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Immigrants and the Great Recession: A do-it-yourself historical archive

Immigrants and the Great Recession: A do-it-yourself historical archive

By Luis Flores


BERKELEY – What is “public” about a public history? Is it that these historical narratives chronicle marginalized rather than elite stories? Is it that these types of stories can be publically available, on a website or public library, for anyone to access? Or is it, perhaps, that the goal of this type of history is to engage the public and enable social participation? I think all three. It is my hope that readers of this article will contribute to this effort of collecting a community-generated story archive of the immigrant experience of the great recession. The archive will include oral histories, photographs, artwork, or multimedia works that illuminate this neglected, but timely, recent history.

Based out the University of California, Berkeley, I’m working on a yearlong research and advocacy project on immigrants and the Great Recession. Since immigration debates have heated up nationwide, arguments on both sides of the aisle revolve around the economic impact of immigrants.

Progressive organizations, in particular, promote immigrant integration as a type of economic stimulus.

“Immigrants make up just 16 percent of the United States population, but they are expected to make up 35.7 percent of homeowners by the year 2020,” reassured ThinkProgress.org, adding that the “the financial stability and purchasing power that comes with immigration reform would allow foreign-born homeowners to fully assimilate into American society.”

This perspective that sees immigrant integration strictly in economic terms ignores…

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