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1 Chapter One introduction Labor Migration, Community, and Family across Borders An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the­ personality. —Martin Luther King Jr. ([1963] 2003) On December 16, 2005, the House of Representatives passed House Resolution 4437, which threatened to further militarize the southern border and criminalize as felons undocumented immigrants and those assisting them in any way (Nevins 2002, 61–62, 68–69, 74, 78). Like Martin Luther King a generation ago, the Roman Catholic cardinal Roger Mahony instructed his priests to disobey HR 4437 if it became law, arguing that “denying aid to a fellow human being violates a higher authority than Congress—the law of God” (Fetzer 2006, 698). In 2007, competing interests in the US Congress continued to debate the content of a national immigration act and revealed the historical contradictions 2 The Xaripu Community across Borders of immigration policy, between capital and labor, economic structural­ demands and nativism, and the ideals of an open society and rigid border control (Calavita 1998; Carens 1998). In line with the historical trajectory of US immigration policymaking,1 any likely compromise-based immigration act—with its emphasis on border security, exploitable and disposable guest workers, and a burdensome path to legalization—would keep immigrants of color marginalized from the economic and social center of US society for generations to come (Calavita 1998, 98).2 This book illustrates the long-term consequences of national borders on both the sending and the receiving societies. It presents an extended case study of the Xaripu community originating from Michoacán, Mexi­ co, and elaborates how various forms of colonialism, institutional biases, and emergent forms of domination have shaped the community’s labor migration, community formation, and family experiences across the Mexi­ can and US border for over a century. The Xaripu people generally constitute a transnational community with home bases in both Xaripu, Michoacán, and Stockton, California, and reflect a high level of trans­ nationalism—that is, they feel at home in the two nations and maintain active and fluid social ties across borders. A total of fifty-six persons participated in the formal study on which this book is partly based: thirtyone in California and twenty-five in Michoacán (the concept of trans­ nationalism and the methodology for this extended case study are elaborated in chapter 2). Among the central questions guiding this book are the following: What historical events have shaped Xaripus’ migration experiences? How have Xaripus been incorporated into the US labor market? How have national inequalities affected their ability to form community across borders? And how have migration, settlement, and employment experiences affected the family, particularly gender relationships, on both sides of the border? People from the pueblo of Xaripu began coming to the United States at the turn of the twentieth century, but it took three generations of­ migrating before Xaripus began settling permanently in el norte (the United States). While US national policy had privileged Western European migration and settlement since the foundation of the United States (Ngai 2004; Bernard 1998), nonwhite colonial subjects were subordi­ nated in both the US society and labor markets through racist policies, Introduction 3 norms, and practices (Barrera 1979; Mirandé 1985; Glenn 2002).3 It was only after the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 ended racist quotas and allowed for family reunification that Xaripu migration changed from chiefly involving male laborers to entailing family migration and eventually settlement.This settlement produced a transnational experience for most Xaripus, though some are more active and comprehensively involved in the actual experience of crossing borders (e.g., communication, remittances, travel, social activities) than others. In the past three decades there has been much interest in the transnational migration experiences of various groups,4 including Dominicans (Grasmuck and Pessar 1991), Filipinas/os (Parreñas 2001a), Indians (George 2000; Kurien 2003), Puerto Ricans (Toro-Morn and Alicea 2003), Salvadorans (Menjívar 2000; Mahler 1995), and persons of Mexi­ can origin, who remain the most proximate and numerous immigrant population in the United States (Rouse 1992; Kearney and Nagengast 1989; Smith 2003; López 2007). While identifying the forces that dislocate migrants from their homelands and keep them from being fully incorporated into the receiving society (Espiritu 2003b; Parreñas 2001b), scholars often capture only...


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