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Hidden in the heartland

the new wave of immigrants and the challenge to America

Nancy Brown Diggs

Publication Year: 2011

As other teens returned home from school, thirteen-year-old José Silva headed for work at a restaurant, where he would remain until 2:00 a.m. Francisca Herrera, a tomato picker, was exposed to pesticides while she was pregnant and gave birth to a baby without arms or legs. Silva and Herrera immigrated illegally to the United States, and their experiences are far from unique. In this comprehensive, balanced overview of the immigration crisis, Nancy Brown Diggs examines the abusive, unethical conditions under which many immigrants work, and explores how what was once a border problem now extends throughout the country. Drawing from a wide spectrum of sources, Hidden in the Heartland demonstrates how the current situation is untenable for both illegal immigrants and American citizens. A vivid portrait of the immigration crisis, the book makes a passionate case for confronting this major human rights issue — a threat to the very unity of the country.

Published by: Michigan State University Press


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pp. v

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pp. vii-viii

I would like to express my appreciation first to all the immigrants, both documented and undocumented, who were willing to describe their experiences to me. A special thanks to Veronica Aguilar Brown, my neighbor, Spanish tutor, and invaluable link to the Hispanic community. Professor Michael Jerison, chairman...

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pp. ix-xi

Most people welcome a summons to jury duty with all the enthusiasm reserved for a root canal. I was no exception, and yet serving on a jury proved to be a vastly enriching experience. Not only did all the prospective jurors come away with new respect for our system and how it works, but the case itself led me to questions I had never considered before. Those questions are now being raised by scholars,...

Part 1: The Promised Land

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Chapter 1: Getting Here

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pp. 3-16

Imagine that in Mexico you’ve heard the stories from your cousin, your brother-in-law, or the neighbor’s son about how much better life is in the North. “The streets in America are paved with gold,” they say. “Come on up!” If you can’t get here by legal means, how would you plan to cross the border? The best way would be to get yourself a tourist visa and merely stay on when ...

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Chapter 2: Working Here

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pp. 17-30

For some employers, having access to a vast pool of workers who have no recourse to legal protection must seem like a godsend, but it’s more like a pact with the devil. It’s unethical, as well as illegal; unfair to companies that would prefer to compete honestly; and unfair to American workers who deserve fair wages. Contractors, restaurants...

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Chapter 3: Strangers in a Strange Land

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pp. 31-40

What are they like, these newcomers who have come to live, illegally, among us? Those who make the journey across our southern borders generally fall into two groups. In the first group are young men who seek adventure, as well as the chance to send money to their families and save some up for themselves. For them ...

Part 2: “ Bienvenidos” in the Heartland

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Chapter 4: Living Here

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pp. 43-54

When labor contractor Maria Garc

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Chapter 5: Community Reaction

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pp. 55-72

While some states are looking for ways to reduce the numbers of those arriving illegally, at the same time virtually all of them have offices dedicated to dealing with the newcomers already here, as do many communities. In North Carolina, for example, its Children’s Services Division works to educate social workers about...

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Chapter 6: Law and Disorder

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pp. 73-84

Americans, says Gary Althen in his book American Ways, “believe firmly in what they call ‘the rule of law.’”1 But to which law do they refer? Federal, state, city? Immigration has added a new dimension to the usual conflicts. Enforcement of immigration laws has always been considered almost exclusively a federal prerogative...

Part 3: The Bigger Picture

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Chapter 7: Looking Back

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pp. 87-96

According to Carlos Martinez, who left Mexico ten years ago for a better life in the States, immigration is part of nature’s plan. “People are always looking for something better,” he says, beginning with the first humans to leave their African homeland. It is a good and natural thing, he thinks, because we can...

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Chapter 8: Mexico

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pp. 97-106

The Honorable Remedios G

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Chapter 9: Other Countries

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pp. 107-116

“Lisa Martinez” is one of many illegal immigrants who “reap few benefits,” and who face “low wages, long hours, grueling conditions and paying kickbacks. . . . It’s not unusual, for instance, for factory workers to flip-flop weeks between night and day shifts, or for employers to require workers to put in unpaid overtime....

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Chapter 10: The Good News

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pp. 117-128

Compared to other countries, the United States, through luck or skill, has been able to embrace its immigrant population with relatively few problems. “In general, Europe, which has never developed an immigration culture, seems to have been less successful than the United States at integrating foreigners and giving...

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pp. 129-134

Beginning with the first step of the journey, those who enter our country without the protection of the law are at risk, for first the travelers must face the dangers of the no-man’s-land at the border. Once arrived at their destination, illegal immigrants are vulnerable to abuse at work or at home, afraid to report crimes ...


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pp. 135-154


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pp. 155-178


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pp. 179-186

E-ISBN-13: 9781609171322
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870139970

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2011