Tech immigration changes racial attitudes in Cupertino: Interview with Tomás R. Jiménez

Jan 16, 2014

Last June marked a much anticipated achievement for the US Congress- the passing of the immigration reform bill. That ushered in many new changes: a new path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, mainly Latinos; the abolition of the Diversity Lottery Visa that brought in thousands of African immigrants; and an increase of H1-B visas given to highly talented workers sponsored by companies here in the US - primarily tech workers from East and South Asia. Silicon Valley tech giants such as Yahoo, Facebook and Google lobbied Congress and wrote to the President to increase the number of these visas in the new immigration bill.

So what does that mean for Silicon Valley, besides more tech workers? What social effects have high skilled Asian immigrant families had on traditionally white South Bay cities and the people who’ve lived in them for generations? Stanford sociology Professor Tomás R. Jiménez asked himself those questions and studied the city of Cupertino as an example. His latest study is, “When White Is Just Alright: How Immigrants Redefine Achievement and Reconfigure the Ethnoracial Hierarchy".

Tomás R. Jiménez: There's a notion that the white kids are the smart ones. The white kids are the high achieving ones. They are the kind of standard, the norm to which we compare everyone to figure out how they're doing. But the white kids in Cupertino are not the norm. They're not the standard. The standard and the norm for high achievement is set by the Asian origin population and particularly the Asian immigrant origin population. 

Click the audio player above to listen to the complete interview. 

Read Tomás R. Jiménez's full study, "When White Is Just Alright, How Immigrants Redefine Achievement and Reconfigure the Ethnoracial Hierarchy."