SMU Profs Turn Fight Over Farmers Branch Apartment Ordinance Into Race Case Study

In the four years since Farmers Branch has been trying to get that ordinance barring illegal immigrants from renting apartments to stick, the suburb's racked up $3.4 million in legal fees. And so far, all it has to show for its efforts is, well, an enormous legal bill. But SMU anthropologists Caroline Brettell and Faith Nibbs did get a research paper out of the ordeal: "Immigrant Suburban Settlement and the 'Threat' to Middle Class Status and Identity: The Case of Farmers Branch, Texas," which has been accepted for publication in the journal International Migration.

SMU today published a recap of the research. In short:

Immigrants -- with cultures and traditions different from white suburbanites -- are viewed as an assault on long-standing symbols of American nationality, the researchers say. Those symbols include middle-class values and tastes, and the perception that Americans are patriotic and law-abiding, say the researchers, both in the SMU Department of Antrhopology.

"For many whites, American identity is wrapped up with being suburban and middle class, and when they see immigrants changing their communities and potentially threatening their class status, they react with anti-immigrant legislation," says Brettell.
Funny thing is, I just went to the SMU Web site to point out that Michael J. Fox is coming to town to speak at SMU as part of the Tate Lecture Series. Canadian.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky