The Dilemmas of Transnational Mobility
5. How they survive There are two factors that make the lives of irregular migrants – those without proper immigration status, either to be present, or to be working – more difﬁcult than those of citizens or legal entrants. The ﬁrst is that they have to remain invisible to the immigration authorities and (presumably) to other ofﬁcials concerned with law enforcement, and to citizens and legal residents who might perceive them as harmful in some way to their interests. The second is that they have to live without the support of those institutions designed to sustain the lives of lawful members of that society, including welfare systems, regulatory bodies and agencies for the protection of persons and property. That they do in fact survive, in some cases for long periods, and that a few prosper, is therefore of more than passing interest, from the standpoint of economics, law, sociology and social policy. It also links our research with the interdisciplinary study of transitional communities (Vertovec and Cohen, 1999). The question of how they remain undetected by the enforcement authorities is dealt with only brieﬂy in this chapter; it is treated far more fully in Chapter 7. How they survive without legal membership or ofﬁcial support is the central issue for this chapter. We show that they do so partly because they adopt well-tried strategies, based on cultural resources available within their communities; partly because they assimilate to other groups of citizens and legal immigrants, who live on the...
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