WashU Affiliated Authors: Zhongze Wei (PhD, Sociology)
Abstract: After Hurricane Katrina decimated the Gulf Coast in 2005, thousands of Latinx immigrants arrived in the region to work in reconstruction, one case of the growing and global phenomenon of disaster migration. Drawing on newspaper content analysis, in-depth interviews with immigrant service providers, and archival materials from Mississippi for the years surrounding Hurricane Katrina (2003-2009), we ask what reception these disaster migrants encountered upon arrival and how that reception changed as they settled permanently in the state. We find that public discourse about immigrants became markedly more positive when disaster migrants arrived en masse, with the media and public characterizing immigrants as valuable, hard workers. Negative characterizations shifted to portray immigrants as drains on public resources. However, these changes were temporary. By 2009, public debate about immigrants reverted to pre-disaster trends with only one exception. Across our study period, we find a steady rise in claims that immigrants faced racism and discrimination. Our findings suggest that disasters may briefly transform the social and cultural bases of material inequalities but are unlikely to produce lasting change.
Citation/DOI: Brown, H. E., Wei, Z., Lazaran, M., Cates, C., & Jones, J. A. (2022). Rebuilding Without Papers: Disaster Migration and the Local Reception of Immigrants After Hurricane Katrina. Social Currents, 0(0). DOI: 10.1177/23294965221125646