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STRANGERS AMONG US by Roberto Suro

STRANGERS AMONG US

How Latino Immigration Is Transforming America

By Roberto Suro

Pub Date: April 10th, 1998
ISBN: 0-679-42092-4
Publisher: Knopf

An effective study of the fastest growing minority population in the US, Latinos; the narrative seamlessly weaves together reportage, biography, and policy analysis. As a term, “Latinos” (or “Hispanics”) hides more than it reveals, for it includes groups as diverse as Puerto Ricans and Dominicans in New York, Chicanos in L.A., and Guatemalan Mayans in Houston. Eschewing vapid conclusions from aggregate data to tell of these groups, Suro shows that each Latino immigrant group is a separate story and that many biographies make up each story. Still, Latino immigration as a whole, both legal and illegal, has greatly accelerated over the past decade or so, and immigrants have arrived in the US at a time when a changing economy and an unsympathetic social mood (not unconnected phenomena) make their futures in the US tenuous at best. They arrive to find low paying service jobs whose real wages continue to fall, but little room for advancement for themselves or, more importantly, for their children, who desire a middle-class life but lack the skills needed to gain it. At the same time, they become the repository of the majority population’s fear of change and difference, and of the majority’s own precarious position in a dynamic economy. Ill-considered and punitive immigration “reforms” (such as California’s Proposition 187 or the federal immigration law of 1996) exacerbate the economic and social problems of the newly arrived while doing nothing to stem the tide of illegal immigration. A vicious circle ensues in which all lose. The author, a staff writer for the Washington Post and himself a second-generation Latino, argues forcefully and persuasively, in passionate detail, for rational and effective immigration controls, but also for social programs—especially education—that will equip immigrants and their children with the tools necessary for survival in a treacherous economy. Everyone will find something here to disagree with, but this is a book of immediate importance and lasting significance.