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Cityscape: Volume 23 Number 2 | The Hispanic Housing Experience in the United States


The Hispanic Housing Experience in the United States

Volume 23 Number 2

Mark D. Shroder
Michelle P. Matuga

Facades of Fear: Anti-Immigrant Housing Ordinances and Mexican Rental Housing Preference in the Suburban New Latinx South

John Arroyo
College of Design, University of Oregon

Over the past 20 years, Mexican communities have bypassed historic, urban ethnic enclaves in the West and Southwest to settle in suburban areas of the southern United States. Nowhere is this spatial “Latinization” phenomenon more acute than in small towns such as those in Gwinnett County (metropolitan Atlanta), one of the foremost frontiers of new immigrant destinations in America. Coinciding with the growth of Mexican communities in these regions have been a string of local Anti-Immigrant Housing Ordinances (AIHOs), all of which have positioned states like Georgia to become national pioneers of immigration surveillance and a regional enforcement model for neighboring states and metropolitan areas across the Sun Belt. The culmination of these adverse effects of detainment or deportation for violating AIHOs has required Mexican residents to create or reshape residential built environments covertly. These often unsanctioned practices represent political resistance and survival modes that clash with the traditional image of White, suburban America.

This article investigates how reactionary municipal anti-immigrant policies, fomented by the rise of largely undocumented Mexican immigrant communities, transform the rental housing typology of suburban Atlanta. Ethnographic data are triangulated from nearly 150 in-depth interviews, participant observation, and longitudinal content analysis of local English and Spanish-language news outlets and municipal policy documents since 2000. Research findings illustrate how immigrant coping mechanisms manifest across various intergenerational and mixed citizen status Mexican communities to transform their housing and navigate their daily lives. In a 21st century America defined by exponential Latinx growth, this emergent case study of Gwinnett County illustrates the spatial residential adaptation challenges Mexican immigrant populations face when settling in suburban geographies unprepared for seismic influxes of undocumented immigrants.

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