Deciding to be Legal

A Maya Community in Houston

Jacqueline Maria Hagan
Book Cover

PB: $32.95
EAN: 978-1-56639-257-0
Publication: Dec 94

224 pages
5.5 x 8.25
5 tables 10 halftones

Understanding the process of becoming legal from the perspective of an immigrant community


To study the settlement process of undocumented migrants, Jacqueline Hagan examines one of Houston's Maya communities, the approximately 900 Maya from a township in the Department of Totonicapan, Guatemala. She traces this Maya community from its genesis in 1978, when a few men left the township in search of economic opportunity, to the complex effects of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). Based on several years of living and participating in the Totonicapan Maya community in Houston and a visit to the Guatemalan home community, Hagan's research combines interviews, community participation, and observation to evaluate immigration policy.

Hagan shows that these immigrants do not passively accept U.S. immigration policy, but instead interpret it and base their actions on their own agenda within the context of their local community. The results, often quite unexpected by national policy makers, question popular myths about the settlement of immigrant communities. The author discusses the different settlement experiences of men and women and the effects of IRCA on family and community structure. Analyzing how legal status influences settlement behavior and international networks, she finds that strong community-based networks and social ties with a home community lead to successful adaptation.

Table of Contents

Tables Preface and Acknowledgments

Part I: Building a Community Structure in Houston 1. Introduction 2. Community of Origin and the Transfer of Cultural Resources 3. The Settlement Process

Part II: The Journey through Legalization 4. The Social Process of Becoming Legal 5. Life after Legalization 6. Conclusion

Notes Bibliography Index

About the Author(s)

Jacqueline Maria Hagan is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Houston.