Hostile environments encourage political action in immigrant communities

Nov 02, 2010

A new study from North Carolina State University finds that anti-immigrant practices – such as anti-immigrant legislation or protests – are likely to backfire, and spur increased political action from immigrant communities. The study examined political activity in 52 metropolitan areas across the United States.

"U.S. Census data indicate that 60 percent of the foreign-born in the U.S. are not citizens," says Dr. Kim Ebert, an assistant professor of sociology and co-author of a paper describing the research. "Non-citizens can't vote, so we wanted to determine how they are participating in political life."

Specifically, the researchers examined the number of protests from the immigrant community in during the year 2000, to investigate the extent to which local conditions affect an immigrant community's willingness to take part in informal political action. The immigrant communities in the study reflect a range of backgrounds, including Latino, Asian American, Middle Eastern and African communities.

"Metropolitan areas that saw high levels of anti-immigrant activity, such as anti-immigrant protests or abusive practices, were subsequently more likely to see protest activity from the immigrant community," Ebert says. "In addition, metro areas in states that passed anti-immigrant legislation often saw a short-term dampening effect on protests – but experienced significant increases in the number of political protests from immigrant communities in the long term."

Similarly, exclusionary metropolitan areas – those with high levels of housing and employment segregation between immigrant and U.S.-born communities – were also subject to more protests than areas that were better integrated. Moreover, protest was less likely to be used as a strategy for social change in inclusionary metropolitan areas where immigrants had greater access to formal means of political and social participation via citizenship, college education and voting.

"The more people try to create heightened boundaries between 'us' and 'them,' the more mobilized the immigrant community becomes," Ebert says.

The researchers also found that mobilization in the immigrant community was less likely to occur in metropolitan areas with higher immigrant growth rates. For example, many metropolitan areas that saw significant increases in their immigrant populations between 1991 and 2000 – such as Memphis, Tenn., and Greenville, N.C. – did not see any immigrant protest activity. However, traditional immigrant gateway cities with modest growth rates – such as Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami – saw significantly more frequent protest activity from the immigrant community.

The researchers are currently examining longitudinal data from 1990 to 2010 to investigate how political, demographic and social changes influence immigrant organizing.

Explore further: Awarded a Pell Grant? Better double-check

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Anti-immigrant sentiment greater in California than Texas

Mar 02, 2009

Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC (March 2, 2009) California and Texas have the largest populations of Mexican immigrants in all of the United States. A recent study, published by SAGE in the January/February ...

Recommended for you

Election surprises tend to erode trust in government

5 hours ago

When asked who is going to win an election, people tend to predict their own candidate will come out on top. When that doesn't happen, according to a new study from the University of Georgia, these "surprised losers" often ...

Awarded a Pell Grant? Better double-check

Jul 23, 2014

(AP)—Potentially tens of thousands of students awarded a Pell Grant or other need-based federal aid for the coming school year could find it taken away because of a mistake in filling out the form.

Perthites wanted for study on the Aussie lingo

Jul 23, 2014

We all know that Australians speak English differently from the way it's spoken in the UK or the US, and many of us are aware that Perth people have a slightly different version of the language from, say, Melbournians - but ...

User comments : 0