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Against the Tide

Immigrants, Day Laborers, and Community in Jupiter, Florida

Sandra Lazo de la Vega and Timothy J. Steigenga

Publication Year: 2013

Across the United States, the issue of immigration has generated rancorous debate and divided communities. Many states and municipalities have passed restrictive legislation that erodes any sense of community. Against the Tide tells the story of Jupiter, Florida, a coastal town of approximately 50,000 that has taken a different path.
    At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Jupiter was in the throes of immigration debates. A decade earlier, this small town had experienced an influx of migrants from Mexico and Guatemala. Immigrants seeking work gathered daily on one of the city’s main streets, creating an ad-hoc, open-air labor market that generated complaints and health and human safety concerns. What began as a local debate rapidly escalated as Jupiter’s situation was thrust into the media spotlight and attracted the attention of state and national anti-immigrant groups. But then something unexpected happened: immigrants, neighborhood residents, university faculty and students, and town representatives joined together to mediate community tensions and successfully moved the informal labor market to the new El Sol Neighborhood Resource Center.
    Timothy J. Steigenga, who helped found the center, and Lazo de la Vega, who organized students in support of its mission, describe how El Sol engaged the residents of Jupiter in a two-way process of immigrant integration and helped build trust on both sides. By examining one city’s search for a positive public policy solution, Against the Tide offers valuable practical lessons for other communities confronting similar challenges.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

List of Abbreviations

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pp. ix-2

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pp. 3-16

By 6:00 a.m. one morning in the summer of 2001, almost two hundred men stood in clusters around trees and vehicles and on the front porches lining Center Street, in Jupiter, Florida. As a pickup truck slowed down and came to a stop along the road, a group of men surged toward it and crowded around...

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1. From Back Burner to Center Stage: How Jupiter’s Melting Pot Boiled Over

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pp. 17-42

On February 12, 2000, the town of Jupiter sponsored a party to celebrate its seventy-fifth anniversary. Incorporated in 1925, Jupiter experienced a brief boom period just before the Great Depression, but its population remained relatively small in comparison with nearby Florida cities. At the time of the 1970 census...

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2. The Immigrant Community in Jupiter: From Migrants to Mobilized

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pp. 43-72

Jupiter’s immigrant community was well aware of the growing tensions surrounding the Center Street day labor market and charter neighborhoods. As residents of the same neighborhoods, immigrants were also seeking solutions and points of contact to bring their perspectives to the table. In time, some of them...

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3. Debating a Community Resource Center

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pp. 73-95

By the end of 2004, the issue of day labor had moved to the center of local politics in Jupiter, and the Town Council was seriously considering the option of a labor center. A December 29 guest editorial in the Jupiter Courier listed the center among the most important issues concerning the town in 2004. The author of the...

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4. El Sol in the Sunshine State

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pp. 96-122

Ramón Barreno read his poem “Appreciation” at the spring semester’s English as a second language (ESL) graduation ceremony at El Sol. When he first came to Jupiter, Ramón could not read or write in Spanish or English. But with the help of El Sol’s literacy program, he has made significant progress in developing...

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5. The El Sol Family

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pp. 123-146

Many of the volunteers and staff members who work at El Sol have seen their lives evolve in unexpected ways as they have come to see the more human face of immigration. As El Sol’s first volunteer coordinator and the person who opened the doors on the day the center was inaugurated, Lee McCarthy’s story is particularly...

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6. Local Solutions and Implications for the National Immigration Debate

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pp. 147-170

The factors that made immigration an issue in Jupiter extend far beyond the control of local government. Across the United States in the so-called new destinations of Latino immigration, similar dramas are playing out in local communities. In many of those communities, day labor is the focal point of frequently...

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pp. 171-174

El Sol takes its name from dual sources. First, in Spanish el sol means “the sun.” The founders of the organization believed that would be a fitting name for an organization in South Florida that seeks to bring people out of the shadows. Second, the center is named for Sol Silverman, the husband of the center’s second...


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pp. 175-180

Suggested Readings

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pp. 181-184


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pp. 185-189

E-ISBN-13: 9780299291037
E-ISBN-10: 0299291030
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299291044
Print-ISBN-10: 0299291049

Page Count: 199
Illustrations: 20 b/w illus.
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 833301928
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Against the Tide

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Immigrants -- Social conditions -- Florida -- Jupiter.
  • Immigrants -- Services for -- Florida -- Jupiter.
  • Day laborers -- Services for -- Florida -- Jupiter.
  • Community centers -- Florida -- Jupiter.
  • Jupiter (Fla.) -- Emigration and immigration -- Social aspects.
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