Chasing Respectability: Pro-Immigrant Organizations and the Reinforcement of Immigrant Racialization

Hana Brown, Wake Forest University
Jennifer Jones, University of Illinois at Chicago

We investigate the role that pro-immigrant organizations play in immigrant racialization. Drawing on a critical case study from the longest standing immigrant rights organization in North Carolina, we demonstrate how immigrant rights organizations can racialize new Latinx arrivals even as they advocate for them. We interrogate the organization’s multi-year (2001-2014), state-wide campaign to counteract mounting public characterizations of Latinx immigrants as drunk drivers. Analyzing a critical juncture in this campaign, we demonstrate how El Pueblo, in their effort to contest the mainstream racialization of Latinxs, unintentionally doubled down on that same racialization, buying into respectability politics and reinforcing derogatory stereotypes of Latinxs. Further, we show how these tactics both built on and directly fueled anti-immigration politics in the state. These findings suggest the need to shift focus toward community organizations as key sites of immigrant racialization and highlight the need for inquiry into the racialized assumptions of pro-immigrant forces. Although social scientists have neglected respectability politics as a structuring force in racialization, we outline three central maneuvers that grounded this particular respectability politics campaign and demonstrate the utility of respectability politics as a framework for understanding organizational racialization processes.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 242. Immigration Federalism and Anti-Immigrant Politics in the States