Transnational Brazilians: class, race, immigration status and family life
Tracy, Natalicia Rocha
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation analyzes Brazilian immigrants in Boston, and their family and community adaptations as transnational migrants. The central research question was: what is the impact of national immigration policy on the dynamics of family and community life? The study calls for more attention to class, race, and immigration status as variables in shaping transnationalism and immigrant outcomes. The immigrant community is diverse, with significant divisions across class and immigration status, leading to quite different experiences for the undocumented working class and the mostly documented elite. Migrants’ prior class and racial standings define different migration pathways, access to visas, and once arrived, varying immigration statuses and manner of economic incorporation. Both populations are fully transnational, the majority engaging in everyday “transnationalism from below.” Brazilians import their prior beliefs and practices regarding race and class, and try to maintain them. The U.S. opportunity structure partially levels class differences, but immigrants of different class origins can have problems collaborating as equals, leading to considerable labor exploitation in the ethnic economy. Overall, Brazilians do not acknowledge race, or its link to class in Brazil, and see the U.S. as more racist. Racialized by Americans more on account of cultural differences than color, Brazilians perceive this as discrimination for being immigrants. Family life displays more egalitarian gender roles, companionate marriage, and nuclearization of family structure. Immigrants continue to maintain transnational family relations, involving remittances, sustaining social networks, and long-distance parenting. The majority of the community is undocumented, but have U.S.-born children and live in mixed-status families made insecure by the threat of detention and deportation. The desire of both the undocumented and elites to remain invisible encourages withdrawal from political engagement, the development of community unity and empowerment. The study is based upon a multiple methods research design, principally a social survey of 49 questions, administered through face-to-face interviews with a sample of 44 respondents in Boston, and another 44 in Lisbon, Portugal, where a limited companion study was completed for comparison. Methods also included collection of life stories, participant observation, and content analysis of popular culture in the immigrant community.