The spring, 2006 wave of immigrant rights mobilizations represents a watershed in the history of civic engagement in the US. Never before had so many foreign born literally “come out” for the right to be included in the US. Indeed, in many cities, never before had so many taken to the streets for any cause. Practitioners involved in the policy debate, scholars who measure immigrant political opinion, as well as migrant leaders themselves were all caught off guard. This raises questions about the social foundations of the marches – what kinds of social and civic practices, networks and organizations made them possible? To provide at least part of the answer, this chapter introduces the concepts of “civic binationality” and “migrant civil society,” which provide frameworks for understanding the already-existing patterns of migrant organization that came together at this unusual historical turning point. “Civic binationality” refers to practices that are engaged both with US civic life and with migrants’ communities and countries of origin. The related concept of “migrant civil society” refers to migrant-led membership organizations and public institutions (which may not be engaged with communities of origin). The goal of this latter concept is to underscore the significance of migrant capacity for self-representation.
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