The United States and Australia Compared
Monash Studies in Global Movements series
Edited by John Higley, John Nieuwenhuysen and Stine Neerup
Chapter 4: Latinos, Immigration and the US Recession
David L. Leal The US is in the midst of a fourth ‘great wave’ of immigration, but the deep and ongoing economic recession after late 2007 has raised important questions about the political and social integration of Latino immigrants and, thereby, Latinos more broadly. While public opinion is rarely enthusiastic about immigration, conventional wisdom holds that economic downturns lead the public to adopt more negative views of immigration and immigrants. This, in turn, may lead to policies that are more punitive to immigrants, both legal and unauthorized. Because Latinos are the largest group in both US categories, such a response could harm their economic interests, increase their social isolation and impede their acculturation and integration. Recessions are thought to heighten the anxieties of the native-born about labour market competition (Massey et al., 2002; Citrin et al., 1997). Although immigration advocates claim that immigrants perform jobs that the US-born do not want, this may ring less true when unemployment reaches high levels, especially if the incipient recovery is seen as ‘jobless’. Such social and economic stresses could also generate a search for scapegoats that results in more negative views and treatment of immigrants. As the US recession continued during 2010 and showed few clear signs of an early recovery, this traditional view suggests that anti-immigrant sentiment should be on the rise in America. As noted by Tichenor, ‘Models of economic causation dominate popular and scholarly accounts of immigration politics and policies in the United States and other Western liberal democracies’ (2002,...
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