John Mollenkopf, Manuel Pastor, eds. Unsettled Americans: Metropolitan Context and Civic Leadership for Immigrant Integration. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2016. 344 pp. $24.95 (paper), ISBN 978-1-5017-0267-9; $89.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-5017-0266-2.
Reviewed by Nicole Filler (University of California, Santa Barbara)
Published on H-Citizenship (September, 2016)
Commissioned by Sean H. Wang
While the US federal government has long held the power and authority to shape and influence policies and practices of integrating new immigrant communities, local and state governments have increasingly taken on the role. Responses have varied considerably, ranging anywhere from efforts aimed at improving the well-being of immigrants through greater access to social services, education, and economic opportunity to policies and practices that deny immigrants basic human rights. Why do some regions respond positively while others negatively? How and under what conditions do actors and organizations make proactive immigrant integration efforts?
Using in-depth case studies and recent US census data, Unsettled Americans describes and analyzes immigrant integration or “the extent to which new immigrant communities are making economic, social, and civic progress, and closing gaps with the native-born mainstream” (p. 3). The concept of immigrant integration relates centrally to debates, issues, and questions regarding citizenship. Understanding and explaining the extent to which and why different kinds of localities respond to different kinds of immigrants not only speaks to the contested nature of citizenship but also shows that the reality boundaries of exclusion are maintained and contested at the local level.
Extant studies examining related issues and questions have focused on individual attitudes and how these are shaped by local and national factors, in addition to the dynamics of political competition among native-born and immigrant racial and ethnic groups. Other studies have focused more on the roles of bureaucratic structure and civic organizations. Unsettled Americans builds on and extends these insights through a comparativist and regionalist approach, examining responses to immigrant communities across older and newer receiving destinations and within each of them. Indicators of positive reception include efforts to promote immigrant integration through the adoption of new programs; the redesign of existing programs to take into account new immigrant flows; and the degree of cooperation between government, business elites, service delivery organizations, and community advocacy groups. The authors measure negative reception as anti-immigrant mobilization, strong local enforcement practices, and the failure to provide basic services to immigrant communities.
In addition to the reality of integrated regional economies and disparate governance, the regionalist approach is necessitated by changes in geographical concentrations of immigrant populations from central, urban cities to the outer lying suburban areas, in addition to the varied social, political, and economic dynamics across regions. John Mollenkopf and Manuel Pastor highlight some key characteristics in chapter 1 that make the selected regions practical choices, both in their own right and as useful, contrasting comparisons. The first three regions—New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles—are longtime recipients of immigrants with established infrastructures for incorporating immigrants. The editors also selected the Inland Empire of Southern California for its emerging immigration and its contrasts to “nearby” Los Angeles. New immigrant destinations featured in the volume include Charlotte, Phoenix, and San José.
In setting up the broader context of immigrant integration, Pastor and Mollenkopf examine broad trends and patterns across all regions and across time using a large-N analysis. Contemporary patterns of US immigration differ from those of the pre-civil rights era, in large part due to basic structure and framework set by the 1965 Hart-Keller Act. In place of the nation-based quota system, the law reapplied relatively equal hemispheric caps with access to entry largely based on the principle of family reunification and desirability of labor skills. In effect, this has led to the increase US immigration from non-European countries with desirable labor supply and historically close ties to the United States, including Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Pooling data from the 2010-12 census, Pastor and Mollenkopf (chapter 2) show that the racial composition of the foreign-born population has changed. Latino immigrants, particularly those of Mexican origin, make up the large plurality of immigrants who entered in 2000 or later. With the exception of Chicago, where Eastern European immigrants comprise a significant share, Asian ethnic groups, including Chinese, Asian Indian, Filipino, Korean, and Vietnamese, make up the second largest share of “new” immigrants.
While each chapter is unique in organization, analysis, and style, the body of work here is envisioned as a single enterprise. The team researchers featured in this collection collectively developed the analytical and research framework and met with one another throughout the process. They developed common interview protocols, shared field notes with the whole group, and participated in debriefings. Each was assigned to one of the seven areas, some working together and in different combinations, and each conducted separate historical background research and interview data collection. Across cases, the authors utilize similar frameworks, focusing on demographic, political, economic, and geographical dynamics within a selected metropolitan region. Findings are largely based on qualitative and statistical data from the US Census Bureau, reports and surveys from community groups and governmental agencies, and mainstream and ethnic-specific media. The case studies also draw heavily from interviews with a range of political actors, including but not limited to public officials, community activists, and business representatives. The editors synthesize these findings in the final chapter and offer practical suggestions for improving immigrant integration. Because each chapter uniquely contributes to the overall mosaic that is metropolitan-level immigrant integration, this review addresses each case study in turn, briefly summarizing key arguments, and concludes with related issues and questions.
In their study of the New York metro area, Els de Graauw, Diana R. Gordon, and Mollenkopf demonstrate that responses to the concerns and needs of immigrant communities are highly localized with regional partnerships nearly absent. In the highly diverse, heterogeneous, and traditional immigrant destination of New York City, grassroots community-based organizations and statewide coaltions engage in multifaceted, successful efforts to improve language access and to end language discrimination in public agencies and other immigrant-serving institutions. On thornier issues, such as the coordination of local law enforcement with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the authors argue that activists have been relatively less successful due to framing of the issue and the non-codified practice of local-federal enforcement coordination.
While movement activism in the central city is palpable, de Graauw, Gordon, and Mollenkopf find relatively weak ties to the more conservative and white out lying area of Suffolk County. Indeed, a decline in the non-Hispanic white share of the population by the 1990s paralleled a hostile reception to new immigrants, the majority of whom were low-status immigrants from Mexico. Conservative political elites encouraged the hostile environment that culminated in hate violence and subsequently encouraged the formation of some pro-immigrant organizations and coalitions at the local level. The authors argue that while some change in regional response by city-based advocacy groups may be on the horizon, the lack of any sort of regional administrative structure and the fragmented nature of politics in the region overall discourage these efforts.
In chapter 4, Jaime Dominguez examines the political implications of rapid immigration in the context of the greater Chicago area where black-white cleavages, a machine-dominated political system, and rapid growth of immigrant groups comprise some of the key factors shaping reception. Dominguez highlights the formation of the Daley political coalition, drawing an important contrast between Latino and African American political incorporation. While the latter posed a threat to machine dominance dating back to the early 1980s, Latino elected officials and the strength of Latino-based partisan organizations suggest that machine politics has been central to Latino success and the partial integration of Latino immigrant groups. Drawing on instances of political conflict and cooperation between different groups, Dominguez suggests that these alliances have also limited potential opportunities to pursue more progressive, social justice-oriented strategies of immigrant integration and ones that address the concerns of low-income, monolingual, and non-Latino immigrants.
While immigrants make up a similar share of the total population in the surrounding suburban areas and some city government-led initiatives have linked the concerns of immigrant communities, according to Dominguez, responses in the suburbs have been varied, ranging mostly from anti-immigrant to symbolic recognition. This distinction is useful and may be highlighted in other cases. Like many of the suburban localities in this book, the political structure of surrounding counties and municipalities engenders disparate responses and volatility. Even under fragmentation, the geographical dimensions of immigrant integration suggest that municipalities known for their anti-immigrant rhetoric actually encouraged pro-immigrant sentiment in neighboring areas.
Moving west to metropolitan Los Angeles, Pastor, Juan De Lara, and Rachel Rosner (chapter 5) attribute pro-immigrant initiatives and institutions to the ongoing work of creating and sustaining coalitions that “reframe narratives and transform systems of political influence” (p. 105). The grassroots, bottom-up approach of social movement building is not new to Los Angeles and is inextricably linked to the electoral victories and policy agendas of elected officials. Although local actors and organizations are supportive of immigrant integration, they are supportive with differing approaches and strategies—ranging from colorblind approaches that focus on achievable, tangible political victories to (pan)ethnic approaches to organizing and to envisioning community empowerment. The authors focus on two issues related to immigrant integration in the city: local law enforcement and education. Drawing on interviews with members of the police force and on ICE detainer and deportation reports, Pastor, De Lara, and Rosner demonstrate that while local police do not want to be perceived as enforcers of immigration laws and have taken steps to improve their relationship with different immigrant communities, they have not always delivered on their promises. In terms of education, organizations and groups representing different communities have brought parents and students together to press for basic improvements, like better quality education and access to postsecondary education, in addition to stronger interracial relations. What is not clear in this case, however, is the extent to which these initiatives are inclusive of the diversity that is immigrant Los Angeles. Partly due to the lack of disaggregated data, particularly with respect to the Asian Pacific American community, the educational needs and concerns of more disadvantaged subgroups of Asian Pacific Americans are made invisible and thus go unaddressed.
The Los Angeles region is unlike the cases of New York and Chicago where institutionalized immigrant integration efforts have extended to the county and state levels. In Los Angeles, there seems to be some regional spillover in the nearby town of Maywood, where the population is over 90 percent Latino and where nearly 50 percent are foreign-born. But, as the authors demonstrate, demography is not destiny. The authors examine a “political revolution” led by grassroots Latino community-based organizations (and without the significant contributions of Labor and the Democratic Party) that formed to challenge unlawful DUI (driving under the influence) checkpoints and political corruption among local public officials. As a result of this grassroots organizing, the community was able to transform local and state politics.
De Lara (chapter 6) examines immigrant integration in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties (also known as the Inland Empire), directly east of Los Angeles. Although this region has garnered less attention from movement activists, growing anti-immigrant rhetoric and “send them back” protests have forced it into the spotlight. Between 1990 and 2012, the population of the Inland Empire nearly doubled in size, with much of this increase attributable to inland migration of immigrant and native-born Latinos and Asian Americans. Latino immigrants, however, make up a majority of all recent immigrants (since 2000) in the region, the largest share across all regions (see table 2.1). De Lara argues that the dominance of white, conservative political elites, in addition to a relatively unorganized business class, contributes to the hostile reception. And although national organizations have turned their attention to immigrant communities in the area, community activists and organizations express frustration, and rightfully so, that few outside groups work toward building the leadership of community members in ways that will build and sustain a social movement.
In contrast to De Lara’s chapter on the Inland Empire where the business class is tepid and unorganized, Michael Jones-Correa’s study of Charlotte (chapter 7) suggests that business sectors in the region, particularly in banking and energy, act as surrogates in the immigrant integration processes. Indeed, large corporations have long housed their operations in Charlotte and actively pursued strategies that would make the region more attractive to international business enterprise and immigrant labor. In the mid-2000s, the tenor shifted toward a more hostile reception and adverse conditions. This is particularly evident in terms of local policing, which has turned toward active coordination with ICE. Charlotte and Mecklenberg County’s development of federal immigration enforcement mechanisms at the regional level includes sixty-six active memoranda of agreements, a regional detention unit, and a federal immigration court. Greater efforts were made in the late 2000s to address and diffuse tensions between Latino immigrants and the police, a shift that Jones-Correa attributes to changes in leadership that promote the belief that immigrants contribute positively to business and economic development. Still, however, “greater public outreach to immigrant arrivals seemed largely the result of individual, ad hoc efforts” (p. 178). Community service organizations are still nascent, reaching only a fraction of the Latino residents.
In chapter 8, Doris Marie Provine and Paul G. Lewis examine the immigration (non)integration in the new destination of Phoenix, where the immigrant share of the total population increased at a faster rate than that of Charlotte. Provine and Lewis argue that, in addition to the demographic distance between racial/ethnic immigrants and the native born, state policies, driven by suburban and rural interests and bolstered by legislation and legal rulings at the federal level, played key roles in the overtly hostile and nativist reception. In 2004 and 2005 alone, for example, a series of measures were passed in the state legislature, with strong voter support, that restricted access to employment, education, and suffrage, and tightened sanctions on employers of unauthorized immigrants. While some of the most legally suspect measures garnered some response of the federal government, the federal government's response only seemed to embolden state and county authorities in their pursuance of harsher penalities and enforcement measures. The authors’ interviews with community activists also suggest that group cleavages, such as generation and class, further inhibited the development of strong community response. In addition, mainstream civic and political leaders, though sympathetic, flew under the radar and feared political retaliation if associated with efforts to integrate immigrants.
Finally, a model of sorts is presented in the last case—a multiethnic/mulitracial region with a new and growing immigrant population. Pastor, Rosner, and Jennifer Tran argue that in San José and in the broader Santa Clara County, immigrant-friendly practices and policies occur at nearly all levels of the immigrant integration stream. Why such a positive reception? In contrast to some of the traditional receiving gateways, Pastor, Rosner, and Tran argue, immigrants are perceived as an integral part of government, society, and the economy. Over 40 percent of all voters are either foreign-born or the children of immigrants, and they elect candidates who invest the time, energy, and money into improving the lives of immigrants. Immigrant-oriented service and advocacy are not the sole province of professional staff or community volunteers but interwoven in business and labor groups.
Looping back to the main themes of the book, the individual case studies and statistical analysis provide convincing evidence for the claim that demographic distance, local and regional political dynamics, and the racialization of immigrant groups all matter in shaping the responses to immigration in the twenty-first-century American context. There are some conceptual and theoretical questions remaining: Who are the “new” immigrants? What is the relationship between the goal(s) of immigrant integration and social justice? What is social justice? How and under what conditions may some efforts to promote the successful integration of immigrants inhibit (or encourage) the transformation of multiple, intersecting boundaries of exclusion and oppression? In the twenty-first-century context, is the latter necessary to achieve the former?
Racialization clearly matters, but it is not always clear in the case studies how racial frames are used, for what purposes, and with what implications for processes of immigrant integration and empowerment. Racialization may involve the grouping of non-white immigrants (and the native-born) of diverse ethnicities, backgrounds, and cultures as “foreigners” and “outsiders” and as “hardworking” and “pure.” Both of these frames may contribute to the exclusion and marginalization of non-white groups. While positive stereotyping may be associated with immigrant-friendly reception, it may also have deleterious effects on the communities in question, weakening mechanisms of accountability and pitting differently positioned groups against one another, not only across communities of color but within them as well. To what extent does (de)racialization create opportunities for the incorporation of some groups while creating barriers to incorporation for others? While some chapters speak to this issue, greater delineation and conceptualization of the processes associated with racialization/panethnicization would be useful.
Finally, racialization is also a fundamentally gendered and sexualized process. Studies of immigrant integration may also benefit from a greater focus on the identities and activism of Latina, Asian Pacific American, and Afro-Carribbean immigrant women. Lessons from the scholarship and activism of US women of color suggest that movements that grapple with only one form of inequality negate the existence of those whose experiences lie at the intersections of multiple oppressions. If immigrant integration is viewed as the extent to which new immigrant communities are making progress toward closing the gap with the native-born mainstream, then the inclusion of the stories and experiences of groups whose identities lie at the intersections of race, gender, class, and nativity is certainly warranted.
. On individual attitudes, see Jennifer L. Hochschild and John Mollenkopf, Bringing Outsiders In: Transatlantic Perspectives on Immigrant Political Incorporation (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009); Daniel J. Hopkins, “Politicized Places: Explaining Where and When Immigrants Provoke Local Opposition,” American Political Science Review 104, no. 1 (2010): 40-60; and S. Karthick Ramakrishnan and Tom Wong, “Partisanship, Not Spanish: Explaining Municipal Ordinances Affecting Undocumented Immigrants,” in Taking Local Control: Immigration Policy Activism in US Cities and States, ed. Monica W. Varsanyi (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2010), 73-93. On political competition, see John Mollenkopf, “Dimensions of Immigrant Political Incorporation,” in Outsiders No More? Models of Immigrant Political Incorporation, ed. Jennifer L. Hochschild, Jacqueline Chattopadhyay, Claudine Gay, and Michael Jones-Correa (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 107-118.
. On bureaucratic structure, see Michael Jones-Correa, “Immigrant Incorporation in the Suburbs: Differential Pathways, Arenas and Intermediaries,” in Immigration and Integration in Urban Communities: Renegotiating the City, ed. Lisa M. Hanley, Blair A. Ruble, and Allison Garland (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2008), 19-47. On civic organizations, see Els De Graauw, Shannon Gleeson, and Irene Bloemraad, “Funding Immigrant Organizations: Suburban Free Riding and Local Civic Presence,” American Journal of Sociology 119, no. 1 (2013): 75-130.
. Priya Kandaswamy, “Gendering Racial Formation,” in Racial Formation in the Twenty-First Century, ed. Daniel Martinez HoSang, Oneka LaBennett, and Laura Pulido (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012), 23-43; and Evelyn Nakano Glenn, Unequal Freedom: How Race and Gender Shaped American Freedom and Labor (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002).
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Nicole Filler. Review of Mollenkopf, John; Pastor, Manuel, eds., Unsettled Americans: Metropolitan Context and Civic Leadership for Immigrant Integration.
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