Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
E Pluribus Unum?

E Pluribus Unum?: Contemporary and Historical Perspectives on Immigrant Political Incorporation

Gary Gerstle
John Mollenkopf
Copyright Date: 2001
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 436
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    E Pluribus Unum?
    Book Description:

    The political involvement of earlier waves of immigrants and their children was essential in shaping the American political climate in the first half of the twentieth century. Immigrant votes built industrial trade unions, fought for social protections and religious tolerance, and helped bring the Democratic Party to dominance in large cities throughout the country. In contrast, many scholars find that today's immigrants, whose numbers are fast approaching those of the last great wave, are politically apathetic and unlikely to assume a similar voice in their chosen country.E Pluribus Unum?delves into the wealth of research by historians of the Ellis Island era and by social scientists studying today's immigrants and poses a crucial question: What can the nation's past experience teach us about the political path modern immigrants and their children will take as Americans?

    E Pluribus Unum?explores key issues about the incorporation of immigrants into American public life, examining the ways that institutional processes, civic ideals, and cultural identities have shaped the political aspirations of immigrants. The volume presents some surprising re-assessments of the past as it assesses what may happen in the near future. An examination of party bosses and the party machine concludes that they were less influential political mobilizers than is commonly believed. Thus their absence from today's political scene may not be decisive. Some contributors argue that the contemporary political system tends to exclude immigrants, while others remind us that past immigrants suffered similar exclusions, achieving political power only after long and difficult struggles. Will the strong home country ties of today's immigrants inhibit their political interest here? Chapters on this topic reveal that transnationalism has always been prominent in the immigrant experience, and that today's immigrants may be even freer to act as dual citizens.E Pluribus Unum?theorizes about the fate of America's civic ethos-has it devolved from an ideal of liberal individualism to a fractured multiculturalism, or have we always had a culture of racial and ethnic fragmentation? Research in this volume shows that today's immigrant schoolchildren are often less concerned with ideals of civic responsibility than with forging their own identity and finding their own niche within the American system of racial and ethnic distinction.

    Incorporating the significant influx immigrants into American society is a central challenge for our civic and political institutions-one that cuts to the core of who we are as a people and as a nation.E Pluribus Unum?shows that while today's immigrants and their children are in some ways particularly vulnerable to political alienation, the process of assimilation was equally complex for earlier waves of immigrants. This past has much to teach us about the way immigration is again reshaping the nation.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-244-2
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Gary Gerstle and John Mollenkopf
  5. Introduction The Political Incorporation of Immigrants, Then and Now
    (pp. 1-30)
    Gary Cerstle and John Mollenkopf

    In the half century between 1881 and 1930, 27.6 million immigrants arrived on our shores, mostly from eastern, central, and southern Europe. Although as many as a third of some groups ultimately returned to their countries of origin, those who stayed had an enormous impact on a national population that stood at only 50 million in 1880. In the peak decade of this influx, between 1901 and 1910, newly arriving immigrants alone boosted the nation's population by 10.4 percent and accounted for more than half the population growth in many of the cities where they settled.

    To distinguish them from...


    • Chapter 1 Beyond the Boss: Immigration and American Political Culture from 1880 to 1940
      (pp. 33-66)
      Evelyn Savidge Sterne

      In his affectionate portrait of the fictional Frank Skeffington, loosely based on Boston boss James Curley, the novelist Edwin O’Connor captures a popular and enduring historical image. Well into the 1970s, scholars assumed that the urban machine wasthevehicle through which new Americans became politically active during the immigration-heavy decades of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. According to this reasoning, bosses like O’Connor’s Skeffington made themselves indispensable to ethnic neighborhood life through a combination of material assistance, symbolic recognition, and community involvement. In return, grateful immigrants delivered up their votes. It was a neat symbiotic relationship that...

    • Chapter 2 Building America, One Person at a Time: Naturalization and Political Behavior of the Naturalized in Contemporary American Politics
      (pp. 67-106)
      Louis DeSipio

      Naturalization and the rights of the naturalized have become fodder for the national political debate in a way that they had not for many years. In the 1996 presidential campaign, for example, the Republicans accused President Bill Clinton of spurring an increase in the numbers of newly naturalized citizens and allowing the naturalization of ineligible applicants in an effort to boost the Democratic vote. In another twist, the legality of some of the controversial funds collected by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee from “foreign” sources hinged on whether the immigrant contributors were U.S. citizens or permanent residents....


    • Chapter 3 Sea Change in the Civic Culture in the 1960s
      (pp. 109-142)
      Philip Gleason

      Writing in the still-placid 1950s of eighteenth-century conditions that set the stage for the American and French Revolutions, Robert R. Palmer describes a “revolutionary situation” in terms uncannily prophetic of what was to happen in the United States in the decade following the publication of his book. By a revolutionary situation he meant

      one in which confidence in the justice or reasonableness of existing authority is undermined; where old loyalties fade, obligations are felt as impositions, laws seem arbitrary, and respect for superiors is felt as a form of humiliation; where existing sources of prestige seem undeserved, hitherto accepted forms...

    • Chapter 4 Making Americans: Immigration Meets Race
      (pp. 143-172)
      Desmond King

      One dominant interpretation of the experience of immigration and assimilation in the United States assumes an optimistic form. Its advocates recognize that during certain periods of U.S. history—notably, the 1880s, 1920s, and 1950s—federal policy toward immigrants was hostile and discriminatory, in that racist calibrations were introduced to distinguish between types of immigrants, but they argue that in a broader framework the historical record is one of gradual broadening and elimination of invidious distinctions in policy. In this interpretation the Hart-Celler Immigration Act of 1965 marks the culmination of efforts to liberalize immigration policy. Fundamental to this interpretation is...


    • Chapter 5 Immigrants, Transnationalism, and Ethnicization: A Comparison of This Great Wave and the Last
      (pp. 175-212)
      Ewa Morawska

      A vigorous academic industry has developed in the past few years around the idea of a new transnationalism. It has attracted adherents from both sides of the Atlantic among political scientists, international-relations and legal scholars, Sociologists, and anthropologists and has already produced a crop of specialists in “transnational cultural studies,” gathered around journals likePublic Culture, Social Text,andDiaspora.All agree that the mass migrations now crisscrossing the globe are an important, even central, agent in diffusing this new trans nationalism.

      Representatives of the different scholarly orientations have unavoidably assigned different meanings to the concept of transnationalism and apply...

    • Chapter 6 On the Political Participation of Transnational Migrants: Old Practices and New Trends
      (pp. 213-264)
      Luis Eduardo Guarnizo

      A large number of immigrants in the United States can now legally hold citizenship in more than one country simultaneously. How has this dual membership affected their political incorporation in the United States? A comprehensive answer to such a broad question cannot be provided here, but some preliminary conclusions can be drawn by comparing contemporary transnational political practices—those evident from the 1960s through the end of the twentieth century—with the experiences of European migrants around the turn of the twentieth century—the period from 1880 until the 1920s. This chapter presents a theoretical framework for analyzing contemporary migrants’...


    • Chapter 7 Policing Boundaries: Migration, Citizenship, and the State
      (pp. 267-291)
      T. Alexander Aleinikoff

      A state has two sets of boundaries. It has physical boundaries — the border — and it has political and legal boundaries — membership. The systems of state regulation of the border and of membership — we generally label the former “immigration policy” and the latter “citizenship and naturalization policy” — are closely related: whom states choose to admit as immigrants in part determines who shall be citizens; and most state immigration regimes give special admission preferences to family members of citizens. The legal status bestowed by immigration rules is an important determinant in immigrant integration, playing a significant role in opportunities for work, rights,...

    • Chapter 8 Historical Patterns of Immigrant Status and Incorporation in the United States
      (pp. 292-328)
      Reed Ueda

      The evolution and expansion of central state power has profoundly shaped the pathways that allow immigrants to become permanent settlers and turn newcomers into members of the host country. The political integration of immigrants has been deeply affected by a complex and ongoing expansion of regulatory state power involving not only the legislative branch of federal government but also the judiciary and the executive, as Alex Aleinikoff demonstrates in his legal study (chapter 7 of this volume). What follows is a historical study of the state’s management of immigrant incorporation, which reveals how this governmental activity sprang from distinctive historical...


    • Chapter 9 School for Citizens: The Politics of Civic Education from 1790 to 1990
      (pp. 331-370)
      David Tyack

      In a society as socially diverse as the United States, it is not surprising that controversies have erupted from time to time about the proper nature of civic education in public schools. Such policy debate has reflected American hopes and fears about the republic, and it has helped to define and mold what Thomas Bender calls “the public culture.” He notes that continuing contests of diverse groups for “legitimacy and justice” have created and recreated this public culture and established “our common life as a people and as a nation.” It is essential to understand what has been excluded from,...

    • Chapter 10 Public Education, Immigrants, and Racialization: The Contemporary Americanization Project
      (pp. 371-412)
      Laurie Olsen

      Schools are a crucial site for the incorporation of immigrant students into the fabric of American society. As Robert Bach (1993) has observed, they are a primary public space in which newcomers come into contact with established residents, and it is through the daily course of events in schools that immigrant students learn what it means to be “American.” In schools, immigrants learn from their native-born peers and from their teachers about how and where they can fit into American society.

      The schools immigrant students encounter are rarely neutral zones for observing and learning about America, however. The public schools...

  11. Index
    (pp. 413-424)