CUBAN AND SALVADORAN EXILES: DIFFERENTIAL COLD WAR–ERA U.S. POLICY IMPACTS ON THEIR SECOND-GENERATIONS' ASSIMILATION
Mabry, Tristan J.
Darnton, Christopher N.
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American society conventionally expects immigrants to assimilate, yet contemporary views question whether Latin American immigrants are choosing to conform to this standard. However, this perspective does not account for the structural constraints placed upon immigrants through the influence of U.S. foreign and immigration policy. During the Cold War, two cases—Cuba in the 1960s and El Salvador in the 1980s—demonstrated differential U.S. policy responses to sustained, large-scale exile migrations to the United States, particularly to Miami and Los Angeles. In these cases, the U.S. response was to welcome and provide a positive reception to Cubans in Miami, while Salvadorans were excluded and constrained by the negative reception afforded to them as illegal migrants in Los Angeles, with both responses stemming from U.S. foreign policy interests in Latin America. Twenty-five years after the first wave of exiles from each of these countries, both second generations appear to be assimilating in terms of educational attainment, but Salvadoran-Americans lag behind Cuban-Americans in occupational attainment and income levels. These differential outcomes indicate that reception contexts—government responses, economic opportunity, societal attitudes, and presence of ethnic communities—may accelerate or delay exile groups’ rates of structural assimilation, with legal status playing a major role in determining whether groups assimilate upward or downward.
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