Through a comparative framework that includes state policies of reception, the local labor market, the organization of the receiving community, and the migration history of the group in question, this paper analyses the effects of the receiving context on kinship-based networks among recent immigrants to California. Based on 80 intensive interviews among Salvadoreans, Vietnamese and Mexicans immigrants, this article seeks to explain the sustainability of kinship networks as well as their breakdown, which occurs at the place of destination. The article highlights the fruitfulness of comparing network outcomes across immigrant groups that face different contexts of reception.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
Access to Document
Other files and links
FingerprintDive into the research topics of 'Kinship Networks among Immigrants'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
TY - JOUR
T1 - Kinship Networks among Immigrants
AU - Menjivar, Cecilia
N1 - Funding Information: Menjivar Cecilia Department of Social and Cultural Studies, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720 09 1995 36 3-4 219 232 sagemeta-type Journal Article search-text 219 Kinship Networks Among ImmigrantsLessons From a Qualitative Comparative Approach SAGE Publications, Inc.1995DOI: 10.1177/002071529503600307 Cecilia Menjivar Department of Social and Cultural Studies, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720 ABSTRACT Through a comparative framework that includes state policies of reception, the local labor market, the organization of the receiving community, and the migration history of the group in question, this paper analyses the effects of the receiving context on kinship-based networks among recent immigrants to California. Based on 80 intensive interviews among Salvadoreans, Viet namese and Mexicans immigrants, this article seeks to explain the sustainability of kinship networks as well as their breakdown, which occurs at the place of destination. The article highlights the fruitfulness of comparing network outcomes across immigrant groups that face different contexts of reception. RESEARCHERS ARGUE THAT immigrants pool resources to help their kinfolk and that contacts with kin provide information that reduces the risks of migration (Litwak, 1960; Tilly and Brown, 1967; Choldin, 1973; Taylor, 1986; Massey et al., 1987). Presumably, the presence of relatives and friends at the place of destination lowers the costs, monetary as well as socio- phychological, of immigration. Supposedly, immigrants pool resources to help their kinfolk. Few researchers have questioned the consequences of the reliance of immigrants on social networks during resettlement (Tilly and Brown, 1967; Kritz and Gurak, 1984). The debate, however, has centered around the positive or negative effects of networks on immigrant adaptation, without considering circumstances under which the role of networks has been mitigated, overridden, or even reversed by factors in the receiving context. The underlying assumption that networks always provide a haven of support for immigrants has been left unquestioned. In this study I will examine the dynamics of kinship-based social networks during resettlement of recent Salvadorean migrants to San Francisco. These immigrants invariably obtained substantial assistance from their relatives in 112220 the U.S. in order to make the journey north. But whereas in many instances these social relations continued to provide support for these newcomers upon arrival, in as many cases these social relations became conflictive and even broke down. Therefore, instead of lending support to the assumption that kinship-based networks are invariably sources of assistance to the newcomers, I analyze a more complex situation which contains instances of kinship support, but concomitantly illustrates cases where networks fail to provide the expected assistance to the newcomers. Undoubtedly, social networks are shaped by the interplay of specific characteristics of the group in question and broader forces in the receiving context. However, the analysis will demonstrate how immigrant networks are affected by forces in the context of reception-larger processes in the politico-economic arena-as well as community-level factors. Comparative Strategy: Salvadoreans, Vietnamese, and Mexican In order to be able to substantiate the above assertion for the Salvadorean case, I will compare the organization of Salvadorean kinship-based networks with those among recently-arrived Vietnamese and Mexican migrants, whose kinship-based networks do not tend to break down upon arrival to the extent that they do among Salvadoreans. The cases of Salvadoreans, Vietnamese, and Mexicans may seem too different to warrant meaningful comparison, but on close inspection, Salvadoreans parallel the other two groups in ways that motivate comparative analysis. An important common denominator is that Salvadorans, Vietnamese, and Mexicans rely heavily on their social networks in the U.S. to be able to make their U.S.-bound journey. But whereas among Vietnamese and Mexicans these networks continue to be viable sources of support upon arrival, such is not the case for Salvadoreans, for whom these networks weaken during resettlement. This point suggests that the context of arrival may contribute to the change experienced by Salvadoreans. Thus, I will compare the structure of opportunity in the receiving context for Salvadoreans to that experienced by Vietnamese and Mexican. Three major interrelated forces shape the structure of opportunity for these immigrants upon arrival. These include the state's reception to migrants, which alleviates problems that range from psychological traumas to crowded housing; local labor market opportunities; and the receiving community, which includes the history of the particular migration flow and the internal dynamics of the migrant group. Vietnamese have access to state assistance upon arrival which helps them cope economically and reinforces community ties, which sustains the already strong kinship ties among Vietnamese. Mexicans do not have such formal assistance, but their long migration history to the U.S. has created informal ties through which migrants have access to resources, such as labor market opportunities, thus creating propitious conditions for them to muster benefits based on kinship. In contrast to these two groups, Salvadoreans do not have state support and a significant number of them are undocumented, and due to a relatively short immigration history to the U.S., mature informal ties, 113221 as in the Mexican case, have not yet developed. This constellation of factors leaves Salvadoreans without any buffer against a stagnant economy, where resources within families become quickly drained. This situation undermines the reciprocity upon which networks are based, and these social relations weaken. Data and Methodology The major sources of data for this study come from intensive interviews with migrants conducted from early 1990 to 1992, complemented with ethnographic observations, informal conversations with the subjects, and with interviews with social service providers and community leaders. A total of 80 respondents-20 Vietnamese, 20 Mexicans, and 40 Salvadoreans-were selected from the same types of pools, in order to ensure comparability. From the outset of the study, certain restrictions were placed on who might qualify as respondents to avoid obvious, major sources of variation. Participants in all three groups had to have recently arrived, that is, been in the U.S. for not more than five years, and they had to be over 18 years of age at the time they left their countries. Respondents were contacted through centers with varied clientele. Almost one-half of the subjects from all three groups were contacted at language schools, but in order to avoid as much selectivity bias as possible, subjects were also contacted through social service organizations in the groups' communities, such as mutual assistance and voluntary agencies. I conducted all the interviews with Salvadoreans, and interviews with Vietnamese and Salvadoreans were conducted through a larger study on immigrant households I (of which the Salvadorean case was a part) by trained interviewers. The interviews contained the exact same questions for all three groups, again to insure comparability. The Salvadorean group had an average educational level of 9.4 years, a mean age of 30.7 years, and 54 percent were male. In El Salvador, they worked as teachers, soldiers, laborers, small business owners, nurses, factory workers, electricians; there were students, a street vendor, a housekeeper, and a university professor. Two thirds of the group came from large cities in El Salvador, and more than half indicated that they had some knowledge of English before coming to the U.S. Slightly fewer than half (18) of the people included in this study were single; of the remainder, ten were in consensual unions, nine were married, two were widows, and one was divorced. The Vietnamese group had a mean age of 26.6 years, an average educational level of 9.6 years, and 53 percent were males. In Vietnam, these respondents worked as teachers, students, merchants, homemakers, and fishermen; one had been a street vendor, and one a black market dealer. Three-fourths indicated that they came from large cities in Vietnam, and a few indicated that they had at least some knowledge of English prior to their arrival, learned in refugee camps in the Philippines. Eleven were married, eight were single, and one received her divorce upon her arrival in the U.S. The Mexicans had an 114222 average level of education of 9.0 years, a mean age of 28.5 years, and 55 percent were males. This group included people who in Mexico labored as agriculturalists, store clerks, engineers, students, a secretary, a book-keeper, and a garment factory subcontractor. A little over half came from large cities in Mexico and half had some knowledge of English prior to coming to the U.S.; one spoke English fluently. Ten of the respondents were married, eight were single, one was a widow, and one was divorced. As the above profiles indicate, the three groups were comparable with respect to their socio-demographic backgrounds. But as we will see, the three differed significantly in their immigrant experiences that are the central foci of this study. Kinship-based Social Networks The Salvadorean Case In the case of all Salvadorean respondents, their families and relatives in the U.S. had provided them with critical assistance to come to the United States, such as loans and vital information for their journeys north. However, as mentioned before, assistance from relatives declined quite radically upon their arrival in the U.S. The respondents were about equally divided between those for whom kinship networks were a heaven of support and those for whom these networks provided little, if any assistance. Approximately half said that they lived at the relative's house while they learned English, and were not expected to contribute monetarily until they began to earn a salary. For instance, Ileana and Sofia are sisters who came to live with an older sister and a brother. Only the older sister had a job, and the three younger siblings took care of the household. The sisters told me that they feel they have to care for one another because they are a family, and they have only each other to rely on. Ileana stressed the importance of relying on her family for help, telling me that she "... would not like to have someone from the outside taking care of what is supposed to be a family affair. If it stays within the family, it's no problem." All respondents who had received material assistance from relatives stressed that the relatives had been financially capable of helping them. They said that even though everyone is having a hard time economically, their relatives had reasonably stable jobs, earning at least minimum wage. As exemplified in the preceding anecdotes, almost one half of the subjects received help from their kinfolk; still, the other half of the 40 respondents did not receive such support.. Given their relatives' early involvement in their migration-providing them with material and emotional support for their journeys-they had expected their relatives to help them upon arrival as well. These respondents described tense, troubled relations that often interfered with obtaining help from relatives. They told me stories of family conflict that ranged from disagreements and minor daily disputes to relatives throwing them out of the house, taking away their wages, and even of family members threatening them with the most dangerous weapon: reporting them to the 115223 Immigration and Naturalization Service. I do not imply that conflict is absent among other migrant families: Rouse (1989), and Grasmuck and Pessar ( 1991 ) have observed family conflict with regards to decision-making and the actual immigration process among Mexicans and Dominicans, respectively. However, the frequency, magnitude, and the consequence for kinship-based networks among Salvadorean families is significant and thus needs to be examined closely. In some instances, familial strife went beyond arguments and ended with severed ties between the newcomers and their relatives. For instances, Paula came to the United States with her youngest son at the urging of her sisters and brothers who live here. Her siblings made all the arrangements including paying for the journey. Initially, she lived with her brother, but this ended when he asked her to leave his house; he told her that he was tired of supporting her. She then went to live with her sister, but this sister became upset with Paula for not being able to find a job quickly. Paula was next forced to move in with her third brother, who also threw her out of his house for similar financial reasons. This time Paula and her three-year-old son spent two nights sleeping in the stairwell of the apartment building where her brother lived, but her brother seemed oblivious to her situation. A tenant informed Paula about a refugee organization that runs a small shelter, which is where I contacted her. While she lived at the shelter Paula maintained contact with only one of her siblings. Such tense relations leave many Salvadoreans without the immediate source of assistance that they expect from relatives. The consequence is poverty and marginalization for those who cannot count on their relatives for help in moments of financial need, and who lack the legal status to turn to official channels for support. Initially, Salvadorean newcomers had expectations of support from relatives as a result of the latter's involvement in the early stages of the migration process, yet when they arrived in San Francisco, people found that this support was very difficult to obtain. The disappointment for those already in the United States comes when the newly-arrived person cannot procure a job or repay a loan and becomes a further drain on the already strained family resources. Impoverished migrants, as individuals or as a group, are simply unable to render much needed material assistance in the form of financial support and housing to their newcomer relatives. The Vietnamese Case According to the ethnographic observations in this study, in the great majority of cases the new arrival initially lives with a close family member or a distant relative; only in rare instances does the person share housing with a friend. Crowded housing conditions among Vietnamese are somewhat alleviated because they qualify for government-subsidized housing. In some cases family members contribute money to a common pool in order to purchase a larger house so that several people can live in it. But regardless of whether or not family members live under the same roof, among those interviewed for this 116224 study, kinship-based networks are seldom eroded. It is therefore safe to say that these Vietnamese could count on family members for very solid support. According to Smith et al. (1991) Vietnamese from the second wave-those who left Vietnam from 1979 onward-tend to rely even more on their families since they do not easily make use of community organizations created by first-wave Vietnamese-those who left Vietnam immediately after the Communist takeover in 1975. They rely heavily on family, not only for information about everyday life situations, but also for social and emotional support. Some Vietnamese speak with pride about their family relations, which reinforces expressions of cultural practices that they strive to maintain. One male informant said that "for us [Vietnamese] the family is everything; we are able to solve our problems because we have such a strong family." Although the family is central among Vietnamese migrants, it is not devoid of problems. Past research indicates that the family furnishes a significant amount of emotional and practical support (Haines et al., 1981 ) and it remains an indestructible value that survives time and change (Hanh, 1979). More recently, however, Kibria (1993) points out that generational as well as gender relations among Vietnamese change with migration, and through work, women gain more power in relation to their husbands, which disrupts traditional gender dynamics among them. However, in spite of these differences between parents and children or among couples, the family remains a vital source of support, financial and otherwise, throughout the migration process, from departure to arrival, and thereafter. Significantly, in contrast to the situation among Salvadoreans, conflict and disagreements among Vietnamese family members do not interfere with the sharing of resources within kinship-based networks. The tensions described here, however, suggest that families, as well as "household units" should not be assumed to be entirely devoid of conflict, even among groups with fairly cohesive family ties. The Mexican Case As in the Vietnamese case, kinship-based networks provide Mexican immigrants with substantial support upon arrival in the U.S. Mexicans usually come to live with a close relative or distant kin. For instance, it was not uncommon among the respondents in this study to mention a cousin, an uncle, an aunt, a brother-in-law or a sister-in-law as the person who has given them a place to stay, has lent them money when they did not have a job, whom they can contact in an emergency, or with whom they can talk if they feel lonely. Frequently, kin terms were extended to friends from their hometown, with whom the immigrants shared whatever resources were available. Usually, one or more relatives, male or female, shared an apartment with a family. Friends from the same region or hometown could be temporary lodgers as well, and all members were expected to, and most did, contribute financially to the household when the family lacked enough resources. Also, women relied heavily on relatives for 117225 baby-sitting, which prompted some families to bring a dependent female rela- tive-a niece, a younger sister, an unemployed female cousin, an aging aunt, a mother or a grandmother-from Mexico to help with this task. In addition, ties established through compadra,~,~o2-coparenthood-expand considerably the group upon whom Mexicans can rely for assistance. Several people mentioned a comadre or a compadre as a source of information about English classes, community services, jobs, transportation or health care. For instance, Maria said that her godparents helped her with everything at the beginning, and when she and her husband wanted to rent an apartment on their own, her godparents quickly recommended her to their manager so that she could remain close to them. Godparents or compadres frequently provided material assistance, such as loans or temporary housing. Interviews conducted in Sacramento reveal that despite their small incomes, Mexicans felt a sense of social obligation to share food and shelter with a relative, a compadre, or in some instances, with a friend from home. The financial burden this may represent was alleviated in many instances by the contributions of working members in the family, and by the intermittent stays of those who were only temporarily in the country. In some instances, a difference in expectations about contributions to the household and the actual contribution of some members led to disagreements, but these conflicts seldom escalated to the same proportions as similar conflicts often did among Salvadoreans. In summary, although Mexican family members may have disagreements or disputes over decisions, their families represent the most important source of support from the time they leave Mexico to their arrival in the United States, and after. Once in the United States, like most Vietnamese but unlike many Salvadoreans, relatives continue to provide support. Vietnamese, and to certain extent, Mexican kinship-based networks of assistance appear more enduring than the Salvadorean.3 3 State, Economy, and Local Reception . The Salvadorean Case State. The linkage between the categorization of migrants as either political or economic migrants and foreign policy interests has been widely discussed elsewhere (See Zolberg et al., 1989 for a thorough examination). Essentially, when the sending and the receiving countries maintain hostile relations, the receiving government will stamp immigrants as political refugees; conversely, when these countries have close relations, the immigrants will be labeled economic migrants, regardless of their plight. From the outset of the Salvadorean conflict in the 1980s, the U.S. government defined it as another case of the Soviet/Cuban expansionism that needed to be contained. The United States' aid package to El Salvador amounted to over $ 3.5 billion in the 1980s. Against this background, it would have been antithetical to U.S. foreign policy in El Salvador to accept Salvadoreans as refugees. The Salvadorean population 118226 in the U.S. increased from 94,447 to 565,081 from 1980 to 1990 (U.S. Census Bureau, 1993, 1980). However, in line with U.S. foreign policy and national interests, Salvadoreans were consistently categorized by the Immigration and Naturalization Service as "economic" migrants. Once on U.S. soil Salvadoreans could apply for political asylum, an almost meaningless process, for only two to four percent of Salvadoreans were granted asylum (National Asylum Study Project, 1992). Furthermore, the majority of Salvadoreans in the U.S. were not eligible for legalization under the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) because most arrived in the U.S. after 1982. During the time I was considering fieldwork, Salvadoreans who entered the U.S. prior to September 19, 1990 were granted Temporary Protected Status. This program allows Salvadoreans to live and work in the U.S. for a period of 18 months, during which the Salvadorean conflict was to be resolved. This program has been extended twice, and as of this writing, its current expiration is December 1995. Economy. Although migrants have always entered the lower rungs of the economy, the recent crisis and resulting contractions in the economy have severely constrained the possibilities for employment and mobility. The nationwide recession that began in the late 1980s has given way to a period of slow economic growth, with a cycle of economic downturn overlaid on longer-term structural changes that have been in place since the 1970s. This latest recessionary cycle has affected every sector of the economy, particularly the booming, albeit polarized service sector in San Francisco, which had been the main source of immigrant employment. All of the Salvadoreans who were employed at the time I interviewed them (32 out of 40), held low-paying jobs in the service sector, the vast majority (29) working without documents. Regardless of differences in educational level or age, the men were concentrated in restaurants- mostly as busboys or dishwashers-and in construction jobs, whereas the women held jobs, as housekeepers, and/or baby-sitters.4 A few of the men (4) worked as day laborers, mostly in construction or gardening. Of those who were employed, the majority (26) had temporary or part-time jobs, often both. Community Reception. In an effort to fill the vacuum of official services designed to ease the transition to a new and alien environment, beginning in the first half of the 1980s, North Americans joined efforts with recently arrived Central Americans to set up community organizations. These community organizations provide a range of services, from legal defense to shelters and other emergency services. But these community organizations rely on private donations, and consequently, their budgets are tight. Assistance to newcomers through community organizations helps alleviate the added burden of taking a new member into a poor household by providing help with housing costs, and through food and clothing donations, which eases what otherwise could become tense and explosive relations. In addition, church groups provide shelters, which represent invaluable alternatives when a situation at home becomes unbearable. Recently, these organizations have suffered extreme budget cuts, drastically curtailing their efforts to provide service. 119227 The Vietnamese Case State. Due to the U.S. involvement in the Vietnamese conflict, the fall of Saigon in 1975 represented a crisis for the U.S. As a result, government support to the Vietnamese coming to the U.S. was broad, reflecting the concerns of those who regarded the refugees as part of the United States' legacy of guilt. The President offered public support for the resettlement program; the Senate and House approved a $ 455 million aid bill for refugee resettlement, vocational training, medical care, language instruction, and other social services (Reimers, 1985; Loescher and Scalan, 1986). The early short-term U.S. rescue operation was converted into a long-term commitment from 1978 onwards due to the unfolding of the "boat people's" story of human tragedy and suffering. In an effort to rescue the boat people, the U.S. instituted the Orderly Departure Program, through which Vietnamese could bring immediate or distant relatives to the United States. Thus, in principle, all Vietnamese, including all the respondents in this study, are in the country legally, whether they entered as refugees or through the sponsorship program. Once in the United States, Vietnamese qualified for social, economic, and medical assistance programs provided for them by the Federal government and in some instances, by the state and local governments as well. I Economy. Less educated than their first-wave counterparts and faced with a grim economy, second-wave Vietnamese (who entered the U.S. from 1980 onward) take the same low-paid, unstable jobs that Salvadoreans do, if they can find jobs at all. But when a recessionary cycle reduces the changes for Vietnamese to enter the labor force, they have access to state benefits. The majority of the Vietnamese in this study (16 out of 20) were on welfare, AFDC, and four were also receiving financial aid to attend school. Five were not eligible for government aid when they arrived in the U.S. because they had a sponsor who received them. However, they were still eligible for government loans until they found employment. Those in school planned to learn English and a vocational trade, or finish a college degree. Of the Vietnamese included in this study, only four were formally employed. Of these, one was an aid in a printing company, one a manicurist, and two were office clerks. Enrolling in language schools or job-training programs, relying on public assistance, and engaging in the "infor- mal" economy are some of the mechanisms Vietnamese employ in order to confront an economy that no longer has many open places to accommodate them.5 These options were not readily available for Salvadoreans, also who left a country besieged by a civil war. Communiry Reception. Even though Vietnamese communities did not exist in the U.S. prior to the events of 1975, these proliferated as refugees arrived in the late 1970s and 1980s, particularly as these organizations served as channels of government aid to the refugees. The State Department-funded Voluntary Agencies-or VOLAGS-are responsible for resettling Vietnamese who do not enter under the family reunification category. The great majority of these voluntary agencies are now being run by first-wave Vietnamese. Government- 120228 funded Mutual Assistance Agencies-or MAAs-deal with resettlement issues, such as housing, job-placement, information about eligibility for Medi-Cal and language training, and other forms of government aid. First-wave Vietnamese have been actively involved in providing services, often lobbying for their fellow countrypeople before the U.S. government. Although second-wave Vietnamese do not necessarily make use of all the services the first wave have created, they contact these organizations regularly, because these organizations channel important information and government benefits.6 Again, government funds to set up these organizations were not available for Salvadoreans, who lacked official recognition as refugees and thus assistance for resettlement. The -Nfexican Case State. Mexican migrants do not have access to any organized form of government support upon arrival in the United States, for according to the U.S. government, Mexicans are economic migrants. With the exception of the events in Chiapas in January 1994, in recent decades there have been no overt political upheavals, no civil wars, and no threats of a "Communist invasion" in Mexico. Therefore those Mexicans who cross over to the United States are not perceived as deserving formal aid for their resettlement. Under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 19$6-iRCA, Mexicans who arrived in the United States without documents prior to 1982 qualified for amnesty and had an opportunity to regularize their status. However, those included in this study arrived in the United States only within the past five years, from 1985 onward, and therefore did not qualify for amnesty. Some were able to start the process of regularizing their status because a relative petitioned for them, and in the process, they obtained a work permit. But the majority of those in this study were outside the protection of the law, or undocumented. Economy. The Mexican group was interviewed in Sacramento, a city which in spite of a recessionary economic cycle offers certain employment advantages for Mexicans. Mexican men in Sacramento have access to jobs in canneries and factories located in the outskirts. Sacramento's geographical location offers opportunities for employment in both an urban and a rural region. But what connects immigrants to job opportunities is the Mexican immigrants' well-developed web of informal networks. Mexicans have a long history of large-scale U.S.-bound migration that spans several decades. This enduring history has created and sustained an effective web of informal ties through which they access labour opportunities, particularly in rural California. All the Mexican men included in this study were working at the time of the interview-part-time as often as full-time-though only in a few cases did they consider their jobs stable. They were working mostly in gardening, construction, as dishwashers in restaurants, in canneries, packing factories, and a couple were working in nearby tomato fields. And like Salvadorean women, Mexican women work as housekeepers, baby-sitters, and janitors. In contrast to Salvadorean women, who were all in the labor market, two of the Mexican women were not working 121229 for wages and were not planning to be employed; they defined themselves as "housewives." As in the case of men, Mexican women in Sacramento also have access to agricultural employment, or other non-urban forms of employment. Community Reception. There are few community organizations providing assistance to Mexican migrants in the Sacramento area. Because Mexican migration has a much longer history than either Central American or Vietnamese, and because Mexicans have not fled war-ravaged regions, there has not been an emergency-type community effort to assist them. Moreover, as in the case of the Vietnamese, some of the community organizations set up to assist Mexicans are run by established Mexican Americans, with whom the newcomers have very little in common. It is therefore no surprise that Mexican newcomers tend not to utilize the services provided by these organizations. And as I mentioned earlier, through their long history of U.S.-bound migration, Mexicans have created a well-developed web of informal ties which not only sustains this migration, but is crucial for the migrants upon arrival. These informal ties have matured over decades of large-scale migration, and,through them newcomers obtain vital support in the U.S. The majority of Mexican interviewees mentioned a friend or relative as the person who either took them to, recommended them, or informed them about a job. These channels are not formalized agencies, but develop as a result of informal contacts over a long period and geographical or socio-economic proximity. Summary and Concluding Remarks The factors that are present among Vietnamese and Mexicans-state support and a web of mature informal networks-are not present in the Salvadorean case. This combination of factors places considerable strains on kinship networks: Salvadoreans arrived only to share poverty with those from whom they had expected assistance. As the newcomers tried to rely on their kinfolk for help, their relatives' resources became inadequate to accommodate additional family members in the face of worsening economic times. Newcomers had based their expectations regarding labor market opportunities on the experience of their earlier counterparts, but the newcomers' inability to procure jobs soon after they arrived often created problems. The newcomers could not earn money to start supporting themselves quickly after they arrived, while relatives already in the U.S. not only had to support the newcomers, but could not even get back the money they had lent the person to make the journey north. These circumstances were often the basis for hostile and potentially explosive situations within families. By cutting off the flow of material assistance and hindering the sharing of in-kind services, this situation effectively debased the viability of a network because it undermined the reciprocity upon which kinship support networks are sustained. These comparisons suggest that forces in the receiving context affect the internal dynamics of immigrant kinship networks. For the Salvadoreans, such factors as the absence of a state reception, an economy in crisis, a short history of large-scale migration, and a 122230 community that in general is poor and politically weak have created a "worst- case scenario" for solid kinship-based networks to prosper. A condition of extreme poverty and marginalization precludes the steady exchange of resources which lies at the core of social networks. In this study I sought to illustrate that social networks are not automatically reproduced in an immigrant group. They are only sustained if the material and physical conditions in the new society permit. This study thus cautions against overestimating the capacity of immigrant social networks; these need to be analyzed as dependent on the context where they develop. Additionally, this analysis may be worth recounting in terms of policy implications. Immigration and immigrant policy are often based on the assumption that immigrants may rely on kinship and friendship networks without fail. The insight that this assumption is not independent of forces in the context of reception may serve to illuminate policy. NOTES 1 This larger study was conducted among five groups of immigrants in Northern California— Vietnamese, Mexicans, Salvadoreans, Chinese, and Iu Mien—in order to investigate the survival strategies of immigrant households. It was financed by the California Policy Seminar, Michael P. Smith was the Principal Investigator and Bernadette Tarallo was the Project Director, both from the University of California at Davis. 2 Compadrazgo, a social institution in hispanicized countries, has roots in the Catholic sacra ments of baptism, confirmation, marriage, and sometimes communion. It establishes close socio-religious relationships between a child, the parents, and the compadres, and it is assumed that if anything happens to the parents, the padrinos (godparents) will take the place of the parents. The strength of this institution varies from country to country (Montes, 1987). 3 Some family members pay the price for the "strength" of this patriarchal institution, partic ularly for women and children. Family relations in the Salvadorean case may seem "looser," but for women and the young this situation somehow allows more freedom to move and rid themselves of intolerable conditions. 4 There were more women employed than there were men in this sample. This may be due to gender ideologies and the resultant sexual division of labor. Unlike women, men are not employed in "domestic" jobs, so they must work for an employer who runs the risk of sanctions by the INS. Women's work is performed in the house, and it is contracted under more "informal terms" and thus, their employers do not have to report to the INS if they do not wish to. 5 Gold and Kibria (1989) also reach the same conclusion regarding the blocked opportunities Vietnamese face. 6 According to Smith et al. (1991) differences in region or origin, class background, economic status, and ethnicity between the first and second waves—with the second wave coming from lower socio-economic backgrounds and many of them from rural origins, may account for less community involvement by the second wave. REFERENCES Choldin, Harvey 1973 "Kinship Networks in the Migration Process." International Migration Review 7(2): 163-175. Gold, Steven J. and Nazli Kibria 1989 "Vietnamese Refugees and Mobility: Model Minority or New Underclass?" Paper presented at the American Sociological Association Meetings, San Francisco, CA, August. 123231 Grasmuck, Sherri and Patricia R. Pessar 1991 Between Two Islands: Dominican International Migration. Berkeley: University of California Press. Haines, David, Dorothy Rutherford, and Patrick Thomas 1981 "Family and Community Among Vietnamese Refugees." International Migration Review 15(1-2): 310-319. Hanh, Phing Thi 1979 "The Family in Vietnam and Its Social Life." In An Introduction to Indochinese History, Culture, Language, and Life. John K. Whitmore, (ed.) pp. 77-84. Ann Arbor, MI: Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies. The University of Michigan. Kibria, Nazli 1993 Family Tightrope: The Changing Lives of Vietnamese Americans . Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Kritz, Mary and Douglas T. Gurak 1984 "Kinship Assistance in the Settlement Process: Dominican and Colombian Cases." Paper presented at the annual Meetings of the Population Association of America , Minneapolis, Minnesota, May. Litwak, Eugene 1960 "Geographical Mobility and Extended Family Cohesion." American Sociological Review 25: 385-394. Loescher, Gill and John A. Scalan 1986 Calculated Kindness: Refugees and America's Half-Open Door, 1945 to the Present. New York: Free Press. Massey, Douglas, Rafael Alarcon, Jorge Durand, and Humberto Gonzalez 1987 Return to Aztlan: The Social Process of International Migration From Western Mexico. Berkeley: University of California Press. Montes, Segundo 1987 El compadrazgo: una estructura de poder en El Salvador . San Salvador: UCA Editores. National Asylum Study Project 1992 An Interim Assesment of the Asylum Process of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. An Immigration and Refugee Program, Program of the Legal Profession, Harvard Law School. Reimers, David M. 1985 Still the Golden Door: The Third World Comes to America . New York: Columbia University Press. Rouse, Roger 1989 "Migration and the Politics of Family Life: Divergent Projects and Rhetorical Strategies in a Mexican Transnational Migrant Community." Ann Arbor, MI. (Unpublished manuscript). Smith, Michael P., Bernadette Tarallo, and George Kagiwada 1991 "From Model Minority to Nomadic Gangsters: Representations and Cultural Misunderstandings of Vietnamese Refugees ." Paper presented at the Asian American Studies Annual Conference, Honolulu, HW, May. Taylor, Edward 1986 "Differential Migration, Networks, Information, and Risk." In Research in Human Capital and Development, Vol. 4: Migration, Human Capital, and Development. Oded Stark, (ed.) pp. 147-171 Greenwich, CT:JAI Press. Tilly, Charles and Harold Brown 1967 "On Uprooting, Kinship, and the Auspices of Migration," Interational Journal of Comparative Sociology (8): 139-164. United States Bureau of the Census 1993 Census of Population and Housing, 1990. Summary Tape File 4 (California) [machine readable data files]/preparated by the Bureau of the Census. Washington: The Bureau of the Census. 124232 Zolberg, Aristide, Astri Surhke, and Sergio Aguayo 1989 Escape from Violence: Conflict and the Refugee Crisis in the Developing World. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1 This larger study was conducted among five groups of immigrants in Northern California— Vietnamese, Mexicans, Salvadoreans, Chinese, and Iu Mien—in order to investigate the survival strategies of immigrant households. It was financed by the California Policy Seminar, Michael P. Smith was the Principal Investigator and Bernadette Tarallo was the Project Director, both from the University of California at Davis. 2 Compadrazgo, a social institution in hispanicized countries, has roots in the Catholic sacra ments of baptism, confirmation, marriage, and sometimes communion. It establishes close socio-religious relationships between a child, the parents, and the compadres, and it is assumed that if anything happens to the parents, the padrinos (godparents) will take the place of the parents. The strength of this institution varies from country to country (Montes, 1987). 3 Some family members pay the price for the "strength" of this patriarchal institution, partic ularly for women and children. Family relations in the Salvadorean case may seem "looser," but for women and the young this situation somehow allows more freedom to move and rid themselves of intolerable conditions. 4 There were more women employed than there were men in this sample. This may be due to gender ideologies and the resultant sexual division of labor. Unlike women, men are not employed in "domestic" jobs, so they must work for an employer who runs the risk of sanctions by the INS. Women's work is performed in the house, and it is contracted under more "informal terms" and thus, their employers do not have to report to the INS if they do not wish to. 5 Gold and Kibria (1989) also reach the same conclusion regarding the blocked opportunities Vietnamese face. 6 According to Smith et al. (1991) differences in region or origin, class background, economic status, and ethnicity between the first and second waves—with the second wave coming from lower socio-economic backgrounds and many of them from rural origins, may account for less community involvement by the second wave.
PY - 1995
Y1 - 1995
N2 - Through a comparative framework that includes state policies of reception, the local labor market, the organization of the receiving community, and the migration history of the group in question, this paper analyses the effects of the receiving context on kinship-based networks among recent immigrants to California. Based on 80 intensive interviews among Salvadoreans, Vietnamese and Mexicans immigrants, this article seeks to explain the sustainability of kinship networks as well as their breakdown, which occurs at the place of destination. The article highlights the fruitfulness of comparing network outcomes across immigrant groups that face different contexts of reception.
AB - Through a comparative framework that includes state policies of reception, the local labor market, the organization of the receiving community, and the migration history of the group in question, this paper analyses the effects of the receiving context on kinship-based networks among recent immigrants to California. Based on 80 intensive interviews among Salvadoreans, Vietnamese and Mexicans immigrants, this article seeks to explain the sustainability of kinship networks as well as their breakdown, which occurs at the place of destination. The article highlights the fruitfulness of comparing network outcomes across immigrant groups that face different contexts of reception.
UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=0029529349&partnerID=8YFLogxK
UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=0029529349&partnerID=8YFLogxK
U2 - 10.1163/002071595X00074
DO - 10.1163/002071595X00074
M3 - Article
AN - SCOPUS:0029529349
VL - 36
SP - 219
EP - 232
JO - International Journal of Comparative Sociology
JF - International Journal of Comparative Sociology
SN - 0020-7152
IS - 3-4