UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
Immigration is transforming the face of urban, suburban, and rural America. In places like Chicago, immigrants often spend little time in the city itself, and instead move directly to suburban communities. At the same time, efforts to reform immigration policy at the national level have largely stalled, leaving a void that is increasingly being filled by local and state entities. Even a cursory glance at the responses of communities and states to the question of immigrants and immigration policy reveals a great deal of variation: some communities enact policies that implicitly or explicitly target their new residents in hostile ways; and others remain either neutral or take steps to welcome their new neighbors. What explains these different reactions? And, more generally, how does local context shape and inform immigration policy attitudes and actions?
We have four specific aims: (1) To describe and compare the inter-group (micro-level) attitudes of residents in communities experiencing Latino immigration in different ways; (2) To describe and compare the social networks and voluntary associations/civic life (meso-level) of residents in communities experiencing immigration in different ways; (3) To describe and compare the political institutions (macro-level) in communities experiencing immigration in different ways. The fourth aim integrates the first three by (4) linking micro, meso and macro level data to tell a more complete story of individual and institutional intergroup relations. We accomplish these aims through innovative and multi-method data collection in four communities in the Chicago metropolitan area. We will collect four kinds of data: (1) an RDD telephone survey of residents; (2) an online/mail survey of voluntary associations to which these residents belong; (3) in-depth interviews and observations of local opinion leaders; and (4) archival records of the public debate and decisions about immigration-related policy. These data will be used to answer questions about individual level factors shaping immigration policy attitudes; the features of social networks and voluntary associations; the framing and decision making processes within local political institutions; and cross-cutting questions that seek to understand the collective construction of inter-group relations.
Several features of this project have implications beyond their contribution to the social scientific debate about intergroup relations and immigration. The project is an integral part of graduate training at the University of Illinois at Chicago, as it is part of the Chicago Area Study (CAS), which provides a two-semester practicum course in survey methods. The research team itself is diverse, and because of UIC’s diversity, the students who will be trained in the CAS and hired as RA’s will be diverse as well. In the past, the CAS courses have attracted significant numbers of students and research/teaching assistants from underrepresented groups. The topic of the study has broad implications for society more generally, as undoubtedly immigration will be at the top of the domestic agenda in the years to come. The project team plans wide dissemination of the findings to audiences inside and outside of academia, the latter in partnership with the Institute of Government and Public Affairs and the Latin American and Latino Studies Program. We plan a highly accessible book describing the local context of immigration on individuals and institutions. In addition, we will hold a conference that will target community leaders, urban planners, immigration grassroots organizations, and political officials. Several of the investigators on this project have a proven track record of providing engaged scholarship that extends the reach of academic studies beyond the halls of academia.