Monday, May 4, 2009

Greetings from Mars: Mexican Immigrants and Major Works on Latino Politics

I would like to comment on the reference guide titled “Latino Politics: A Growing and Evolving Political Community” (2009). This magnificent work, published by The University of Arizona Libraries and authored by John Garcia (University of Arizona), Gabriel R. Sanchez (University of New Mexico) and J. Salvador Peralta (University of West Georgia), is a first-rate bibliography on practically every relevant aspect of Latino Politics: History, demographics, mass media, Latino identity, ethnic studies, political behavior, elites, inter-group relations, public policy issues, and methodology and measurement issues (this last, my favorite section). It covers works published mainly during the 1990s and 2000s.

I also enjoyed very much the ‘Retrospective Essay’ of their work: “Latino Politics: Both a Growing and Evolving Political Community,” in which the authors address implicitly and in a very straight forward manner the research and teaching agenda of those who address the Latino community from a scholar, political standpoint: The pan-ethnic perspective, group identity issues, assimilation and acculturation, opinion and policies, organization and mobilization, the foreign-born, and how the context does matter. It is highly recommended for those who are preparing a syllabus on Latino Politics, or for those who wish to update their current syllabus, to take a careful look to the whole compilation of references. The work is also an essential starting point for those students or scholars who are currently looking for new veins of research on Latino political issues.

Now, let’s take a look to a very specific aspect of this major reference work. As a scholar on Latino immigration in the United States, with specialization on Mexican immigrants, I looked immediately for the section on Mexican immigrants and... I guess there is something that I do not understand very well here. In Chapter Five, “Books Focused on Ethnic Studies,” the authors present a section on Central American studies, Cuban studies, Dominican American studies, Mexican American studies, Chican@ studies and Puerto Rican studies… but no Mexicans in the U.S., a category that covers those Mexicans who were born in Mexico, who work and live in the U.S. and who are not American citizens. In Chapter Nine, “Public Policy Issues,” I found a section on “Immigration and Naturalization,” in which there are several references to Mexican immigrants.

If an inhabitant from Mars would arrive today to our planet and would take the reference guide to see what is the state of the affair with Mexican immigrants in the United States, it would take some time for the Martian to realize that Mexican immigrants are important within the analytical framework of Latino Politics, although the Martians would have to look out specifically hard for the topic. At a first glance, Mexican immigrants appear nowhere in this work.

Good news is that research on Mexican immigrants appears and appears in good, healthy numbers. I counted the references that included only Mexican immigrants as a main target of research in the sections of National Origin Based Identity, Political Attitudes, Political Participation, and Immigration and Naturalization and found 43 references. This is, a higher number of references than the total combined references that appear under the categories of Central Americans, Cuban Americans, Dominican Americans, Mexican Americans and Chican@s presented in the Ethnic Studies section of the bibliography.

I think it is time to point out the elephant in the room. Researchers cannot skip anymore the importance that embodies Mexican immigrants for Latino Politics, and certainly for American Politics as a whole. Good that this work makes a distinction between Mexican Americans and Chican@ studies from a political perspective, but it is not enough. Mexican immigrants are now about 30% of the foreign-born population of the most powerful country on this planet, and issues like immigration reform are a big deal in Washington D.C. right now. The study of Mexican immigrants goes well beyond the study of “Immigration and Naturalization.”

Mexican immigrants deserve a category of their own in this type of macro research. Indeed, the current classification of research on Mexican Immigration in this work gives the impression that the topic is only a subject of incorporation/integration… which is not the case. I also think that changing the scope of this classification by creating a category for Mexican immigrants would contribute in leading researchers to deal in a simultaneous way with issues of assimilation, acculturation and transnationalism, for example.

Finally, I have reorganized the section of Papers, Reports and Field Research in my website. Now the information (on immigration-related research) that is offered in this section has been classified in the following categories: Alphabetical Order; American Cities and States of the Union; Economy; Education and Health; Immigration Reform; (The) Mexican Perspective; Mobilization and Participation; Political Integration/Incorporation; Population; Public Policy; Studies and Field Research; and Undocumented-Unauthorized Immigrants / Illegal Immigration. Enjoy.

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