Responding to Immigration: Perceptions of Promise and Threat

Responding to Immigration: Perceptions of Promise and Threat

Responding to Immigration: Perceptions of Promise and Threat

Responding to Immigration: Perceptions of Promise and Threat

Synopsis

Fry examines nativist activity occurs and reveals reasons why immigration activists want to restrict or expand current immigration policies. He identifies the basic elements of nativist reactions and develops criteria for comparing varied cases of immigrant reception. Interviews with people involved in immigration reform, along with analysis of immigration reform agency documents and archives, further our understanding of what immigration means to immigration activists and the roles they play in shaping public policy and opinion. He develops a conceptual scheme for examining the different discourses, beliefs, and behaviors of immigration activists and compares them to dominant perspectives on nativism and intergroup hostility.

Excerpt

Does international migration undermine the well-being and progress of host countries, as some people argue, or is the problem the reactions of those who express such views? Should waves of workers, family members, and refugees be regarded with alarm or are migration flows a benign outcome of economic interdependence, emerging markets, foreign policies, risk management strategies, and transnational communities (e.g., see Gold 1997; Massey 1998; Sassen 1996; Weiner 1997)? Conflicting answers to these questions occasion little surprise because they originate on different planes of consideration and travel through divergent worldviews. But these arguments are predicated on the assumption that international migration is a public matter, an issue demanding government intervention (LeMay 1994).

For some, the problem is borders and their guardians. They reason that international migration is only international because humans have erected national boundaries. If people were only more tolerant and less xenophobic, and governments not so preoccupied with jurisdiction, borders could be swept into the dustbin of history. For others, the problem is international migration. They argue that immigration endangers the culture, economy, environment, polity, and/or national security of receiving countries. Is the problem a matter of perception and unwarranted apprehension or is international migration a destabilizing element in national and international relations? Is immigration a crisis or a management problem (e.g., see Sassen 1996; Weiner 1995)?

Dichotomizing the complexity of international migration returns simplistic answers, but this contrast captures the polarized character of the debate over immigration. The purpose of this book is not to assess the myriad of empirical and moral arguments presented for and against the continuation of current U.S. immigration and immigrant policies, but to examine immigration reform—intentional actions designed to . . .

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