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April 6, 2001

SMU STUDENTS COMPILE ESSAYS ON DALLAS IMMIGRANT LIFE

DALLAS (SMU) -- A collection of essays by history and anthropology students at Southern Methodist University offers a rare glimpse into the lives of Dallas immigrants and, at least for now, represents the extent of published academic research on the new international migration to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

The New Dallas: Immigrants, Community Institutions, and Cultural Diversity: A Collection of Student Papers, is being published by the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies. The book includes five student essays edited by SMU History Professor Dennis D. Cordell and Jane Elder, former associate director of the Clements Center. Cordell also wrote the book's introduction. The collection presents the histories of groups of local immigrants whose numbers have grown significantly. Between 1970 and 1990, the proportion of foreign-born residents in Dallas and Tarrant counties doubled. The book examines five immigrant groups: Asian Indian and Nigerian former college students and professionals; Mexicans from the city of Morelia, Mexico; Guatemalan refugees escaping war and poverty; and Iranian Baha'is fleeing religious persecution.

Researched and written in the spring of 1997, the essays helped lay the groundwork for a grant proposal to the National Science Foundation that will be used to conduct the first comprehensive study of immigrants in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. In February the NSF awarded the three-year, $445,000 grant to a team of interdisciplinary researchers from SMU and the University of Texas at Arlington.

Cordell and his research colleagues Caroline Brettell, chair of the SMU Department of Anthropology in Dedman College, Jim Hollifield, SMU professor of political science in Dedman College, and Manuel Garcia y Griego, director of the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Texas at Arlington, had already made contacts in the local immigrant communities through a smaller, preliminary study conducted in 1996. As part of that study, Cordell assigned two graduate students in history and anthropology and undergraduate students in his class, "The New International Migration to Dallas and the USA: Historical Perspectives on Migration and Globalization," the task of learning all they could about the city's new immigrants. Because limited print resources on these communities exist, the students located individuals, immigrant organizations and social service groups for their information. Their subsequent reports discuss the size and composition of these particular immigrant communities, their history, the circumstances of the immigrants' departure from their homelands and the various strategies they have adopted to integrate themselves into the Metroplex.

"These student papers offer a tantalizing glimpse of the 'New Dallas,' which is why we wanted to see these essays published," Cordell said. "If we stop, as do many politicians and government agencies, with the statistics describing and documenting migrants and migration, we cannot understand the new immigration, or the 'New Dallas.' However, if we add historical background and understanding, these statistics turn into people and communities."

The New Dallas may be ordered from the Clements Center for $22.50 per copy plus shipping and tax (add $3.50 for shipping, plus $1 for each additional volume ordered. Texas residents add $1.86 sales tax per volume). The Center accepts only checks or money orders. To order the book, call 214-768-3684 or write to the William P. Clements Center at SMU, Box 75016, Dallas, Texas 75275-0176.


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