March 25th, 2008 at 10:13 am
Immigration, a contentious issue among Republicans during the primaries, is sure to surface again in the general election. The recently published Keeping Out the Other: A Critical Introduction to Immigration Enforcement argues that while the focus on enforcement has intensified in recent years, current anti-immigration tendencies are not a knee-jerk reaction to the events of September 11th. Rather, they have been gathering steam for decades. Moreover, instead of finding effective ways of integrating newcomers into American society, the U.S. has focused on making the process of citizenship more difficult.
In their introduction Brotherton and Kretsedemas note the contradictory character of current U.S. immigration policy:
This enforcement focus has come to dominate in an era when the United States is becoming increasingly more reliant on immigrants for workforce replenishment and population growth in general. Given this context, it is telling that the predominant form of social spending on immigration focuses on routing out so-called undesirables and that most of the state and local legislation on immigration is geared toward capturing unauthorized migrants and other immigration violators. The dismantling of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), and the incorporation of its duties within the Department of Homeland Security, provides as good a metaphor as any of this shift in emphasis. . . . It is possible however to reinterpret security as pertaining to improving the legal rights, social mobility, and well-being of all U.S. residents—immigrants and native born alike.
Keeping Out the Other includes the perspectives of activists, journalists, social scientists, and immigrants themselves and examines issues such as the effectiveness of current immigration laws, the symbolic linkages between immigration, national security, and the federal prison system, the fate of Muslim immigrants, race and immigration, and media depictions of immigrants and immigration issues.
Other books on immigration that take a closer look at the experiences of immigrants:
Nancy Chin’s Sewing Women: Immigrants and the New York City Garment Industry explores the different work experiences and social networks among Chinese and Latino immigrants. How has the practice of Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism changed in America? Bruce Lawrence considers this issues and the experience of West and South Asian immigrants in the United States in New Faiths, Old Fears: Muslims and Other Asian Immigrants in American Religious Life. Finally, the continually changing nature of New York City’s immigrant community is examined in New Immigrants in New York, edited by Nancy Foner.