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America's Newcomers and the Dynamics of Diversity -- Chapter 1

America's Newcomers and the Dynamics of Diversity -- Chapter 1

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With a comprehensive social scientific assessment of immigration over the past thirty years, America's Newcomers and the Dynamics of Diversity provides the clearest picture to date of how immigration has actually affected the United States, while refuting common misconceptions and predicting how it might affect us in the future.
With a comprehensive social scientific assessment of immigration over the past thirty years, America's Newcomers and the Dynamics of Diversity provides the clearest picture to date of how immigration has actually affected the United States, while refuting common misconceptions and predicting how it might affect us in the future.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation on Oct 27, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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05/24/2012

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1
Chapter 1
Introduction: Immigration’sNuances and Complexities
T
he destruction
of the twin towers of New York’s World TradeCenter on September 11, 2001—carried out by persons whowere neither citizens nor legal permanent residents—cast into bold relief the importance and contradictions of U.S. immigration pol-icy. Those responsible for the suicide missions were able either to en-ter the country fraudulently or to remain here illegally after visas forlegal entry had expired (Gorman 2001; Jenks 2001). A dramatic slow-down in international travel after the attacks took place, together withan apparent acceleration of a downturn in the U.S. economy that had begun well before the incidents occurred, illustrated that economicvitality in an increasingly interdependent global economy involvessubstantial flows of tourists, students, temporary workers, and per-manent immigrants into the country (Maggs and Baumann 2001). Thedilemmas for U.S. immigration policy became crystal clear (Meissner2001). Should worries that further terrorist attacks might occur tiltadmissions policies strongly in favor of restrictionism? Could theUnited States and other advanced postindustrial countries developimmigration policies that would provide security and facilitate ease ofmovement at the same time? Could both universalism and particular-ism be balanced in sensible and effective policies?Since September 11, such immigration-related concerns have takenon unusual intensity and urgency. As important as these have beenand as crucial as it is to deal with them, their frequent articulationalso serves to remind us that preoccupations with immigration issuesare anything but new. Debates about U.S. immigration policy haveoften commanded center stage among both the members of the gen-eral public and policy makers for the past quarter century. For exam-ple, during this period two national commissions, the Select Commis-sion on Immigration and Refugee Policy (1981) and the U.S. Commission
 
2America
s Newcomers and the Dynamics of Diversity
on Immigration Reform (1997), released major reports recommendingreforms in immigration law. Also, on three occasions substantial im-migration reform legislation has been passed by Congress and signedinto law. First, in 1986 Congress passed the Immigration Reform andControl Act (IRCA) in an effort to reduce unauthorized migration bylegalizing migrants already living and working in the country andadopting employer sanctions in an attempt to make it harder for fu-ture migrants to find jobs (Bean, Vernez, and Keely 1989). Second, in1990 Congress passed the National Immigration Act, which set a capon annual legal immigration while providing increased numbers ofvisas for highly skilled workers (Bean and Fix 1992). Third, in 1996Congress passed welfare reform and immigration legislation in partas an attempt to limit unauthorized migration by tightening access topublic benefits for noncitizens (Espenshade, Baraka, and Huber 1997;Van Hook and Bean 1998b).In 1965, with passage of the amendments to the Immigration andNationality Act, the United States abolished national origin quotas asa basis for granting immigrant visas, and since the mid-1970s legisla-tive initiatives have mostly involved efforts to limit immigration. Bythe end of August 2001, however, recommendations to increase immi-gration were being voiced frequently, demonstrating that U.S. immi-gration policy was on the verge of coming full circle from its previ-ously largely restrictive emphases. For example, on September 5, just before the New York tragedy, President Vicente Fox of Mexico visitedPresident Bush in Washington to publicize and lobby for recommen-dations on changing U.S. policy regarding Mexican migration (Sul-livan and Jordan 2001). These included
regularizing
unauthorizedMexican migrants already in the United States and establishing a new
guest-worker
program for low-skilled laborers from Mexico, ideasmotivated largely by the labor shortages stemming from the unusu-ally strong economy of the late 1990s (Meissner 2001; Mexico
U.S.Migration Panel 2001). In short, in early September 2001 it seemedlikely that a sharp turnaround in U.S. policy might take place awayfrom the general thrust of a quarter century
s emphasis. However,external events set the policy debates on a new course (Gorman 2002).Such dramatic twists and turns suggest the experience of the UnitedStates with the
new
immigration since 1965
the substantial in-creases in the numbers of persons coming from Asia and Latin Amer-ica
and with the various issues underlying the policy reforms con-sidered and adopted during the ensuing years warrants carefulexamination. This book undertakes such an examination. Its purposeis twofold: to conduct a review of social science research relevant to
 
Introduction3
these issues and to introduce new research that focuses on the majorissues that have driven the immigration-policy debates.The results of our review and research have led us to conclude thaton balance, the new immigration of the past four decades has hadmore positive than negative consequences for the United States. Wealso argue that it is often difficult to discern the positive aspects ofimmigration because several circumstances create the impression thatunprecedented problems with the new immigration have emerged.One of these aspects is recent increases in unauthorized Mexicanmigration, a phenomenon that often causes consternation in part be-cause it frequently is confused with legal kinds of immigration.Another aspect derives from changes in the nature of immigrant inte-gration that both strengthen ethnic identities and increase the likeli-hood of their expression among many immigrants. This contributes tothe impression that ethnic disharmonies rather than harmonies are onthe rise, although we argue that the reverse is actually the reality. Athird aspect is related to the fact that immigration
s effects are not allpositive, although the weight of the evidence indicates that the nega-tive consequences are often exaggerated by observers and are morethan offset by other positive consequences. More generally, and onthe positive side of the ledger, one of the most significant develop-ments is that immigration generates increased racial and ethnic diver-sity in many parts of the country, a change producing signs that theracial and ethnic boundaries that have long divided Americans arestarting to break down. In the chapters that follow we present both areview of the empirical and theoretical research literature and ourown new theories and research findings that provide the bases forthese conclusions.
Why Are Immigration IssuesGrowing More Important?
Paying close attention to the results of policy-relevant social scienceresearch on immigration is important for several reasons. First, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the United States finds itselfoccupying a new and historically unprecedented position
it is boththe world
s sole superpower and the most important locus of the newtechnologically driven information economy (Nye 2002). Immigrationhas been related to these developments in complex ways
sometimesoperating as cause and sometimes as consequence of U.S. global mili-tary and economic power. Many envision immigration and globaliza-tion as essential to the future well-being of the country; others worry

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