MIGRANT CIVIL SOCIETY: NEW VOICES IN THE STRUGGLE OVER COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
Port-of-entry immigrant neighborhoods have long been a feature of the American city. Dense cross-border networks are reshaping port-of-entry immigrant neighborhoods and creating “transnational communities” where forces of global economic restructuring and practices of everyday life combine into a distinctive form of urbanization. Yet immigration has also created tensions and conflicts. Lack of affordable housing, inadequate access to quality schools, substandard employment, and unmet basic needs are among the problems facing large segments of society. Their resolution has been rendered more problematic by questions concerning the immigration status of many residents. The lack of recourse for undocumented immigrants to the state has meant that the task of resolving these social problems has been displaced onto civil society. This article considers the role of nonprofit, community organizations and social movement organizations—part of an emergent migrant civil society—in responding to a variety of social and economic concerns affecting residents of Albany Park. The community area of Albany Park on Chicago's north side has for decades served as a first destination for immigrants. In 2000 the foreign-born population in Albany Park climbed to 52%, making it one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Chicago. Through an examination of neighborhood social struggles we consider the ways in which transnational flows of people, commerce, culture, and social practices come to ground in neighborhoods like Albany Park. Then we present two case studies of social activism by segments of migrant civil society. The first examines the antigentrification movement launched by the Balanced Development Coalition, while the second considers workers' rights activism in support of day laborers. Finally, we reflect on the implications of the Albany Park cases for the study of migrant civil society more broadly.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: University of Illinois at Chicago
Publication date: August 1, 2007