SGER: A Nation Divided: Immigration and Citizenship on the Border
Donor: National Science Foundation, Cultural Anthropology, Small Grant for Exploratory Research (SGER)
Award Date: 9/11/2008
In July 2008 in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, the United States government began construction on a section of the projected seven hundred mile border fence. This monumental project, combined with the U.S. presidential election further focusing already heightened national attention on the hot-button issue of "illegal" immigration, makes this an historic moment and the Lower Rio Grande Valley (South Texas) a unique field site.
Anthropologists Miguel Diaz-Barriga and Margaret Dorsey, in their pre-investigative research, found a disconnect between local, Mexican American perspectives and national, policy-based perspectives on the twin issues of immigration and the construction of the border fence. The ethnographers plan to learn if this disconnect actually exists and if so, the extent to which it exists in addition to learning what Mexican Americans think about immigration policy, how they experience immigration, and the construction of the border fence.
The research will be conducted starting in September 2008 in Hidalgo County for five months (September 2008-January 2009). The ethnographers will employ three methodologies: participant observation at a variety of grassroots forums; in-depth interviews; and analysis of immigration and border fence-related media such as television programs, news articles, pamphlets, and radio commentary in both English and Spanish. The researchers will conduct ethnographic fieldwork at a range of gathering spots in Hidalgo County such as popular, locally-owned taquerias, veteran's halls, and Democratic and Republican Party sponsored events. The researchers will conduct more extensive interviews with a range of relevant people: current state senators and congress members, candidates, participants in the political parties, and activists in border wall coalitions, an amalgam of business leaders, local residents, border land owners, and environmentalists.
This project presents perspectives often missing in national and local debates over immigration--that of Mexican American border residents themselves. As such, it will also contribute to a more informed, nuanced, and multifaceted understanding of immigration and positively inform public policy.
Project End Date: 8/31/2009