Between Two Nations: The Political Predicament of Latinos in New York City

By Michael Jones-Correa | Go to book overview

Introduction: The New Hispanic Immigration

This book reflects three kinds of change under way in the United States today: the increasing importance of Hispanics in American politics, their own increasing diversity, mostly as a result of immigration, and the complex incorporation of these immigrants into American political life.

It is impossible, walking through almost any American city today, to ignore the signs of transformative change. These can be seen in the lettering of signs over the storefronts, which are not just in English but in a panoply of other languages as well; in the faces of store owners, street vendors, waiters, pedestrians, passengers on the bus lines; and in the astonishing mix of national origins in the schools. Over the last thirty years American cities have absorbed the largest wave of immigration to the United States since the turn of the century. In 1994, the Census Bureau announced that 8.7 percent of the U.S. population were first-generation immigrants, the highest proportion since the 1940s, and nearly double the percentage in 1970 (4.8 percent). 22.6 million people -- nearly one in eleven U.S. residents -- were foreign-born. Four and a half million immigrants arrived in the 1970s, 7.3 million in the 1980s, and another 5 million from 1991 to 1995.1 These immigrants have settled largely in urban areas across the country.

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1
"Census: Immigrants at New High", Associated Press, August 25, 1995. Immigrants composed 13.5% of the country's population in 1910. "Percentage of Foreigners in U.S. Rises Sharply", New York Times, December 20, 1992. Nonetheless, the 19.7 million first-generation immigrants counted by the 1990 Census was the largest absolute number in the nation's history. Felicity Barringer, "As American as Apple Pie, Dim Sum, or Burritos", New York Times, May 31, 1992, section 4, p. E2. For overviews of the new immigration see Jaret 1991: 311; Portes and Rumbaut 1990; Sassen 1985; Waldinger 1989; Massey and Schnabel 1983.

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