Academic journal article Migration Letters

Know Your Enemy: How Repatriated Unauthorized Migrants Learn about and Perceive Anti-Immigrant Mobilization in the United States

Academic journal article Migration Letters

Know Your Enemy: How Repatriated Unauthorized Migrants Learn about and Perceive Anti-Immigrant Mobilization in the United States

Article excerpt

Abstract

Recently scholars have turned their attention towards a growing anti-immigrant movement in the United States. In particular, residents called 'minutemen' have garnered attention for their vigilante patrols of the U.S.-Mexico border. Yet, there remains an absence of rigorously collected data from the unauthorized migrants they target. Filling this void, we draw on original survey data from Wave 1 of the Migrant Border Crossing Study (MBCS) and address three questions: Among repatriated unauthorized migrants who have heard of minutemen, from where do they get their information? What qualities or characteristics do unauthorized repatriated migrants ascribe to minutemen? And, finally, how closely do these perceptions align with common tropes about minutemen? In so doing, we detail the composition of repatriated unauthorized migrants' knowledge networks and the role th ese played in diffusing knowledge about minutemen. Additionally, we illuminate differences in the content of the minuteman-related information these networks diffuse. We find that respondents relied heavily on media outlets in the United States and Mexico to obtain information about minutemen. Social networks and the crossing experience itself mattered to a much lesser extent. Interestingly, repatriated unauthorized migrants were mixed in their perceptions of exactly who minutemen were, and migrants varied greatly in their reliance upon dominant tropes to identify minutemen. We conclude with implications and directions for future research.

Keywords: Unauthorized; migrant; nativism; migration; anti-immigrant.

Introduction

Grassroots mobilization in opposition to unauthorized immigration into the United States has been on the rise recently (Chavez, 2008; Doty, 2009; Navarro, 2009; Ward, 2014). Of particular note are minutemen organizations, which are not only fervently anti-immigrant but also observe and patrol the U.S. - Mexico border (and interior regions) to report unauthorized migrants to the authorities. In some cases, minutemen have attempted apprehension and detainment of migrants.

Media outlets and scholars have dissected minutemen's motives, ideology and goals (for review of these see Cabrera and Glavac, 2010; Doty, 2009; Dove, 2010; Shapira, 2013). However, the absence of rigorously collected data on unauthorized migrants' perspectives leaves a void in this discussion. To fill this gap, we address three unanswered questions: Among repatriated unauthorized migrants who have heard of minutemen, from where do they get their information? What qualities or characteristics do repatriated unauthorized migrants ascribe to minutemen? And how closely do these perceptions align with common tropes about minutemen? In what follows, we draw on original data (collected between 2007 and 2009) from Wave I of the Migrant Border Crossing Study (MBCS) to answer these questions.

Repatriated migrants relied heavily on media outlets in the United States and Mexico, and-to a lesser extent-family members and friends in Mexico and the United States as well as the migration process itself to obtain information about nativist mobilization or social movement activity supposedly geared towards preserving and protecting the interests of non-immigrant Americans. Interestingly, repatriated unauthorized migrants were also mixed in their perceptions of exactly who minutemen were, and migrants varied greatly in their use of dominant tropes to identify minutemen. These findings reveal the composition of repatriated unauthorized migrants' knowledge networks and the role these played in diffusing knowledge about minutemen, as well as give voice to the important, yet largely silenced, population that U.S. nativists target. Findings also illuminate differences in the qualitative content of the minuteman-related information repatriated unauthorized migrants received. We conclude with implications and directions for future research.

Context

Increased border enforcement and unauthorized crossings

The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 marked the last time comprehensive immigration reform was passed and enacted in the United States. …

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