Attitudes Toward US citizenship and Civic Engagement Among Mexican Immigrants in Central Texas
This qualitative study describes the perceptions of adult Mexican immigrants on the meaning they give to citizenship and civic responsibility in the context of their everyday lives. The overarching perspective of this study is influenced by theories of immigrant integration, citizenship, and adult civic education. Seidman's (2006) three interview series was used to collect data for this study. Six Mexican immigrants, four women and two men, living in central Texas, were interviewed over the course of six months about their attitudes towards United States naturalization and their understanding of civic integration. Findings suggest that each of the immigrants is focused on their own linguistic assimilation as well as that of their children or the children of close relatives above all other types of integration. For some, their reasons for US naturalization stem from fear of deportation and a desire to feel secure in the US; others have chosen to naturalize in order to participate in voting, for ease of travel, or to sponsor family members. Immigrants who participated in this study defined citizenship and civic engagement in relation to their own experiences and life courses in both Mexico and the US. Findings from this study suggest that the experiences of immigrants with migration, including their immigrant status prior to migration, their reasons for migrating to the US, and the events, circumstances, and people they encountered following their migrations influenced their decision to choose or reject US naturalization. In addition, the perception that the immigrants had of their early experiences and encounters in the US affected what these immigrants dream about for their children's future, and what they teach them living in the US. The primary implication for this study is the importance of understanding how Mexican immigrants who are not naturalized come to learn the concept of citizenship as they integrate into communities across the United States. This can provide insight into their subsequent participation in civic life in the future. In the field of adult education where civics education and citizenship classes have traditionally been mainstays of community adult learning programs, this study suggests that bringing in experiences from the immigrant's life in his/her own country as well as his ongoing experiences in the US can open discussions on the everyday meaning and experiences of civic engagement and the day-to-day effect of immigration status on an immigrant's social and cultural identity.
citizenship, naturalization, immigrants
Muñoz, L. (2009). Attitudes toward US citizenship and civic engagement among Mexican immigrants in Central Texas (Unpublished dissertation). Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas.