By JULIO MORALES
Staff Writer, Copy Editor
10:05 PM AKST, February 2, 2013
During his recent remarks calling for immigration reform, President Obama repeatedly cited the effect such legislation would have on bolstering the ranks of the nation’s middle class.
Something of a similar effect could be seen in the years following the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, often referred to as former President Ronald Reagan’s amnesty law, said Jody Agius Vallejo, a University of Southern California assistant professor of sociology.
For many immigrants, being able to secure one’s legal status is “imperative” in order to attain social and economic mobility, she said. Such mobility also has significant implications for the future of the country.
“It’s difficult for (the American) people to see their future is tied to the future of this group as well,” Vallejo said.
Media depictions that suggest immigrants and their children drain public resources and coffers seem to be the norm. Yet such imagery presents a “very damaging stereotype” that is contrary to the reality, she said.
“A lot have achieved and overachieved,” Vallejo said, referring specifically those of the Mexican origin population.
Too often, members of this emerging group are presented as exceptions to the rule, she said.
In her 2012 book “Barrios to Burbs,” Vallejo chronicles the different pathways that Mexican Americans have travelled on their way to the middle class and the common experiences they may share.
What her research revealed is that assimilation into the middle class does not necessarily mean becoming white. And that assimilating as a minority can work to an individual’s advantage, rather than be viewed as a liability.
Obama’s recent remarks about and push for immigration reform can also be seen as an extension of this burgeoning middle class’ reach.
As more of the undocumented gain citizenship and legal status, gains in economic power follow. So does their potential to influence policy, which is visible today.
“Political and economic power go hand in hand,” said John Nieto-Phillips, a history and Latino studies professor at Indiana University.
He cites the recent Republican shift toward a “more humane” stance on immigration as a salient example.
“Neither party can take for granted the idea that Latinos are in their back pocket,” Phillips said.
Staff Writer, Copy Editor Julio Morales can be reached at 760-337-3415 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Median household income for county in 2007-2011 was $39,402, while for state it was $61,632, according to census.
Homeownership rate was 55.7 percent, state was 56.7 percent.
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