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The Cultural Politics of U.S. ImmigrationGender, Race, and Media$
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Leah Perry

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781479828777

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479828777.001.0001

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Exiled Mothers and Mothers of Exiles

Exiled Mothers and Mothers of Exiles

(p.99) 3 Exiled Mothers and Mothers of Exiles
The Cultural Politics of U.S. Immigration

Leah Perry

NYU Press

This chapter develops leftist feminist scholarship on welfare: it shows that that Reagan-era immigration discourse was crucial to the establishment of a neoliberal welfare regime. Welfare cuts under the Immigration Reform and Control Act and later laws minimized the social and economic costs of Latin American and especially Mexican-origin immigrants’ reproduction and family formation while exploiting their labor. Meanwhile, American popular culture delineated a hierarchy of maternity that featured condemnatory portrayals of Latina mothering while blatantly imperfect white ethnic immigrant mothers were idealized. Exoticized Asian mothers were placed between white ethnic and Latin American immigrant and Latina mothers, engaging the “model minority” and “nation of immigrants” tropes and thereby rationalizing the erosion of the welfare state. This chapter argues that language and policy about welfare inaugurated in immigration debates and in racially coded media representations of immigrant mothers created the paradigm for neoliberal welfare discourse.

Keywords:   welfare, immigration, immigrant mothers, neoliberal, maternity, Reagan-era, Latina, Asian, white ethnic, model minority

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