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Legal Status and the Neighborhood Built Environments

Authors: Edelina Burciaga*, University of Colorado, Denver, Jeremy NĂ©meth, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Colorado, Denver, Alessandro Rigolon, Department of City and Metropolitan Planning, The University of Utah
Topics: Immigration/Transnationalism
Keywords: Undocumented immigrants; inclusion; built environment; context of reception
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


There are approximately 44.5 million immigrants living in the United States, about one-fourth of the U.S. population. The demographics of this group is diverse with regard to country of origin, age at migration and legal status. Sociologists of immigration have long relied on context of reception, a complex set of factors including government policies, presence of co-ethnics, and social networks, to explain variations in immigrant integration. Building on the theory of context of reception, recent scholarship considers the increasing importance of local contexts of reception in influencing immigrant integration, with a specific focus on the experiences of undocumented immigrants. Absent from more general studies on context of reception is an adequate accounting for the importance of the physical environment in shaping immigrants’ sense of inclusion in their communities. Drawing from 300 surveys administered in neighborhoods in the Denver Metro Area, we first examine how neighborhood built environments, or the physical, human-made, or human-modified spaces in which people live, work, and recreate on a daily basis, shape immigrant integration. We then determine how legal status mediates these effects. Examining variation across legal status is important because undocumented immigrants face unique challenges: they may be more restricted in their movement around cities; are more likely to be residentially segregated; and are more vulnerable to exclusionary policies and practices targeted toward immigrants.

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