Nebraska Mosaic: Nebraska — A Gateway For Immigrants

Journalist Haley Dover reported on a lecture about immigration delivered Feb. 16 by SMU anthropologist Caroline Brettell at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center.

Nebraska Mosaic (nemosaic.org) is a project of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications. It’s staffed by a class of undergraduate and graduate students.

Brettell, a University Distinguished Professor, is an internationally recognized immigration expert. She recently reported the results of her latest research with co-author Deborah Reed-Danahay in their book, “Civic Engagements: The Citizenship Practices of Indian & Vietnamese Immigrants” (Stanford University Press, 2012).

They found through their research of American Indians and Vietnamese Americans in North Texas that immigrants from India and Vietnam develop and embrace their American identity over time — without shedding their culture of origin, as some say they should.

The research found that, for these groups, becoming a U.S. citizen is distinctly different from becoming American. For new Vietnamese and Indian immigrants, whether naturalized citizens or not, American identity deepens as they participate in activities, festivals and banquets at their churches, schools, temples, business and civic associations, and their social and cultural organizations, say Brettell and Reed-Danahay.

From their research, Brettell and Reed-Danahay conclude that policymakers should be cautious with any attempts to integrate, assimilate or incorporate immigrants. They recommend against imposing top-down standards on how citizenship should be expressed — such as requiring full English proficiency or focusing exclusively on formal political participation.

Read Mosaic’s coverage.

EXCERPT:

By Haley Dover
A reasonable cost of living and jobs in agriculture, manufacturing and meatpacking contribute to Nebraska becoming a gateway into America for the growing foreign-born population, an immigration expert said Thursday.

Caroline Brettell, an anthropology professor at Southern Methodist University who has studied global immigration patterns, said the growing foreign-born population in Nebraska is part of a national trend of immigrants seeking new destinations.

In a lecture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center, Brettell noted that 44.4 percent of Nebraska’s foreign-born residents have moved to the state since 2000. In Lincoln alone, 7.4 percent of the population is foreign-born. Nationally 12 percent of the population is foreign born.

Cities like Boston, Atlanta and Phoenix increasingly have become popular destinations for immigrants, she said, but traditional gateways like New York City, Chicago and Miami remain popular, too.

“Continuous gateways have always attracted more than their fair share of immigrants,” Brettell said. “Immigrants are still going to those traditional cities.”

Read Mosaic’s coverage.

SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information see www.smu.edu.

SMU has an uplink facility located on campus for live TV, radio, or online interviews. To speak with an SMU expert or book an SMU guest in the studio, call SMU News & Communications at 214-768-7650.

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