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Immigration Advocacy in the Midwest: Organizations in Coalition and Contention

Alice K MillerMacPhee, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This dissertation examines how organizations with various missions and issue focus are engaged in the contemporary Immigrant Rights Movement in the rural Midwest. I analyze how organizations, often regarded as wielding greater power and influence than individuals, become involved, develop strategies for communicating this involvement, and navigate relationships with other organizations active in the movement. To do this, I conducted interviews with 81 participants representing 20 different organizations actively involved in advancing the recognition of immigrant rights in Nebraska. I also engaged in 56 hours of participant observation across the state to better understand how members of organizations publicly communicate the purpose and goals of their advocacy efforts. Nebraska represents an important case study for understanding this movement as the state has experienced a relatively rapid increase in Latine immigrants over the last twenty years and, in contrast to existing research on the movement, is a predominately white, rural, and more politically conservative state. Additionally, Nebraska was one of the first ten states to pass legislation allowing eligible high school graduates to qualify for in-state tuition regardless of immigration or documentation status but it was the last to pass legislation allowing DACA recipients to apply for a driver’s license. Thus, progress in recognizing the rights of immigrants has not been assured over time, and organizations in the state have been continuously involved in advancing these efforts. This includes a diverse constellation of organizations that range from industry focused to those dedicated to community health and welfare as well as organizations focused specifically on serving immigrant communities. My research begins to explain how these organizations, at times considered “strange bedfellows,” came to advocate for the same goal. I argue that organizational involvement is shaped by the passions and interest of individual members as well as the funding sources and constraints associated with nonprofit status. Additionally, how organizations communicate or frame their engagement in immigration advocacy is shaped by perceptions of a largely rural, majority white, and politically conservative audience in Nebraska.

Subject Area

Sociology|Organizational behavior

Recommended Citation

MillerMacPhee, Alice K, "Immigration Advocacy in the Midwest: Organizations in Coalition and Contention" (2021). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI28713095.