THE POLITICS OF IMMIGRATION
As ethnic diversity has increased in California and especially in its metropolitan areas, this diversity has refocused attention on immigration in general and on the impacts of immigration on communities and neighborhoods in particular. The state government is concerned with the costs of providing services to immigrants, both documented and undocumented. The public feels ambiguous about how their society is changing. Immigrant support groups wish to keep the current patterns of support available for the new immigrants, but these groups have varying political agendas that often clash with one another ( Skerry, 1993). Even the public, despite its concern about large-scale flows, is divided between those who support the increasing diversity of our society and those who want to keep the status quo.
Political reaction to the immigration problem is as varied as the immigrant groups themselves. But it seems to be generally agreed that undocumented immigration should be controlled ( U. S. Commission on Immigration Reform , 1997). In this chapter I will examine the range of political reactions to large-scale immigration, from the perspective of both immigrants and the native-born. I believe that these reactions are far more complex than descriptions of immigrant bashing and nativist xenophobia would suggest.
Nationally, an increasing proportion of the population favors a decrease in immigration. In 1965, when the Hart-Cellar Act, a turning point for immigration flows, was enacted, only 33% of the American public thought that immigration should be decreased. Most people did not perceive any problem then with the level of immigration, and consequently saw no need to change U.S. policy. By 1993, however, 65% of the U.S. population wanted a decrease in immigration levels ( Gallup Poll Organization, 1993). Today,