Stirring the Melting Pot: A Recipe for Immigrant Acceptance

Article excerpt

Stirring the Melting Pot: A Recipe for Immigrant Acceptance THE IMMIGRATION CRUCIBLE: TRANSFORMING RACE, NATION, AND THE LIMITS OF THE LAW. By Philip Kretsedemas. New York, New York: Columbia University Press, 2012. 232 pages. $28.00.

The interstate highway "made distant what had been close, and close what had been distant."1

In The Immigration Crucible, Philip Kretsedemas hopes to break the "habit of developing arguments that are simply reactions to the 'other side'"2 and desires to "map a political, cultural, and economic terrain that . . . provides some new insights into why so many noncitizens are in a difficult situation"3 while drawing "attention to the limitations of the mainstream proimmigration position."4 Toward this end, he seeks "an engagement across lines of difference that has the potential to transform the perspectives of all parties . . . involved in the encounter."5 In this spirit, I offer my critique of this challenging book. I share Kretsedemas's sentiment-if my Review "is successful in getting people to think about U.S. immigration policy in a new way, . . . I will be more than pleased. Either way, I have put forward my best effort."6

Kretsedemas ultimately fails in his task because as much as he tries to escape-to transcend-liberal anthropology with its peculiar notions of the state and the state's relationship to immigrants and other denizens, he remains within liberalism's orbit, pulled in by its unseen gravitational forces. Instead of providing "a paradigm shift" that leads to "an entirely new understanding,"7 he offers a particular view of the terrain from a worn and aging neoliberal spacecraft.

This Review will proceed in five stages. First, I will provide a brief summary of the book. Second, I will offer three critiques: (a) Kretsedemas's creation of a stereotyped "Other," which he marginalizes and stigmatizes, undermines his call to transformational dialogue; (b) while decrying both Executive discretion and state control over immigration, he fails to recognize and therefore leaves unresolved the question of how immigration policy ought to be adopted and implemented; and (c) although he desires a "stronger ethical foundation" for the pro-immigration discourse, he offers none.8 Finally, I will offer a brief response to the central theme of his book, which is a desire "to address the problem of immigrant marginality."9

I. The Book: A Summary

Even though Jim Crow is now a closed chapter in U.S. legal history, there is still a romantic attachment within the popular culture to images of national community that stem from this era.10

Kretsedemas believes that images of national community formed in the Jim Crow era drive immigration policy, fostering structures and institutions that create immigrant alienation. He hopes his book project will serve as a vehicle for "transforming the political culture to make it more inclusive of new immigrant populations."11 To succeed, his project "requires a critical race analysis . . . that is not just oriented toward fixing racial inequalities" but also displays "a willingness to examine and reconstruct popular ideas about whiteness and the cultural difference of immigrants."12

Three key factors enter into Kretsedemas's equation: the marginal immigrant, the state with its broad discretionary powers, and the acquiescence of a broad spectrum of intellectuals-"liberal, conservative, and Marxist"-in the status quo.13 The introductory chapter provides a broad overview of his case stating that both pro- and anti-immigrant forces have worked to expand the "extralegal (or marginally legal) discretionary powers" of the state, which sometimes favor "liberalization of migrant flows" and at other times serve "to control racial minority populations."14

Rejecting-or at least deemphasizing-formal "legal categories . . . defined by the state,"15 Kretsedemas uses Chapter Two to reimagine many noncitizens, many nonimmigrants, the undocumented,16 and even some immigrants,17 as "de facto stateless. …