Terror at the Traffic Stop: Immigration Federalism Policy and Suburban Mexican Transportation Infrastructure in the Nuevo South

Authors: John Arroyo*, UNIVERSITY OF OREGON
Topics: Immigration/Transnationalism, Transportation Geography, Land Use
Keywords: Mexican immigration, urban design, transportation, Latino Urbanism, U.S. South
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 19
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Over the past 20 years, Latinx communities have bypassed historic, urban ethnic enclaves to settle in and physically transform suburban areas of U.S. South. Nowhere is this spatial “Latinization” phenomenon more acute than in small mass transit deficient towns such as those in Gwinnett County (metropolitan Atlanta), one of the foremost frontiers of new immigrant destinations in America. Coinciding with these southern demographic shifts have been commensurate immigration federalism policies, all of which have made Georgia a national pioneer and regional model of hyper immigration surveillance.
The culmination of these adverse effects has required Mexican residents to create culturally-centered modes of transportation to conduct their daily lives, strategies that represent as much political resistance as they do survival modes. This paper investigates how state and municipal-level anti-immigrant policies influence how Mexican immigrants navigate the inadequate transit landscape of suburban Georgia. Ethnographic data are triangulated from 145 in-depth interviews, participant observation, and longitudinal content analysis of local English and Spanish-language news outlets and municipal policy documents since 2000. Analysis of these immigrant placemaking efforts are focused on distinct transportation modes including the rise of the Latinx taxi industry, transnational regional connections, and transit options provided by private Mexican-owned businesses, nonprofit organizations, and faith-based groups. Using transit justice as a lens, this research highlights how Mexican interactions with their built environment are inextricably tied to their citizenship status, transnational connections, and the ways in which urban design acts as a platform for immigrant agency in areas undergoing seismic ethnic demographic shifts.

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