic isolation of Mexican migrants.

To learn more: email Phil Ashton or Ralph Cintron at or

Anna Guevarra, Sociology
2011-2012 Faculty Fellow


Question: What factors influence civic engagement among Chicago Filipinos in Chicago, and how does their definition of community issues shape the forms of engagement they use to address those issues? The project examined “collective historicizing workshops” held by my partner organization, in which community members used storytelling to understand and organize around immigration issues. The project involved videotaping three workshops and conducting in-depth interviews and participant observations of the organization’s activities.

Findings: The project reveals two key themes: First, the process of “collective historicizing” offers a generative tool for engaging groups in a discussion of social issues by encouraging participants to engage in a particular mode of storytelling. Second, this process of engagement offers some new insights about the possibilities of movement-building and ways of creating transformative spaces for groups to engage in social action.

Recommendations: collective historicizing methodology is a useful tool for engaging groups in a civic reflection process because it is a generative and creative mode of engagement that allows individuals to collectively share their experiences and perspectives. This is particularly important when grappling with issues around structures of power and social inequalities. It may also be important to be deliberate and intentional in creating spaces where individuals can work through these kinds of issues with the goal of moving towards identifying ways of formulating some kind of collective action in the spirit of social change


To Learn More: Email Anna Guevarra at

Matthew Hall, Sociology
2011-2012 Faculty Scholar


Question: What are the residential consequences of immigration into “new” immigrant destinations (i.e., cities, suburbs, and town with little prior history of immigration)?

Findings: Using demographic and statistical analysis and the merging of micro- and macro-levels of data, this project suggest that there is a positive relationship between local immigrant concentrations and native out-migration. However, this tendency to flee in the face of growing immigrant populations is especially pronounced in “developing” immigrant gateways that have foreign-born populations that have rapidly and recently grown.

Recommendations: Results from this research imply that, at least in the short run, the encroachment of foreign-born persons into areas with little prior history of immigration leads to greater residential separation between native and immigrant group members. As residential segregation has important ramifications for group integration, policy makers and practitioners in new destination areas would be wise to craft initiatives that seek to bring long-term residents and new arrivals together to embark on common goals (e.g., programs to assist local schools or to share cultural traditions), craft local policies that seek to incorporate rather than isolate their newest residents (e.g., funding for English language training), and be cognizant of factors that restrict housing options for new immigrants, including discriminatory practices in rental and sales markets.

To learn more: Email Matthew Hall at

Xóchitl Bada, Latin American & Latino Studies
2011-2012 Faculty Fellow

How did early Mexican migrant organizations change into the contemporary Mexican organizations we see today?


In early-20th century Chicago, Mexican mutual-aid societies were the first civic organizations formed by Mexican migrants. They helped to fulfill the needs of unemployment, widowhood, burial and social activities. By the mid-1940s, heavy racial discrimination caused these organizations to focus on cultivating a sense of pride by recreating cultural practices from the homeland. In the 1980s, Mexican organizations began the transition to Hometown Associations (HTAs), with migrants committed to funding the needs of their hometowns (i.e. building roads, telephone lines, running water, etc.). This research used original archival sources and ethnographies to understand the evolution of Mexican migrant organizations.


Learn more: Read Bada's Scholar Spotlight.

What’s Next? Challenges to Latino Political Engagement after the Groundbreaking 2006 Immigration Marches and 2008 Election

Amalia Pallares, Political Science/Latin American & Latino Studies
2011-2012 Faculty Fellow

New Tensions in Old Gateways: Immigration, Institutions, and Inter-Group Relations

Nilda Flores Gonzalez, Xochitl Bada, Andy Clarno, and Amalia Pallares
2010-2011 Faculty Scholars