How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Creating race: How the 'Hispanic or Latino' category came to be

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC


An interesting article published by the Migration Policy Institute examines the racialization of those who make up the “Hispanic, Latino or Spanish Origin" category on census forms.

Written by UC Irvine sociologist Rubén Rumbaut, a veteran chronicler of the immigrant experience, the piece delves into the history of racial and ethnic classifications, and on the impact that what began as an administrative move to classify people of Latin American ancestry has had on how they now define themselves in terms of race.

Rumbaut writes:

Are Hispanics a "race" or, more precisely, a racialized category? In fact, are they even a "they?" Is there a Latino or Hispanic ethnic group, cohesive and self-conscious, sharing a sense of peoplehood in the same way that there is an African American people in the United States? Or is it mainly administrative shorthand devised for statistical purposes; a one-size-fits-all label that subsumes diverse peoples and identities?

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Report: 287(g) immigration enforcement program isn't focused on serious offenders

Photo by 888bailbonds/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A Los Angeles County prisoner bus, June 2009. The county extended its participation in the federal 287(g) program in October.

The federal government's controversial 287(g) program, which partners local agencies with immigration authorities, is the subject of a new report out today from the Migration Policy Institute.

Among other things, the report echoes some of the already existing complaints about federal-local immigration enforcement in that there is not as much of an emphasis on finding and deporting immigrants with serious criminal records as promised by the Obama administration.

According to the analysis from the institute, a nonpartisan Washington, D.C. think tank whose senior staff includes former U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service chief Doris Meissner, the 287(g) program as it's being implemented "is not targeted primarily at serious offenders," with only about half of 287(g) activity involving non-citizens (mostly undocumented immigrants, but also legal residents) arrested for misdemeanor or traffic offenses.

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U.S. immigration history, illustrated

Source: Migration Policy Institute

Source: Migration Policy Institute


The Migration Policy Institute released some updated charts yesterday illustrating the historical movement of people into the United States, and seeing the trends mapped out - in some cases going back to 1820 - is rather fascinating.

A line chart illustrates legal residents admitted to the country between 1820 and 2009, with major spikes occurring at the beginning of the last century, and again around 20 years ago. Another chart, above, shows naturalizations since 1907, breaking out the spikes in military naturalizations that took place during WWI and WWII (though the more recent ones, oddly, aren't reported).

Perhaps more intriguing are unexpected charts like one, at left, that illustrates immigrants as a percentage of the total U.S. population going back to 1850. One surprising tidbit I learned at a glance: The percentage of the U.S. population today that is foreign-born is, in fact, lower than it was in the early 1900s and during much of the later 1800s.

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DREAM Act: Spin and counter-spin as another vote nears

Photo by DreamActivist/Flickr (Creative Commons)

DREAM Act supporters outside L.A. City Hall, June 2009

As a vote on the DREAM Act nears, what is political spin and what isn't? Now that a white paper listing GOP talking points in opposition to the proposed legislation is making the rounds, the Immigration Policy Center has issued a document countering some of the claims being made.

The white paper is being circulated to legislators and conservative groups by the office of Alabama's Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions. It presents an opponent's take on the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act, which would allow a path to legal status for undocumented college students and military hopefuls. A vote is planned for after the Thanksgiving holiday.

The largely Republican opposition to the measure has criticized it as an amnesty, among other things. A sample talking point from the white paper:

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