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The New Nativism

The New Nativism: Proposition 187 and the Debate over Immigration

Robin Dale Jacobson
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    The New Nativism
    Book Description:

    Examining the dynamics of the Proposition 187 political battle, The New Nativism questions racism as the motivating factor for political action both at the time and in the high-stakes, hotly contested immigration debates of today. Moving beyond inflammatory headlines and polarizing rhetoric, Jacobson reveals that it is not so much prejudice but the very act of defining race that lies at the center of modern American politics.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5660-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION The Legacy of Proposition 187
    (pp. xiii-xxviii)

    In November 1993, ten people in California, including former agents of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, a mayor, and a state representative, wrote the Save Our State initiative. This document, which would become Proposition 187, comprised a number of different components that dealt with illegal immigration in California. The voter initiative proposed stricter penalties for false residency documents and reversed existing laws by mandating cooperation between the police and the INS. The sections that produced bitter, protracted public debate and made Proposition 187 a landmark in immigration politics and race relations were those that denied illegal immigrants social services,...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Bridging Race
    (pp. 1-22)

    Opponents of Proposition 187 repeatedly leveled charges of racism at the measure’s proponents, arguing that it represented a thinly veiled attempt to penalize the state’s Latino population. The proposed measure called on providers of social services to report those they “suspected” of being undocumented. To opponents, such an enforcement mechanism required discrimination against those who looked and sounded different. Proponents rejected the claim, arguing that their stance was race neutral; it was the opponents who were themselves playing the “race card.” Because the measure’s provisions were grounded in documentation status, not race, proponents insisted, they were the victims of race-conscious...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Color-Blind Conservatism and Racial Realism: Two Sides of the Same Coin
    (pp. 23-46)

    To understand mobilization in support of Proposition 187, we must investigate how two seemingly competitive conceptualizations about race and politics work together: color-blind conservatism and racial realism. Color-blind conservatism argues that race is no longer a relevant category and people should not behave otherwise. References to race in government programs and policies serve to perpetuate the false category. Individualism and equality are highlighted as keys to achieving fairness, the paramount value in this schema. Racial realism, on the other hand, suggests that race is a fundamental dividing category in society and that races have singular interests that compete with the...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Criminalizing Mexican Migration
    (pp. 47-65)

    The struggle over Proposition 187 was a critical modern moment criminalizing Mexican migration. During the campaign, proponents connected notions of danger and criminality with the act of undocumented migration through race. What had been a discrete act of violating immigration law became, in the eyes of the measure’s supporters, a criminal tendency in Mexicans. Through their criminal behavior or their propensity toward criminal behavior, the undocumented were seen as forfeiting their rights and benefits of membership and therefore should be denied social services. Mobilization for Proposition 187 combined and transposed schemas about criminality and illegality around a raced notion of...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Economic Citizenship: Dependency and the White American Work Ethic
    (pp. 66-88)

    I met Sue, a woman in her forties, in a fast food restaurant in northern California to discuss her support for the Proposition 187 campaign. She was wearing no makeup and had her blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail. She had recently left the city because of a fear of crime and entered into the farm business. Sue reported her disgust at Mexicans who abused the welfare system and created economic problems for Californians. Mexicans were out to take advantage of the system and were bankrupting the state. As we talked, Latino workers occasionally passed our table in the...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Assimilation and Civilization: Language, Trash, and Power
    (pp. 89-108)

    Immigration policy has long been understood as a central means to engineer a desirable culture.¹ In the United States, immigration debates have raged over the impact immigrants were having on American culture. Were immigrants assimilating? What was the best way to encourage Americanization? Can a society function with multiple cultures? In the battle over Proposition 187, arguments about culture played a key role in the minds of proponents. While the most public propaganda and the highest level politicians avoided addressing cultural arguments head-on, low- and midlevel activists as well as more informal propaganda used arguments about culture as a basis...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Population and Hyperreproductivity
    (pp. 109-134)

    I was scheduled to meet Dean at his country club for breakfast. Because of heavy traffic, I arrived twenty minutes late for the interview. He was very understanding and said this was typical. He pointed to my experience as a key example of how population growth in California was overwhelming the infrastructure and harming the quality of life. For Dean, a white man in his fifties who had owned an advertising agency and dabbled in political campaigning, population growth from immigration was a concern because of quality-of-life issues, but also for political reasons. As we sat in the well-appointed (and...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 135-146)

    During the 2004 California gubernatorial recall campaign, reporters asked Arnold Schwarzenegger about his voting record on Proposition 187. People and groups of all different political stripes made claims about his fitness or unfitness for office based on his reply that he had voted in favor of the measure. In 2006, Schwarzenegger made headlines again when he came out with the statement that he had decided his vote for the measure was wrong. This nearly decade-old measure, which was never implemented, still serves as a critical marker for understanding contemporary immigration and race politics. The struggle that occurred over the measure...

  12. APPENDIX: Research Methods
    (pp. 147-160)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 161-170)
  14. References
    (pp. 171-178)
  15. Index
    (pp. 179-190)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 191-191)