Released: October 25, 2007
Between Here and There: How Attached Are Latino Immigrants to Their Native Country?
As this report shows, the country of origin connection is a central part of the Latino immigrant experience. Large proportions of Latino immigrants have regular engagements with the relatives and friends they left behind, through travel, phone call or email contact or the sending of remittances. These activities are related to the ways that immigrants think of themselves. Identity remains strongly defined in native country terms; though optimistic about the future to be found in the U.S., the immigrants continue to see much to admire in the countries where they were born.
The long-term trend, however, is toward a steadily deepening commitment to the U.S. Phone calls, travel, remittances—the three major transnational activities—start off high, but all fall off among those who have been in the U.S. for longer periods of time. By contrast, attachment to this country is strong among recent arrivals and then rises among the long-term immigrants. Even among immigrants living in the U.S. for less than 10 years, more than half are planning to stay for good and a similar proportion report that the U.S. is the locus of their political and social concerns. Levels of attachment are stronger still among more established residents.
Even though home country contacts are extensive, only a small minority—fewer than 10 percent—engages in the full range of cross-border activities that exemplify the concept of “transnationalism.” The evidence examined in this report indicates that regular and recurrent transnational activities do not impede the development of bonds to the U.S. Those people who are labeled here as “transmigrants” differ little from other respondents in their level of attachment to the U.S. or in their self-identities. Moreover, even those immigrants with the highest levels of cross-border activity expect to live in the U.S. for good.
In the end, this report shows that immigrants are in a process of transition. A significant minority severs all ties to their home countries; at the other side of the spectrum, a significant minority continues to engage in frequent travel and communication, even after many years of residence in the United States. However, the best way to characterize the immigrants’ “here-there” connection is to describe them as “in between.” Most Latino immigrants stay in regular contact with friends or family living in their country of origin, either sending remittances, phoning weekly or traveling regularly. But the very same people who are keeping in touch and trying to remain true to the people and places they have left behind are simultaneously shifting loyalties and allegiances to the U.S., where they see a bright future for themselves and their children and where they plan to stay for good. The evidence from this survey suggests that Latino immigrants find America deeply appealing and that, with time, they are finding their own way to go from “there” to “here.”