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Social and Behavioral Sciences Gateway
Immigrant Heritage Month

Rocio Rosales, UCI associate professor of sociology, on the importance of recognizing contributions and struggles of immigrants in America
Rocio Rosales
This June, as we commemorate Immigrant Heritage Month, we take note of the many ways our country has been shaped, influenced, and improved by immigrants. While we readily recognize that the United States is a nation of immigrants, we often forget the many ways in which these immigrants toil to make their lives and ours better.

In my work, I have sought to shed light on those immigrant populations that are often overlooked. My book focuses on a community of immigrant street vendors working in Los Angeles. While they are highly visible on street corners under their rainbow-colored umbrellas, few of us know much about their lives beyond the street corner. For six years, I worked alongside, interviewed, and shadowed fruit vendors as they moved between work and home spheres. I wrote about their social and economic lives, as well as their day-to-day struggles, as they labored in a city with the most restrictive anti-vending ordinances in the country.

More recently, I have turned my attention to aspiring immigrants. That is, those immigrants seeking asylum and a sense of belonging in this country who find themselves in immigrant detention. While stories of newly arrived immigrants dominate the news cycle, we know little about what life in detention is like for those seeking a better life. In this work I examine how they navigate their immigration proceedings while confined.

To be sure, being a nation of immigrants is a complicated matter. This month we should take time to examine what we owe to past, present, and future immigrants. If we are to believe, as this year's White House Proclamation declares, that America is both a place and an idea that draws people to our shores, we should acknowledge that we are made better by those who have arrived and those yet to come.
Rocio Rosales is an associate professor of sociology at UCI, Inclusive Excellence professor, and author of Fruteros: Street Vending, Illegality, and Ethnic Community in Los Angeles. She earned her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles and was hired as an assistant professor in sociology at UCI in 2014.