Children and Immigration

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We’ll talk to Dr. Emir Estrada, assistant professor of sociology for the Arizona State University School of Human Evolution Change about her research examining the role children play in the immigration processes of their families. One of the areas she studied focused on children’s experiences working with their families who own street vending businesses in Los Angeles.

JOSE: THE PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OF AN ASU PROFESSOR AND HOW SHE LOOKS AT THE IMMIGRATION ISSUE THROUGH CHILDREN'S EYE EXAMINING THE ROLE THE CHILDREN PLAY IN THE PROCESS OF THE THEIR FAMILIES. ONE AREA STUDIES IS LATINO CHILDREN'S EXPERIENCE WORKING ALONGSIDE BUSINESSES WHO OWN STREET VENDING BUSINESS IN LOS ANGELES. JOINING ME NOW IS EMIR ESTRADA, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY FOR ASU'S SCHOOL OF HUMAN EVOLUTION AND CHANGE. PROFESSOR, ESTRADA, THANK YOU FOR JOINING US ON "HORIZONTE." GIVE US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND. GIVE US YOUR BACKGROUND.

EMIR ESTRADA: I GREW UP WORKING WITH MY FAMILY. I LIVED IN MEXICO WITH MY MOM AND MY FATHER LIVED IN THE U.S. AND WORKED AS A PARKING ATTENDANT. IN MEXICO WE HAD A LITTLE STORE AND

JOSE: A STORE YOUR MOM OPENED AFTER YOUR FATHER PASSED AWAY?

EMIR ESTRADA: NO, IT WAS DURING MY DAD WAS ALIVE. IRONICALLY, THE DOLLARS MY FATHER EARNED AS A PARKING ATTENDANT WAS MORE THAN MY MOTHER MADE AS A TEACHER SO SHE HAD TO OPEN A STORE AND THE CHILDREN PITCHED IN AND HELPED. I WAS 15 16 AND WORKED AT THE FAMILY BUSINESS. WHEN WE CAME TO THE U.S. AFTER MY DAD PASSED AWAY AND MY MOM TOOK ON VARIOUS JOBS AND I HELPED HER WHILE SHE WAS DOING SOME OF THOSE TASKS.

JOSE: HOW IS IT YOU CAME TO STUDY CHILDREN WORKING WITH STREET VENDING BUSINESS IN LOS ANGELES?

EMIR ESTRADA: SO I WAS VERY INTERESTED WHEN I WAS AT UCLA AND LATER AT USC I WAS INTERESTED IN EXPERIENCES OF CHILDREN THAT GREW UP WORKING WITH THEIR PARENTS. IN THE LITERATURE, I NOTICED STORIES WERE NOT TOLD IN THE ACADEMIC LITERATURE. IN LOS ANGELES, I SAW MANY FAMILIES THAT WERE WORKING TOGETHER WITH THE HELP OF THE CHILDREN AND THE IDEA OF STUDYING THEM IN ORDER TO UNDERSTAND THE FAMILY RELATIONS, FAMILY WORK RELATIONS CAME ABOUT.

JOSE: GIVE US A SENSE OF WHAT YOU DID AND THE KIND OF STREET VENDORS YOU DID?

EMIR ESTRADA: I FOCUSED ON CHILDREN 10 18 WHO ARE WORKING IN THE STREETS OF LOS ANGELES SELLING FOOD FROM THEIR HOME COUNTRIES. THESE ARE FOODS THAT ARE PREPARED AT HOME OR SOMETIMES IN THE STREETS.

JOSE: MOSTLY MEXICAN IMMIGRANTS?

MOSTLY MEXICAN IMMIGRANTS AND IMMIGRANTS FROM CENTRAL AMERICA. THE FOCUS WAS WITH THE CHILDREN. THE LITERATURE PREDOMINANTLY FOCUSED ON FIRST GENERATION IMMIGRANTS WHO ARE UNDOCUMENTED AND DON'T SPEAK ENGLISH AND WHO ARE PUSHED OUT OF THE FORMAL SECTOR OF THE ECONOMY.

JOSE: THOSE WOULD BE THE PARENTS?

EMIR ESTRADA: MY RESEARCH FOCUSED ON A UNIQUE POPULATION WHICH IS THE CHILDREN OF THE STREET VENDORS WHO ARE U.S. BORN, THEY SPEAK ENGLISH, ALL ATTEND SCHOOL SOME ATTENDING PRIVATE EDUCATION AND THEY ARE FAMILIAR WITH AMERICAN TECHNOLOGY AND TRADITION. MY RESEARCH FOCUSED ON THEIR EXPERIENCE DOING THE TYPE OF WORK THAT WAS ILLEGAL IN LOS ANGELES AS WELL AND THE CHILDREN WERE CONSTANTLY TOLD TO GO BACK TO MEXICO. WHEN I INTERVIEWED THEM THE MAJORITY WOULD SAY WE HAVE NEVER BEEN TO MEXICO. THIS IS HOME TO US. BUT BECAUSE THEY WERE PERFORMING THIS OCCUPATION THAT WAS SEEN AS AN IMMIGRANT OCCUPATION THEY WERE SEEN AS FOREIGN.

JOSE: HOW DID YOU GET THEM TO OPEN UP TO YOU?

EMIR ESTRADA: IT WAS DIFFICULT TO GAIN THEIR TRUST AND TOOK SEVERAL REJECTIONS. I WOULD GO TO THE FIELD AND THEY WERE AFRAID OF ME. THEY WOULD SAY WE DON'T HAVE ANY CHILDREN. AND I WOULD GO TO ANOTHER VENDOR AND THEY WOULD SAY GO BACK. IT TOOK TIME TO GAIN THEIR TRUST. I ENDED UP EATING A LOT OF FOOD AND PURCHASED A LOT OF FOOD CLOSE TO THEM. I HAD A LITTLE RESEARCH ASSISTANT THAT HELPED ME. WHEN I WAS IN THE FIELD MY DAUGHTER WAS A YEAR AND A HALF AND I WOULD BRING HER WITH ME. THAT HELPED ME ESTABLISH RAPPORT. THEY SAW ME AS A MOTHER, THEY SAW ME AS A STUDENT. ONE WOMAN RESPONDED SAYING WE TRUST YOU BECAUSE YOU ARE EATING OUR FOOD. A POLICE OFFICER WOULDN'T EAT OUR FOOD. THAT YOU WOULD JUST THROW IT AWAY. THEY TAKE A LOT OF PRIDE IN THEIR FOOD AND ALSO THEY SAW ME AS A MUJER DE FAMILA.

JOSE: LET'S START TALKING ABOUT YOUR FINDINGS. HOW MANY KIDS? YOU INDICATED THE AGE RANGE BUT GIVE US A SENSE OF THE GROUP.

EMIR ESTRADA: MY SAMPLE WAS 66 RESPONDENTS AND THAT INCLUDED THE CHILDREN AND THEIR PARENTS. I HAD A COMPARATIVE SAMPLE OF STREET VENDORS ALONE WHO DID NOT RELY ON THE HELP OF THEIR CHILDREN. 66 RESPONDENTS. I SPENT TIME IN THE FIELD WITH THEM MEANING I HELPED THEM STREET VEND AND SPENT TIME IN THEIR HOMES. I WENT TO CHURCH WITH THEM. I WENT TO HOSPITAL VISITS AS WELL. I TRIED TO SPEND AS MUCH TIME WITH THEM IN THE FIELD.

JOSE: WE HAVE PICTURES OF WHAT YOU CALL IN THE FIELD AND OF YOU DOING SOME WORK THERE. THIS WOULD BE A TYPICAL SHOT WOULD THIS BE A TYPICAL SHOT OF THE STREET VENDING SITUATION?

EMIR ESTRADA: YES, THIS IS A RESPONDENT. SHE IS 13 YEARS OLD. YOU SEE HER GETTING A CITATION FROM A POLICE OFFICER BECAUSE SHE IS VENDING OFF OF THE SIDEWALK. SHE IS GETTING THE CITATION FOR BEING ON THE STREET. YOU SEE THE DAD WHO IS NEXT TO THE LITTLE GIRL I INTERVIEW IN MY SAMPLE.

JOSE: AND YOU MENTION YOU DID SOME WORK WITH SOME OF THEM. WE HAVE ANOTHER PICTURE OF YOU PRESSING ORANGES TO MAKE ORANGE JUICE.

EMIR ESTRADA: YES, A LOT OF MY RESPONDENTS PREPARE TO FOOD ON THE STREET. I WAS HELPING ONE OF MY RESPONDENTS. THIS IS GOOD AB WORK. OTHER TIMES I HELPED THEM CUT THE FOOD. THAT WAS HELPFUL FOR THEM TO TAKE BATHROOM BREAKS AND THEY LEFT ME IN THE FOOD STAND. I WALKED WITH THEM WHILE THEY WERE PREPARING CORN ON THE COB. RASPADOS, LIKE SLUSHIES.

TED: TELL US WHAT YOU CONCLUDED?

EMIR ESTRADA: THERE WERE A LOT OF INTERESTING FINDINGS I PUBLISHED IN MY FIELD OF SOCIOLOGY. ONE OF THE THINGS I WANT TO HIGHLIGHT IS I DON'T SEE STREET VENDING AS A CULTURAL TRANSPLANT. A LOT OF MY RESPONDENTS LEARN TO STREET VEND IN THE U.S.. I HAVE ONE RESPONDENT USED TO WORK INSTALLING CARPETS AND HATED HOW HE WAS TREATED BY HIS EMPLOYER AND HE STARTED STREET VENDING. HE ASKED HIS FRIEND TO HELP HIM AND LEARNED THE ROUTE, WHAT TO AVOID, HOW TO STREET VEND. THAT IS THE UNDERSTANDING THAT HAPPENS IN THE U.S.. IT IS NOT SOMETHING THAT IS TRANSPLANTED BUT THEY HAVE TO RESORT TO IT BECAUSE OF THE LACK OF OPPORTUNITIES IN THE FORMAL SECTOR.

JOSE: THERE ARE STREET VENDORS IN OTHER COUNTRIES BUT YOU ARE DEALING WITH THE KIDS AND KIDS WHO ARE BILINGUAL, WHO ARE GOING TO SCHOOL AND HAVE ASPIRATIONS AND MOST ARE U.S. CITIZENS. YOU COMMENT ABOUT THE GENDER ISSUES OR DIFFERENCES IN TERMS OF THE BOYS AND GIRLS DOING THIS KIND OF WORK.

EMIR ESTRADA: YES. THAT WAS A SURPRISE IN THE FIELD. I WAS HOPING TO INTERVIEW AN EQUAL NUMBER OF BOYS AND GIRLS BUT MY TIME IN THE FIELD REVEALED MORE GIRLS WERE STREET VENDING. THIS IS A TYPE OF WORK DONE OUT IN THE OPEN SOMETIMES LATE AT NIGHT.

JOSE: AND SOMETIMES IN DANGEROUS AREAS.

EMIR ESTRADA: SOMETIMES IN DANGEROUS AREAS. I FOUND MORE GIRLS WERE STREET VENDING AND THERE IS GENDER EXPLANATIONS FOR THAT. BECAUSE THEY ARE PROTECTIVE OF THEIR GIRLS THEY WOULD BRING THEM FOR PROTECTION--

JOSE: AS OPPOSED TO LEAVING THEM AT HOME?

EMIR ESTRADA: INSTEAD OF LEAVING THEM AT HOME. IT WAS A CHILD CARE STRATEGY BUT AS A RESULT THE GIRLS WORKED MORE WITH THEIR PARENTS. THE GIRLS GAINED DECISION MAKING POWER IN THE HOUSEHOLD, THEY HAD SPENDING MONEY AND FELT MORE RESPECTED BECAUSE OF THEIR LABOR CONTRIBUTION IN THE HOUSEHOLD.

JOSE: WHEN WE ARE TALKING OFF CAMERA YOU MENTIONED LESSONS LEARNED. THEY DIDN'T LIKE THE LIFESTYLE BUT SAW THE BENEFITS.

EMIR ESTRADA: ALL OF THE CHILDREN WERE IN SCHOOL AND STREET VENDED AFTER SCHOOL, DURING THE HOLIDAYS, DURING THE WEEKENDS AND DURING THEIR MAJOR BREAKS. THEY SAW IT WAS HARD WORK. I WENT WITH THE FAMILY AS EARLY AS FIVE IN THE MORNING TIMES WHERE I SAW THEM PREPARING THE FOOD, LOADING THE TRUCKS WITH THEIR GOODS AND GOING TO THE PARKS WHERE THEY WOULD STREET VEND. IT WAS HARD WORK TO WAKE UP SO EARLY ON THE WEEKENDS AND STREET VEND WOULD THEIR PARENTS. THEY VALUED EDUCATION AND SAW IT AS A WAY OF GETTING OUT OF STREET VENDING. WHEN I ASKED THE PARENTS IF THEY WANTED THEIR CHILDREN TO CONTINUE STREET VENDING THEY ALL SAID NO, WE WANT OUR CHILDREN TO GO TO SCHOOL AND USED VENDING AS A MECHANISMS SO THEY WOULD PURSUE THEIR EDUCATIONAL GOALS.

JOSE: YOU MENTION A NUMBER OF THE CHILDREN USE THEIR MONEY THAT THEY MADE TO PAY FOR PRIVATE SCHOOL?

EMIR ESTRADA: YES. SO A COUPLE STUDENTS WENT TO PRIVATE EDUCATION AND THEY WOULD PAY FOR THEIR EDUCATION. BECAUSE THEY WERE INTERACTING WITH MORE AFFLUENT COMMUNITIES THEY KEPT THEIR LIFE IN SECRET SO THEY WOULDN'T BRING THEIR FRIENDS OVER TO THEIR HOUSE BECAUSE THEY WERE EMBARRASSED.

JOSE: SORT OF LIVING A DOUBLE LIFE?

EMIR ESTRADA: A DOUBLE LIFE, YES. AT THE SAME TIME, THEY SAW THE VALUE OF THEIR WORK BECAUSE THEY WOULD SAY IF I DON'T WORK I CANNOT AFFORD THIS SCHOOLING, OR THE HOUSE OR CAR PAYMENT. THEY WERE VERY MATURE KIDS WHO SAW THERE WAS A NEED IN THE FAMILY AND THAT IN ORDER FOR EVERYBODY TO SUCCEED THEIR LABOR CONTRIBUTIONS WAS NEEDED AS WELL.

JOSE: IT IS A FASCINATING STUDY. WE ARE ALMOST OUT OF TIME BUT I UNDERSTAND YOU ARE WORKING ON A BOOK?

EMIR ESTRADA: YES.

JOSE: WHEN CAN WE EXPECT TO SEE IT?

EMIR ESTRADA: HOPEFULLY IN A YEAR. IT IS A LONG PROCESS. I HAVE A COUPLE ARTICLES THAT ARE ONE THAT WAS JUST PUBLISHED THIS YEAR WHERE I COINED THE TERM ECONOMIC EMPATHY AND IN THIS ARTICLE THAT IS AVAILABLE FOR EVERYBODY TO SEE I TALK ABOUT THE EMPATHY THE CHILDREN DEVELOP BECAUSE THEY EXPERIENCE HARSH WORKING CONDITIONS WITH THEIR PARENTS. INSTEAD OF HEARING THE STRUGGLES OF THEIR PARENTS THROUGH CONVERSATIONS OR THROUGH THE CONVERSATIONS THAT TAKE PLACE AT THE HOUSE THEY ARE SIDE BY SIDE WITH THEIR PARENTS EXPERIENCING THESE HARSH CONDITIONS SO THEY HAVE ECONOMIC EMPATHY AND WHERE AWARE OF HOW THEY SPEND THEIR MONEY AND WHAT THEY SAVE FOR.

JOSE: SOUNDS LIKE YOU HAVE A LOT OF MATERIAL AND WE LOOK FORWARD TO IT.

Dr. Emir Estrada: Assistant Professor of sociology for the Arizona State University School of Human Evolution Change

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