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ABSTRACT

Amidst debates over the impacts of immigration, cities and towns across the United States have alternately opposed or welcomed unauthorized immigrants. Although their “illegal immigration relief acts” and “sanctuary laws” are typically justified in terms of law and order, they also grow from divergent hopes, concerns, and assumptions about newcomers’ integration and effects on local revitalization. These issues have gained importance beyond central cities with the suburbanization of immigration and the economic decline of older suburbs in recent decades. This article explores the case of two adjacent, formerly industrial towns in suburban Philadelphia, examining local leaders’ respective rationale for seeking to incorporate unauthorized immigrants in Norristown and to restrict their settlement and employment in neighboring Bridgeport. Despite their obvious similarities, these towns’ distinct experiences of race, migration, and revitalization explain much of their divergent responses.