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Por Mi Gente: Gender, Citizenship, and the Power of Community in Shaping Immigrants’ Risky Political Participation


This dissertation seeks to understand why immigrants, particularly immigrant women, participate in risky political participation. I argue that immigrants face risk any time that they participate and must make two major risk assessments before they engage in any political act. First, they must identify risk as either primarily a risk to themselves or to their community. Those who prioritize risk to community over self are the most likely to be inclined to participate. I argue that due to the socialization of women as caretakers, immigrant women are more likely than immigrant men to prioritize community. Immigrants must then make a second risk assessment after they have decided to act. They must determine what political acts they can engage in that might minimize or mitigate risk. I argue that this process is done along the lines of their citizenship status. To test these theories, I collected and created a database of immigrant serving organizations in the state of California. I find that a majority of those in community-oriented positions in immigrant serving organizations are women. I then conducted ten in-depth interviews with individuals at these organizations and find that these organizations are crucial in helping immigrants make the two risk assessments described above. I also use two different surveys, the 2020 CCES, where I was able to field two novel measures of community motivation for engagement and the 2016 LINES data set which includes immigrants with different citizenship status. I find that those who are motivated by community orientations have a positive correlation with all forms of political participation. This dissertation adds broadly to the gender and politics and political behavior literatures.

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