Working together: multicultural collaboration in the interfaith immigrant rights movement
Diaz-Edelman, Mia Desiree
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In 2006, millions of Immigrant Rights Movement (IRM) activists and allies stomped through the streets of cities throughout the United States. Attracting a diverse array of participants, the IRM includes immigrants and non-immigrants and people from varying religious and non-religious traditions. This dissertation focuses on the social cohesion as an element of the collective identity of this multicultural and multi-faith movement. Taking the IRM in San Diego County as a critical case, this study included data from forty-nine extensive formal interviews with movement participants in sixteen organizations, along with countless informal conversations during participant observation in over two hundred activist-organized events from April 2006 until August 2008. By focusing on movement narratives, frames, and patterns of interaction, this study finds that stories of change, a progressively inclusive moral framework, and what I call "multicultural activist etiquette" serve as unifying mechanisms in the IRM. In stories of change, we hear how activists articulated the right to migrate and advocate for worker rights through shared narratives of agitation and hope-generating stories of collective action. A shared sense of injustice and collectively focused movement goals are informed by a belief system about how the world ought to operate that is located at the ideological intersection between religious and non-religious. An inclusive and humanitarian moral framework provided the common ground upon which diverse activists organize, but this progressive moral framework was differently legitimated by the diverse religious and non-religious traditions of the activists. They agreed that all people are inherently equal, and everyone ought to care for one another, upholding an emphasis on marginalized immigrants. This over-arching moral framework moved beyond multicultural and multi-faith rhetoric and helped guide and affirm the way activists interacted in meeting spaces. Together, they constructed a code of collaboration, the multicultural activist etiquette, that facilitated equality within organizational processes, in an emotionally and physically secure meeting space, while focusing on productivity toward movement goals. Finally, this study recognizes immigrant activists as "rule-changers," agents of change collaborating to improve their own quality of life in the U.S. It thus offers an alternative to current perspectives on immigrant assimilation into American society.