Introduction: Noncitizen Participation in the American Polity

Article excerpt

In 2010 there were 22.5 million noncitizens residing in the United States.1 These noncitizens accounted for 7.3% of the American population.2 Within this population there is great diversity. Some entered as lawful permanent residents, others as nonimmigrants, and others entered without inspection. Some were raised in the United States and have spent the majority of their life here, while others are recent arrivals. Some intend to stay for long periods of time, others plan on only a short stay. Some plan on becoming citizens while others are content to remain noncitizens. The ways in which this diverse population participates in American society is the topic of this Symposium Issue. The Symposium participants explored the various ways in which law, policy, and politics shape how noncitizens participate in American society, and how noncitizen participation shapes American law, policy, and politics.

Within the sociology literature on immigration, a "context of reception" approach has been utilized to describe and explain immigrants' integration within society.3 This approach emphasizes the ways in which the "structural and cultural features" of society influence immigrants' opportunities for participation and integration "above and beyond the role played by their own individual characteristics or motivations."4 A key component of immigrants' context of reception is government policy.5 For example, immigration law and policy detennine who is able to enter a country, how long they can stay, which of them can become citizens, when they can be kicked out, and how they will integrate within society. The answers to these questions determine an immigrant's legal status, a status which dictates the security of one's residence and opportunities for employment, political participation, and post-secondary education. Thus, the answer to these and related questions shape immigrants' participation within a society. Professor Stephen H. Legomsky's Artide, Immigration Policy from Scratch: The Universal and the Unique,6 highlights the importance of these and related questions. This Article outlines the questions that every society must confront when developing immigration policy. The questions focus on defining the mission, citizenship, admission, integration, illegal immigration, expulsion, and decision-making authority. While the questions are universal, the answers will vary across societies due to the unique "histories, cultures, forms of government, social structures, economic realities, age and labor demographics, values, and ultimately even different missions."7 The answers that each society arrives at reveal what it is that the society truly believes.8

The remaining articles in this Issue explore what the answers to these questions reveal about what the United States truly believes about noncitizens. The articles approach this issue through three themes. The first set of articles examines the ways in which laws regulating immigration and the lives of immigrants shape noncitizen participation in the United States, and the ways that such participation shapes American society. The second group of articles explores what nonimmigration rights tell us about the membership status of noncitizens. The final two articles offer new insights on the growth of sub-federal immigration enforcement and the implications of such enforcement strategies on immigrant communities.

Professors Kevin R. Johnson, Rick Su, and Michael A. Olivas each explore the ways in which social structure, in the form of law or politics, shape noncitizens' participation in the United States. In Immigration and Civil Rights: Is the "New" Birmingham the Same as the "Old" Birmingham? ? Johnson argues that there are parallels between Alabama's protection of civil rights during Jim Crow and today. During both eras Alabama used law to limit access to education. During Jim Crow segregation, law limited African Americans' access to educational institutions and Alabama's 201 1 Beason-Hammon Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act limits undocumented students' access to K- 12 public schools. …


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