Academic journal article Migration Letters

Race and Immigration

Academic journal article Migration Letters

Race and Immigration

Article excerpt

Kibria, N.; Bowman, C., and O'Leary, M. (2014). Race and Immigration. Cambridge: Polity Press. 297 pages. (ISBN: 9780745647913)

Studies of immigration do not often intersect with discussions about race and its implications for the U.S. society. It is probably due to methodological problems of focus: while demographers investigate diverging destinies of different population groups, they ground their explanations in persistent black/ white divide. However it may be hard to introduce immigrants into this framework because of lack of reliable statistics and longitudinal studies; which may be especially true in the case of recent newcomers to the USA.

Nazli Kibria and his co-authors make race - immigration nexus central in the book. They ask a question whether the "American Dream" works for the new settlers and what structural inequalities hinder upward social mobility of the immigrants. Providing an overview of immigration policy and its change over a hundred years, the authors argue that the policy has not just reflected the racial order, but shaped and reified it as well. In Race and Immigration the authors investigate how contemporary rhetoric of "colour-blind" society masks other emerging divides, which limit immigrants' opportunities while they work out their way to the American Dream. Modern racism does not easily fit into the traditional models of black and white segregation. Cultural traits and language, character and behaviour play out for creation of new divisions. Institutions, employers and general public assume that immigrants from different places share common characteristics, which allows to justify "otherness' and seclude them into specific niches.

I find the chapter on connection of immigrants' occupational strategies and race especially interesting. Kibria, Bowman and O'Leary discuss formation of ethnic occupational niches; and the dual role that they play in creating job opportunities, and limiting employment mobility of immigrants. They indicate that the process of occupational racialization occurs across a broad spectrum of jobs, when different ethnicities are valued for specific roles, understood as "natural" for them. Race and ethnicity becomes markers, which replace skill and qualifications. …

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