New Americans or Diasporic Nationalists?: Mexican Migrant Responses to Naturalization and Implications for Political Participation
Abstract

Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and in-depth interviews in a citizenship class in Southern California, this paper analyzes Mexican immigrant responses to naturalization. Far from being a conduit for Americanization, the citizenship class emerges as a space where Mexican migrants make the naturalization process intelligible on their own cultural and political terms, positing it as a potentially empowering institution for the immigrant rights movement. Among respondents who were once reticent to seek U.S. citizenship, there seems to be a shift in consensus in favor of naturalization as a political tool to secure stability and community empowerment. Similarly, the newly eligible also share a sense of urgency to naturalize in an immigrant-hostile and increasingly precarious political environment. However, ethnic attachment to the homeland does not always wane over time or upon naturalization. The interview data suggests that naturalizers retain their Mexican ethnic identities and loyalties largely in response to the institutional discrimination they face throughout the process of political enfranchisement. Far from being an impediment to political participation, ethnic identification and attachment to the homeland post-naturalization may drive immigrant political participation across international boundaries.


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