How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Video: A long-forgotten chapter of illegal immigration

The University of Texas at Austin has been producing an excellent series of online videos called Border Views, which I discovered today thanks to the equally excellent Tejas-based website Latina Lista. The videos feature academics from the university sharing their particular expertise on immigration history, politics, and how the topic plays in the media, among other things. The range of disciplines they come from - history, politics, psychology, law, journalism and anthropology - make for an interesting mix of perspectives.

I especially enjoyed the video above, posted today by Latina Lista, in which history professor Madeline Hsu discusses how Chinese undocumented immigrants - banned from legal entry by the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act - posed as Mexicans to cross into the United States via the southern border. How times have changed.

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'Somos Muchos' car sticker campaign an interesting social experiment

Photo by wung/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Outside a local Toyota dealership, March 2007

When I first heard about a clever Toyota Latino-marketing sticker campaign last week, with free window stickers distributed to consumers that read "Somos Muchos (fill in the Latin American country or region), Somos Muchos Toyota," (Translation: We are many TK, we are many Toyota), I was no more impressed than I ever am with the usual Latino marketing campaign.

And I'm still not, at least not so much by the campaign itself. But the response on a Facebook page set up by Toyota to distribute the stickers - and "get the community together," as a local Toyota dealership spokeswoman told me today - is what is proving to be most intriguing.

The vast majority of the Facebook wall comments are what the company might have expected: "Soy Ecuatoriano!" one man wrote. And another: "Somos muchos latinos, somos muchos mexicanos!!" Some express gratitude for their stickers (written phonetically in accented English by some as "esticker"), talk about their cars, and cheer for their ancestral homelands, geographic regions and hometowns (i.e. "Somos muchos chilangos...!!!").

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Immigration and nativism, in historical context

Photo by beestar/Flickr (Creative Commons)

An 1893 editorial cartoon by Joseph Keppler from Puck magazine with the caption, "They would close to the new-comer the bridge that carried them and their fathers over."

Author Peter Schrag has an interesting piece published today in the Immigration Policy Center's "Perspectives" series, narratives written by academics and researchers on the topic of immigration.

The essay is taken from Schrag's book, "Not Fit for Our Society: Immigration and Nativism in America."It puts the current immigration debate into historical context, taking a look at anti-immigrant sentiment, rhetoric and politics from the time of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson to the post-/911 era. From the article:

American nativism and our historic ambivalence about immigration—at times vigorously seeking newcomers from abroad, at other times shutting them out and/or deporting them—is deeply entangled both in economic cycles and in the uncertainties of our vision of ourselves as a nation. A self?proclaimed “city upon a hill,” a shining model to the world, requires a certain kind of people. But what kind? Do they have to be pure Anglo?Saxons, whatever that was, which is what many reformers at the turn of the last century believed, or could it include “inferior” Southern Italians, Greeks, Slavs, Jews, or Chinese of the 1800s, the “dirty Japs” of 1942, or the Central Americans of today? Can America take the poor, the “tempest?tost,” the “wretched refuse” “yearning to breathe free” and make them a vital part of that city? If we began in perfection, how could change ever be anything but for the worse?

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