The policy dimensions of the context of reception for immigrants (and Latinos) in the Midwest
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Latino/as comprise approximately 16.1% of the nation's population (Grieco, 2010). Approximately 37.2% of Latino/as are foreign-born, comprising approximately 6.0% of the nation's population. Nationally, the number of Latinos/as living in the United States grew by 37% since the year 2000. A robust component of that growth was immigration. Immigration to the United States is not a new phenomenon; however, recent waves differ from previous immigrant influxes in significant ways. Immigrants are now coming predominantly from Latin American and Asian countries (Portes & Rumbaut, 1996; Singer 2002); and, they are no longer moving to and staying in the traditional gateway cities or states (Cadge et al., 2008). For example, the geographical distribution of Latino immigrants now include towns and cities of less than 100,000 people located in rural areas in the Northwest, Northeast, Southeast or Midwest regions of the country (Singer 2002, & Cadge et al., 2008). The focus of this paper is recent legislation in Midwestern states initiated in response to immigration. More specifically it looks at the emergent legislative environment and how it shapes the context of reception for Latinos and Latino immigrants. The context of reception provides a useful conceptual frame for describing the broader environments in which immigrants and other newcomers to Midwestern town and cities endeavor to make a living. Recent enacted legislation is a reflection of concrete efforts to influence how immigrants should be or are being received into the community; whether they should be excluded, ignored or integrated. The research question to be addressed here is: What state-wide policy legislation shape the contexts of reception for Latino immigrants across the Midwestern states? All state legislatures in the Midwest have passed laws addressing immigration in their states. According to Portes and Rumbaut (1996, 2001) a context of reception can be encouraging, passively accepting, or exclusionary. In this paper, the enacted legislation in the Midwest relating to immigration has been organized according to three similar categories; integrating, exclusionary or neutral. Of the policies that were enacted in 2009 and the first half of 2010, forty-four laws were found to be integrating, and thirty-nine laws were exclusionary; twelve laws were neutral. States like Illinois, Michigan, and Kansas have passed provisions that were considered to be encouraging people from immigrant backgrounds to integrate with the mainstream population. Legislation in Nebraska, Iowa and North Dakota are examples laws that are exclusionary from the mainstream by way of immigration status or perhaps meant to dissuade immigrants from moving to the state on a permanent basis. In the middle, laws enacted in states like Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ohio were almost evenly split in their policy between integrating, excluding or neutral. The data suggests that while the Midwest is somewhat more integrating than exclusionary in regards to the context of reception, it is still "on the fence" when it comes to their context of reception as determined by enacted state policy.