Immigration and Work: Volume 27

Cover of Immigration and Work
Subject:

Table of contents

(18 chapters)
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Introduction

Pages xi-xviii
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Purpose

This chapter examines the lives of Central American immigrant workers, with a focus on the paramount position of legal status in immigrants’ lives.

Findings

The legal context into which Central American immigrant workers arrive creates the various legal statuses they hold, which in turn dictate the kind of jobs they can obtain, where they live and, in general, shape their prospects in the United States. Although many Central Americans have held various forms of temporary protection from deportation, such relief is temporary and therefore subject to multiple extensions, applications, forms, and renewals, which serve to accentuate these immigrants’ legal uncertainty. Given their legal predicament and the consequent truncated paths to mobility, many Central American immigrant workers live in poverty; indeed, they are more likely to live in poverty than other foreign born. At the same time, they have high labor force participation rates. Their high rates of poverty coupled with high labor force participation rates indicate that their jobs do not pay much. In spite of these circumstances, they remit a significant portion of their earnings to their non-migrating family members in the origin countries.

Practical implications

The largely unchanged occupational and sectorial concentrations of Central Americans in the U.S. economy over the last two decades underscores the critical implications of legal status for immigrant incorporation and socioeconomic mobility.

Originality/value

This chapter exposes the vulnerabilities imposed by a precarious legal status and highlights the importance of more secure legal statuses for immigrant workers’ potential integration and paths to mobility.

Purpose

This study examines the conditions that lead to workplace violations for low-wage immigrant workers, and how family life shapes their decision to speak up. I also highlight how both employer abuse and the claimsmaking process can impact individuals and their families.

Methodology/approach

This research adopts a mixed-method approach that includes a survey of 453 low-wage workers seeking pro bono legal assistance and 115 follow-up interviews with claimants. I also conduct a five-year ethnography of both a monthly state workshop provided for injured workers and a pro bono legal aid clinic in a predominantly Latino agricultural community on the California central coast.

Findings

Beyond the material effects of lost income, the stress of fighting for justice can have negative emotional impacts that intersect with complex family dynamics. While families can be an important source of support and inspiration during this time, the burden of the breadwinner can also temper workers’ willingness to engage the labor standards enforcement system. Transnational obligations can further introduce a demobilizing dual frame of reference for workers who often hide their abuse from family members abroad who depend on them.

Research implications

Workplace abuse and the actual process of legal mobilization can have far-reaching effects on the families of low-wage immigrant workers, suggesting the need for a more holistic understanding of the claimsmaking experience.

Originality/value

This chapter tracks the challenges that workers face even once they have come forward to fight for their rights, and the multiple effects on families and children.

Part II: Labor Unions and Immigrant Workers

Purpose

This research examines how labor union involvement shapes the civic participation of low-wage Latino immigrant workers.

Methodology/approach

Drawing on survey and semi-structured interview data gathered from a Los Angeles janitors’ labor union, I examine whether or not and how Latino immigrants apply their union experience to involvement in their children’s schools.

Findings

Results indicate that the union’s targeted member mobilization efforts produce unequal participation in union activities among immigrant workers, fostering civic and leadership skills among some and not others. At the same time, immigrant workers who do become involved in their union are then able to draw on their labor organizing and advocacy experience to address issues and concerns at their children’s schools. For some, worksite activism functions as a catalyst for newfound civic engagement; for other immigrant workers with prior civic experience in their country origin or in the United States, union involvement enhances their leadership capacity.

Originality/value

This empirical investigation shows how the experience of mobilizing for protests and participating in worksite campaigns allows Latino immigrant union members to overcome what are typically considered barriers to civic participation – that is, limited formal education, low occupational status, and limited English language skills. This study therefore suggests that labor union participation can have long-term effects on immigrants well beyond the benefits of a union contract.

Purpose

To examine an exceptional case of international labor solidarity and advocacy in a nontraditional labor-receiving country of South Korea.

Methodology/approach

Ethnographic research on migrant advocacy organization in Korea from its inception in the mid-1990s to the present; theoretical and comparative review of literature on migrant labor mobilization, with a focus on labor unions and migrant advocacy organizations.

Findings

The significance of the Korean case is that there are an unusually high number of migrant advocacy organizations that increasingly espouse an internationalist ideology. Furthermore, their effectiveness and sustainability rest on embedded solidarity networks across a spectrum of progressive labor and civic organizations.

Originality/Value

The chapter underscores the agentic power of society’s vulnerable populations, such as undocumented immigrant workers, despite the market-driven forces of globalization that disrupts communities and disciplines workers. Embedded solidarity with migrants from a transnational perspective adds to the much-needed discussion about global protests in the context of globalization and neoliberalism.

Part III: The Macrostructural Context of Reception and Labor Market Integration

Purpose

Segmented assimilation theory predicts that contemporary non-white groups follow three patterns of assimilation: mainstream, downward, or delayed. Yet, the homogenous treatment and primacy of ethnicity resigns all group members to a similar fate. Whereas few studies of ethnic incorporation consider both the classed and gendered nature of the labor market, this study investigates the extent to which intersectional group differences within the highly stratified American economy shape segmented assimilation trajectories.

Methodology/approach

This study introduces an intersectional approach to segmented assimilation theory. Using the 2000 census, this study examines how within group differences in skill and gender condition the hourly earnings, joblessness and self-employment participation outcomes of five ethnic minority groups from the first to the second generation, compared against US-born, non-Hispanic whites.

Findings

Findings generally support the mainstream assimilation hypothesis for all groups; a downward assimilation trajectory among Chinese men only; and a delayed assimilation trajectory for low-skilled Filipinas and high-skilled Cuban men and women. This study reveals that intra-group differences in skill and gender shape divergent segmented assimilation trajectories among members of the same ethnic group.

Originality/value

This study challenges the emphasis on and primacy of ethnicity in predicting segmented assimilation in favor of an intersectional approach that considers how multiple, interdependent, and intersecting dimensions of identity and not only ethnicity shape the process of economic incorporation among ethnic groups.

Purpose

To identify the trajectories of occupational mobility among non-EU immigrant workers in Europe and to test empirical data against neoclassical human capital theory that predicts upward occupational mobility and labor market segmentation theories proposing immigrant confinement to secondary segments.

Methodology/approach

Data from survey and semi-structured interviews (2,859 and 357, respectively) with immigrants from Brazil, Ukraine, and Morocco in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Portugal, and Norway. Multinomial regression analysis to test the likelihood of moving downward, upward, or stability and identify explanatory factors, complemented with qualitative evidence.

Findings

We found support for the thesis of segmented labor market theories of limited upward occupational mobility following migration. However, immigrants with longer residence in the destination country have higher chances of upward mobility compared to stability and downward mobility, giving also support for the neoclassical human capital theory. Frail legal status impacts negatively on upward mobility chances and men more often experience upward mobility after migration than women.

Research limitations/implications

Findings reflect the specific situation of immigrants from three origin countries in four destination areas and cannot be taken as representative. In the multinomial regression we cannot distinguish between cohort effects and duration of stay.

Social implications

Education obtained in the destination country is very important for migrants’ upward occupational mobility, bearing important policy implications with regards to migrants’ integration.

Originality/value of paper

Its focus on trajectories of mobility through migration looking at two important transitions: (1) from last occupation in the origin country to first occupation at destination and (2) from first occupation to current occupation and offers a wide cross-country comparison both in terms of origin and destination countries in Europe.

Part IV: New Directions in Immigrant Entrepreneurship

Purpose

The study aims to examine the causes of the divergent patterns of contemporary transnational engagement with China among new Chinese immigrants and the effect of transnational entrepreneurship on migrants’ integration into their host societies.

Methodology/approach

It is based on a multi-sited ethnographic study that contains interviews, participant observations, and analysis of relevant event coverage and commentaries by the media, which were conducted between 2008 and 2013 in Singapore, the United States, and China.

Findings

The study finds that different migration histories, structural circumstances in both sending and receiving societies, and locations in the transnational social field give rise to divergent patterns of economic transnationalism, and that the rise of China has opened up new avenues for transnational entrepreneurship, which has not only benefited hometown development in China but also created economic opportunities for Chinese immigrants, leading to desirable mobility outcomes. In particular, transnational entrepreneurship has promoted deeper localization rather than deterritorialization and contributed to strengthening the economic base of the existing ethnic enclave, which in turn offers an effective alternative path for migrants’ integration in their host societies.

Research limitations

The study is exploratory in nature. As with all ethnographic studies, its generalizability is limited.

Social implications

The study suggests that, when transnational entrepreneurship is linked to the existing ethnic social structure in which a particular identity is formed, the effect on the group becomes highly significant. The comparative approach of the study can help unveil different dynamics, processes, and consequences of transnationalism and complex factors behind variations on diasporic development and immigrant integration.

Originality/Value

Looking at entrepreneurship beyond nation-state boundaries and beyond the economic gains of individual migrants.

Purpose

Since the widespread adoption of the concept, transnational theorizing has attended to inequalities with regard to legal status, education, travel, and access to capital to understand the experience of migrant populations. This issue has become especially pertinent in recent years, as a growing body of journalistic and scholarly attention has been devoted to a new group of transnationals who work as entrepreneurs, professionals, and financiers involved in high tech and other cutting-edge economic activities. Regarded as among the world’s most powerful engines of economic growth and innovation, these entrepreneurs enjoy unprecedented levels of income, state-granted privileges (including permission to work), and access to elite institutions. Because of their level of resources, some observers contend that this group represents a fundamentally new category of immigrants distinct not only from labor migrants but also from merchants, professionals, and technicians.

Methodology/approach

To better understand their experience, this chapter draws on in-depth interviews and ethnographic research to compare two groups of Israeli immigrants living in Western societies: high-tech entrepreneurs and enclave entrepreneurs. Focusing on their economic and collective lives, it identifies similarities and differences among the two.

Findings

Conclusions suggest that the mostly male high-tech migrants do enjoy incomes, contacts, and access to travel that far exceed those available to labor and skilled migrants. Moreover, infotech immigrants are not dependent upon contacts with local co-ethnics that are vital for the survival of most other migrant populations. However, the communal, identity-related and familial concerns of infotech migrants are not completely amenable to their considerable resources. Accordingly, as they address these matters, their experience reveals significant similarities to those of migrants bearing a less privileged status.

Research implications

Collective, familial and identificational issues play central roles in shaping patterns of work and travel among high-tech transnational entrepreneurs. As such, these issues deserve continued attention in studies of global migration and work.

Originality/value

Research is based on a multi-sited ethnographic study of Israeli enclave and infotech entrepreneurs.

Purpose

This study considers an under-explored pathway of immigrant business expansion beyond contemporary models of ethnic entrepreneurship.

Methodology/approach

We push against dominant theories of immigrant adaptation and small business, such as assimilation theory, to explain a rise of franchised small businesses among Indian Americans. We combine two cases on Indian American small business ownership, based on years of qualitative fieldwork each.

Findings

Indian Americans have forged a new path of immigrant business growth beyond either enclave or middleman minority businesses. The growth of franchised stores by immigrants remains underexplored in the immigration and work literature. Their growth in the industry signals a type of mobility, by moving more into corporate models of business ownership and performance. Yet, their success has depended on many of the same mechanisms that define lower end, informal ethnic businesses, such as a reliance on ethnic social capital for information and financing, strategies to avoid racism, co-ethnic labor, and the like.

Research limitations

Like any qualitative study, it is limited by its lack of breadth. But, given that it combines two cases, it compensates for this challenge more than otherwise.

Originality/value

This chapter furthers the argument that immigrant mobility does not necessarily mean assimilation and in fact can represent a collective response against assimilationist tendencies. This continued collective strategy to mobility is all the more necessary in the face of neoliberal economic models that place greater burdens on individuals.

Part V: New Gendered Occupational Niches and Immigrant/Native Workplace Boundaries

Purpose

This chapter explains why college-educated Latinas, the daughters of working-class Latino immigrant parents, are disproportionately entering the teaching profession in the United States.

Methodology/approach

This qualitative study relies on secondary statistical data, an analysis of regional trends and 40 in-depth face-to-face interviews with Latina teachers that work in Southern California elementary schools.

Findings

Teaching has traditionally been a white woman’s occupation, but it is now the number one career drawing college-educated Latina women, who are entering the teaching profession at greater rates than African Americans or Asian Americans. Current scholarship posits that teaching is a career that resonates with Latina women’s racial-ethnic solidarity and feminine sense of duty to help others. In this chapter, we show how class background is also a key in understanding why the teaching profession has emerged as the top occupational niche for college-educated Latina women. While racial uplift, gender ideals, and family socialization help explain why college-educated Latinas are going into teaching, we add an emphasis on socio-economic class, demographic and structural context, and collectively informed agency.

Research limitations/implications

This study sheds light on the factors that shape upward mobility and career outcomes in white-collar jobs for minority students and second generation Latinas, the children of immigrants.

Originality/value

This chapter offers a sociological analysis that suggests Latina teachers navigate their educational and career choices with collective-informed agency and strong obligations to family members. To best understand why Latina/Chicana college graduates are increasingly concentrated in the teaching profession, we advocate an intersectionalities approach that takes class seriously.

Purpose

Tribeca is a predominantly wealthy, white neighborhood in New York City and is a microcosm of the service-and-information-based economy that characterizes many communities in global cities today. Tribeca residents are mostly affluent and work in high-end, service-oriented professions, consuming low-end personal services produced locally. Many of the people who provide these personal services in Tribeca are foreign-born. This chapter explores the nature of intergroup contact between native residents and immigrant service workers to understand how they navigate social boundaries of race/ethnicity, nation-of-origin, occupation, and social class.

Methodology/approach

This chapter is based on six years of ethnographic data collection and participant observation, in addition to interviews with 66 informants, including both immigrant service workers and Tribeca residents.

Findings

This research highlights the importance of local contextual factors in shaping how people perceive one another and interact. Although in Tribeca this intergroup contact fails to alter boundaries of race, class, and nation-of-origin, residents and immigrants still have meaningful interpersonal contact, which is the result of bridging, or overlooking, existing social boundaries.

Originality/value

The results of this research challenge the assumption that relations between natives and immigrants in stratified settings are characterized by resentment or hostility. Instead, contextual factors in Tribeca shape intergroup perceptions and contact in a way that allows for positive interpersonal, albeit largely superficial, relationships to take root.

About the Authors

Pages 315-319
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Cover of Immigration and Work
DOI
10.1108/S0277-2833201527
Publication date
2015-03-31
Book series
Research in the Sociology of Work
Editor
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78441-632-4
eISBN
978-1-78441-631-7
Book series ISSN
0277-2833