Immigration and the Politics of Divide and Conquer in Hazleton, PennsylvaniaJamie Longazel
The Illegal Immigration Relief Act (IIRA), passed in the small Rustbelt city of Hazleton, Pennsylvania in 2006, was a local ordinance that laid out penalties for renting to or hiring undocumented immigrants and declared English the city’s official language. The notorious IIRA gained national prominence and kicked off a parade of local and state-level legislative initiatives designed to crack down on undocumented immigrants.
In his cogent and timely book, Undocumented Fears, Jamie Longazel uses the debate around Hazleton’s controversial ordinance as a case study that reveals the mechanics of contemporary divide and conquer politics. He shows how neoliberal ideology, misconceptions about Latina/o immigrants, and nostalgic imagery of “Small Town, America” led to a racialized account of an undocumented immigrant “invasion,” masking the real story of a city beset by large-scale loss of manufacturing jobs.
Offering an up-close look at how the local debate unfolded in the city that set off this broader trend, Undocumented Fears makes an important connection between immigration politics and the perpetuation of racial and economic inequality.
" Using a magnifying lens to study immigrant bashing in his hometown, Jamie Longazel brings into sharp focus the anti-Latino racism at the heart of national politics today. Even as we as a society struggle to build solidarity across racial divisions, powerful forces seek advantage in tearing us farther apart. The concentrated focus of Undocumented Fears helps us understand not only why this occurs but also how we might help replace fear with friendship, social division with a sense of shared humanity."
—Ian F. Haney López, John H. Boalt Professor of Law, University of California–Berkeley, and author of Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class
"Undocumented Fears offers an incredibly rich and insightful analysis of how the political dynamics in a struggling former coal mining town resulted in its becoming ground zero in the raging national debate over immigration. Longazel provides a bird’s-eye view of the politics—racial and otherwise—that led Hazleton, Pennsylvania, to enact laws designed to punish undocumented immigrants, with Latino migrants in the crosshairs. The clash of Latino immigrants with the ‘small town America’ ideal is a gripping story that deserves the scholarly attention offered by Longazel. As some might say after reading Undocumented Fears, ‘Only in America.'"
—Kevin Johnson, Dean and Mabie-Apallas Professor of Public Interest Law and Chicana/o Studies, University of California–Davis School of Law, and author of The “Huddled Masses” Myth: Immigration and Civil Rights
"Undocumented Fears critically examines the history of immigration, industrialism, a local Latina/o community, and racial tensions surrounding the 2006 Illegal Immigration Relief Act Ordinance in Hazelton, Pennsylvania.... Tracking Hazleton’s path from coal town to a postindustrial city, Jamie Longazel highlights why tax-free business zones created to increase employment opportunities ultimately attracted temporary, low-paying, and dangerous jobs that current residents did not desire. This economic history contextualizes following demographic changes as new immigrants moved to Hazelton and other residents moved away.... Examining community division alongside the ordinance, Longazel argues that history should not only inform the present but also push individuals to actively shape the future."
"This is a timely book about the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment and related legislation emerging across the United States in the contexts of places that have experienced significant economic decline and demographic change.... The book traces the roots of a contemporary backlash against immigrants to the structural implications of globalization that led to the city’s economic decay.... The book's organization and writing make it accessible for a broad audience.... (Longazel's) deep ties to the city also render a nuanced, fair, and thoughtful analysis of the root causes of the town’s contemporary political landscape."
—Ethnic and Racial Studies
"Longazel’s book brings enough material to make profitable
analogies that could brighten any debate on the current situation of immigrants in the United States. Longazel elucidates the deep cleavage between the two sides of the immigration issue.... I strongly recommend reading Professor Longazel’s book to anyone engaged with the prolonged debate on immigration that has continued to divide America."
"Longazel’s Undocumented Fears is in equal parts a prescient, cautionary, and cautiously hopeful book.... (A) welcome addition to the literature on the politics of immigration and urban transformation in the contemporary United States for several reasons. Its focus on a smaller community... reflects a different set of dynamics facing such new destinations regarding integration.... Longazel's book does an excellent job of neither caricaturing nor romanticizing the story."
—International Migration Review
"The topics addressed in this book are important, not only because of the intensification of anti-immigrant politics in the wake of the 2016 presidential election but also because communities across the country have experienced similar demographic transitions caused by economic restructuring and globalization over the past two decades."
—Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography
"The author effectively depicts the creation and success of the economic development known as CAN DO....The author is clear in his presentation and applies his theory in an effective manner."
—Commonwealth: A Journal of Pennsylvania Politics and Policy
"Longazel seeks to understand how his hometown became a notorious symbol of the nation’s contentious immigration debates through a case study that examines changing narratives about immigration and centers these narratives in a broader socioeconomic and historical context.... Longazel paints a complicated dynamic of community response and backlash to an initial narrative strategy focused on race." — Migration Studies
" Longazel effectively demonstrates how (Hazleton mayor Lou) Barletta helped many whites work themselves into a vitriolic lather over immigrants.... The history of nativism that Longazel documents and analyzes is an ugly one, an important one, and a well-told one.... (T)his is a useful work that reflects the times that it was made and will be of use to historians as they trace the ongoing history of the Commonwealth."
—Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies