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Sin Fronteras : : Activism, Immigration, and the Politics of Belonging in Mexican Chicago, 1968-1986


This dissertation examines the alternative ways Chicago's Mexicans and Mexican Americans created a sense of belonging in the United States, ways that reflected a changing social reality on the ground and the emergence of a sense of imagining and a community not strictly tied to or bounded by the juridical rights of U.S. citizenship. During the 1970s, Mexican and Mexican American community leaders learned of the non-citizen status of many residents and their anxieties about INS harassment through their community involvement in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 1974, Mexican and Mexican American activists co- founded the Chicago chapter of El Centro de Acción Social Autónoma-Hermandad General de Trabajadores [Center for Autonomous Social Action- General Brotherhood of Workers] or CASA, a Marxist-Leninist immigrant rights organization. This organization demanded rights for Mexicans regardless of citizenship or immigration status. By stressing a "sin fronteras" [beyond borders] ideology, CASA pushed the terms of belonging in the United States, stressing connections between the ways in which Mexicans on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border experienced exploitation fueled by American capitalism. I argue that CASA Chicago activists' rejection of hierarchal citizenship as a means to claim rights and belonging proved necessary in order to articulate and practice an expansive strategy of gaining rights and belonging in the United States for Mexicans and Mexican Americans alike. My conceptualization of sin fronteras concept refers to the idea of transcending dominant discourses of belonging, primarily based on the boundaries of the nation-state. Ethnic Mexicans, regardless of birthplace, generation, or citizenship status, engaged with and practiced a sin fronteras imagining

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