Explaining Cross-Border Political Activities among Latino Immigrants in the United States


  • Acknowledgements: I would like to thank the editors and anonymous reviewers of Politics & Policy for helpful comments and suggestions. I also would like to thank Louis DeSipio, Rodolfo O. de la Garza, and the late Harry Pachon who originally envisioned conducting a survey of Latino immigrants on the issue of transnational politics and worked with me to complete the survey without which this study could not have been done. I am solely responsible for the analysis reported in this article, as well as for any errors that may remain. An earlier version of this article was presented at the 2011 annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association in Chicago, Illinois.


This study examines the characteristics of those who participate in cross-border political activities and explains why they do so. Data from a survey of 1,202 Latino immigrants reveal that trans-state political activities originate in an instrumentally motivated adaptation strategy immigrants employ to protect and promote their material and symbolic goals. Specifically, those who have strong incentives to safeguard their economic interests in the home country are active in home country politics, as are those involved in trans-state cultural enterprises, since participation in cross-border cultural activities encourages immigrants to take political action in order to maintain and promote their long-standing values, beliefs, and cultural practices they acquired from the home country. Participation in cross-border political activities is thus primarily a manifestation of immigrants' desires to achieve their symbolic as well as material goals, rather than a reflection of their lack of assimilation to the host country.

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Este estudio examina las características de aquellos que participan en actividades políticas fronterizas y explicita las motivaciones de tal participación. Una encuesta de 1,202 inmigrantes latinos revela que las actividades políticas fronterizas tienen su origen en una estrategia de adaptación instrumentalmente motivada que los inmigrantes usan para proteger y promover sus metas materiales y simbólicas. Aquellos que tienen fuertes incentivos para salvaguardar sus intereses económicos en su país de origen suelen ser activos en la política doméstica. Asumimos que también son políticamente activos aquellos involucrados en empresas culturales transestatales dada su motivación de mantener y promover los valores, creencias y prácticas culturales de su país de origen. Consecuentemente, también asumimos que la participación en actividades políticas fronterizas es primariamente una manifestación de los deseos de los inmigrantes de lograr sus metas tanto simbólicas como materiales, en lugar de asumir que tal actividad sea reflejo su mera falta de asimilación al país huésped.