intertitle.gif (2406 bytes)
Volume 5.2 1997
ISSN 1048-3721
This page was last updated on 03/15/99



Herbert Dittgen

The democracy of today ... cannot permit ... social ills to be aggravated by excessive immigration. New Republic, 19162



With the end of the Cold War era new fears have come to influence politics. The perception is that the atomic age has been replaced by the age of migration. Even though migration has been a common phenomenon in world history it is now considered a new security issue. Like the movement of goods and services, the movement of people has become a truly global phenomenon. Facing this new challenge all main OECD countries are currently experiencing a crisis of legitimacy in migration policy. More and more political leaders address the issue of migration as a social and political threat. More and more citizens in countries of immigration feel uneasy about immigration. The globalization of the media has fostered the perception in immigration countries that all the social and political ills are imported via migration into their countries.3 For politicians of convictions as well as irresponsible populists, immigration serves again as a "hot-button-issue." They win elections by scaring their voters.

There is both an external and internal dimension to the issue of immigration and immigration policy. Externally, the immigration policy of a country can be conceptualized as lying within global and regional migration systems and their links.4 Internally, immigration can be analyzed as being within economic parameters, mainly the labor market, or as the outcome of institutional arrangements, interest group policies, or legal and constitutional orders. Immigration policies also reflect in a broader sense an important aspect of national identity. The public debate about immigration always represents national soul-searching. The questions are: "Who are we? Who are we going to be?"

This paper’s focus is on this ideological dimension of immigration policy. It tries to find an answer for the following question: Why is immigration again a contentious issue at this juncture of American economic and political history? My hypotheses is that the debate about immigration is largely driven by ideological concerns and motivations. I will argue that the current debate represents a new nationalism that is opposed to the traditional American liberalism. However, I will also argue that it is difficult to predict what actual influence the debate about immigration will have on the new immigration legislation. Economic interests, safely entrenched in the political system, seem to be powerful enough to prevent any dramatic closing of the border. But the ideological debate might have considerable impact in changing the social rights of immigrants. Whereas migrants have powerful lobbyists and a coalition of interests defending their economic value, their social rights are solely defended by civil rights groups.

This paper offers an explanation for the changes in immigration policy within the framework of policy paradigms. Peter A. Hall developed this interpretive framework with regard to macroeconomic policymaking in Britain, and Peter H. Schuck has used it to explain the immigration reforms in the 1980s.5 The general contention is that we cannot explain policymaking simply as the struggle of interest groups and coalition-building or as reaction to changes in the international and economic environment, but rather that policy processes are driven by ideas and influenced by social learning. "Policymakers," writes Peter Hall, "customarily work within a framework of ideas and standards that specifies not only the goals of policy and the kind of instruments that can be used to attain them, but also the very nature of the problems they are meant to be addressing."6 The terminology policymakers use is an important dimension of the policy paradigm, because much of it is taken for granted and not amenable to scrutiny as a whole.

I am going to show that since the early 1990s we are seeing a new policy paradigm unfolding with regard to immigration. In the 1980s, the paradigm was most generally determined by American self-confidence, and more specifically, by the desire to protect fundamental rights and to regain control of borders in order to extend legal immigration and international competitiveness. The immigration policy paradigm of the 1990s has changed almost diametrically. Even though the enemy of the past, Communism, has disappeared at least in Europe, a sense of crisis has displaced feelings of triumph about the end of Communism with a general theory of the decline of America’s internal strength and international competitiveness.7 More specifically, the dominant perception is one of fragmentation and disunity: the new immigrants do not assimilate into American culture, and even more, that the continuing influx of undocumented immigrants aggravates America’s social ills like crime and drugs.8 Furthermore, immigration is increasingly viewed as a burden for taxpayers.

In a public opinion poll conducted by Scripps Howard News Service in February 1995 people were asked: "Do you think most immigrants in the United States are here legally or illegally?" An amazing number of 48 percent considered most immigrants as having an illegal status, and only 40 percent assumed that the majority were legal newcomers.9 Another poll revealed that the majority of people think there are now more immigrants coming to the U.S. than before.10 The answers indicate the distortion of the current immigration debate in the United States: the majority of people believe that the country is overrun by undocumented immigrants and that control over borders has recently been lost. In general, the debate has obscured or confused the difference between legal and illegal immigration. The language of the debate is an important dimension of the immigration policy paradigm as many of the central terms such as "control over borders" are never really clarified. But the language suggests that something can be done and results in the greater use of symbolic politics or irresponsible political initiatives to impress the voter.11

Certainly undocumented immigration, the appropriate number of legal immigrants, selection criteria, the impact of immigration on poverty in cities, the possible problems for the welfare state resulting from immigration, and the protection of American workers are legitimate and natural political concerns. But as soon as the public debate is framed in such overly general terms as "too many immigrants," "a burden for taxpayers," or "jobs taken away from Americans," the basis for debate moves from economic and social realities to ideology. The real issue then is national identity. Should the United States incorporate that many new immigrants from "alien" cultures and thereby allow a change of its own social and cultural fabric?

Back in 1989, when the last major immigration law was deliberated and eventually enacted by Congress and signed by President Bush a year later, it was even difficult to find information in the newspaper. Immigration simply was not an issue. This was very surprising because in Europe most countries were already in the midst of a heated public debate about immigration and right-wing parties flourished on an anti-immigration platform. The European Union and its member states were at that time already very engaged and successful in closing the borders for asylum seekers. Washington, however, was talking about the budget deficit (and still does), the alleged remedy, namely the Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990 (almost forgotten), and the crisis of the savings and loans banks. Despite the historically high absolute number of immigrants in the 1980s, the new immigration law was hardly noticed by the public even though it increased the number of available immigration visas considerably. A broad consensus about the value of immigration seemed to prevail.

But by 1992 immigration had become one of the most contentious political issues. There is no easy explanation for this change. The most common explanation is economic, namely, that in hard times (high unemployment) borders are closed. But this explanation is not very convincing either with regard to the early history of immigration legislation or to the changes in the 1980s.12 The thrust of this article is that political scientists and sociologists have stared too much at public opinion data and have made too much of correlations to the economic situation. Instead we should pay more attention to the opinion makers and leaders, to the sound generators instead of the echoes—the politicians and the news media who inform public opinion. This will give us a more precise notion of the policy prism that determines policy changes in immigration.

My argument about the origins and character of the current restrictive movement will be developed in three steps. First, I will outline the liberal immigration policy from 1965 to 1990 and the liberal thinking (policy paradigm) on which it was based. Second, I will discuss the current debate on immigration and the new legislation pending in Congress. And third, I will develop an explanation for the change of political attitudes toward immigration by arguing that the causes can be found in the realm of the ideological and not in the realm of the economical.


The year 1965 represents in many ways a watershed in U.S. immigration policy. For the first time a truly liberal immigration law was introduced.13 Although the United States is described as a traditional "country of immigration," it is frequently forgotten that it was also a pioneer in the development of systematic restrictions on immigration. In contrast to the specific American cosmopolitan and democratic tradition—"E pluribus unum" expressing the essence of America’s cosmopolitan faith—the U.S. developed an immigration policy based on racist theories.14 Restrictionist policies began in 1882 with the Chinese Exclusion Act and peaked in the 1920s with the Immigration Act of 1924. The "golden door" was shut for all Asians and entry curtailed for most Europeans. Until 1952, Japanese, Koreans, and Southeast and Southwest Asians were still ineligible for citizenship and thus denied admission as immigrants. The McCarran-Walter Act of 1952, passed over President Harry S. Truman’s veto, made the naturalization laws color-blind. The liberalization was, as Roger Daniels writes in his immigration history, a fruit of the Cold War: "Engaged in a struggle for the hearts and minds of what it liked to call the Free World, the United States could no longer afford a policy that so blatantly excluded so many."15 However, most of the discriminatory policies of the 1924 Act, in particular the national origins quota, were preserved.

During the heyday of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, both the Republican and Democratic platforms urged more immigrants be admitted on an equitable basis. The Republicans called for doubling the number of immigrants and for a major overhaul of the national origins quota system. The Democrats urged the end of the national origins quota system altogether as "inconsistent with our belief in the rights of man."16 The language of democracy and universal rights, and not that of nationhood, carried the day. With Johnson’s landslide election and a Democratic pro-immigration majority in Congress, the national origins quota system (and the strict numerical limits on immigrants from Asia) was abolished. Priority was now given to people with family members already in the United States or to people with skills needed in the U.S. labor market. While signing the law, Johnson expressed the driving liberal credo of immigration reform and denounced the restrictive era with its quotas based on racial theories as un-American:

From this day forth, those wishing to emigrate into America shall be admitted on the basis of their skills and their close relationship to those already here.

The fairness of this standard is so self-evident ... yet the fact is that for over four decades the immigration policy has been distorted like a harsh injustice of the national origins quota system ... families were kept apart because a husband or a wife or a child has been born in the wrong place. Men of needed skill and talent were denied entrance because they came from southern and eastern Europe or from one of the developing continents. The system violated the basic principle of American democracy—the principle that values and rewards each man on the basis of his merit ... it has been un-American.17


It should be noted that in 1965 the public was clearly opposed to letting more people in.18 But it simply did not matter politically, because there was a considerable broad liberal consensus within the political elite that immigration law needed reform. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act and the Immigration Act of 1965 represented the high-water mark in a national consensus of egalitarianism.19

The new immigration law, coupled with prosperity in Europe, changed the composition of U.S. immigration dramatically—a consequence that was not foreseen when the new immigration law was signed. Had the radical change in immigration that the new law brought about been known at that time, it certainly would never have passed. During the 1970s, Europe sent less than 20 percent of U.S. immigrants; Mexico contributed nearly the same share. During the 1980s and early 1990s, Europeans were about 10 percent of legal immigrants, while Asians made up about one-third and Hispanics nearly one-half of the decade’s immigrants.20

Figure 1.
wpe4.gif (11841 bytes)

Until the 1980s, U.S. immigration law could be described as a complex system that changed once each generation. This is no longer the case. The accelerating pace of global change affected the flow of immigrants and refugees to the United States and prompted Congress to enact three major reforms in the 1980s.

First came the Refugee Act of 1980, which ended the year-to-year improvisation of refugee admissions by requiring the President to consult with Congress on the annual number of refugees to be admitted. The act also brought the U.S. definition of "refugee" into conformity with the United Nations standard (the Geneva convention on refugees), thus changing the previous U.S. practice of granting refugee status primarily to persons leaving Communist countries.

The Refugee Act of 1980 also made explicit the federal responsibility for the costs of helping refugees resettle in the United States. The costs of providing cash assistance and medical care to refugees have nevertheless become a contentious issue because the federal government currently reimburses the states for only eight months of care, rather than the 36 months allowed in the legislation. Approximately 1.4 million refugees have been admitted to the United States under the Refugee Act of 1980. California bears the highest costs with half of these refugees now residing there. This financial burden prompted California Governor Pete Wilson to complain in 1993 of "a failed federal promise" to help states and cities to resettle refugees.

Asylum has also become a controversial issue. Safe haven was originally intended to be a temporary status: when war or persecution ceased, asylees were expected to return home. But many asylum seekers do not return. There has been no mass return of Nicaraguans or El Salvadorans, for example, even though the conflicts in their home countries have ended. As people continue to seek safe haven in the United States, there is no agreement on how immigration officials should screen out so called "economic" migrants, who use claims of persecution at home to gain access to the U.S. labor market, and still provide safe haven for legitimate political refugees.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) was the second major piece of legislation enacted during the decade. IRCA was designed to slow illegal immigration, which flowed primarily from Mexico and other Central American countries. IRCA attempted to close the U.S. labor market to unauthorized workers by imposing penalties on U.S. employers who knowingly hired illegal aliens ("employer sanctions"), and to grant legal immigrant status ("amnesty") to illegal aliens who had established roots in the United States. This legislation reflected the recommendations of a series of government commissions set up by Presidents Ford, Carter, and Reagan to examine the dimensions and consequences of the surge in legal and illegal immigration. The most prominent of these was the Select Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy, created in 1979 and composed of members of Congress, the Cabinet, and the public. The Select Commission and previous commissions reached similar conclusions: 1) the United States must reduce "back-door" illegal immigration to prevent an anti-immigrant backlash from halting "front-door" legal immigration; and 2) illegal immigration adversely affects unskilled American workers and should be stopped. The Commission, however, somewhat refocused the debate of illegal immigration away from its economic impacts to an examination of the relationship of illegal immigration to the civic culture. It took the view that the presence of a substantial number of illegal aliens undercut the principle that all who live and work in the U.S., regardless of ethnicity, should have fundamental equal rights.21

The resulting legislation was a historic compromise among agricultural employers, ethnic lobbies, human rights groups, and others who wanted liberal regulations on the admission of immigrants and foreign workers, and the U.S. government, labor unions, and other groups who wanted to halt illegal immigration.22 Then-Senator Pete Wilson, the economic liberal, held the fragile legislative compromise hostage until he won approval of programs increasing the number of "temporary" farm workers available to California’s growers. With his demand for migrant workers he made clear how much California’s economy, in particular its agricultural sector, depends on cheap Mexican labor. Governor Pete Wilson, the populist politician, complained a couple of years later how costly the "loss of control of our borders" was for the state of California. He was reelected to a second term even though it was he who enabled hundreds of thousands of undocumented workers to enter and work in the state. Most of them are now legalized, but their spouses and children are and will probably remain illegal for some time, and they are, as Peter Schuck points out, major consumers of the public services that Wilson sought to limit under Proposition 187.23

Only half of the historic compromise of the 1986 immigration law (IRCA) worked as intended. The amnesty and legalization provisions of IRCA allowed 2.7 million undocumented aliens to obtain permanent resident status. However, illegal immigration has continued, facilitated by the widespread use of fraudulent documents.24

Four years after IRCA was enacted, Congress passed the third, and potentially most far-reaching reform of immigration law. The Immigration Act of 1990 reflects the fear that previous immigration laws hampered U.S. competitiveness by assigning the highest preference for visas to relatives of U.S. citizens rather than to people with needed job skills. Some economists had predicted a shortage of skilled labor in coming decades. The influential Workforce 2000 report, released in 1987, concluded that "more, better-educated immigrants would be needed to help staff a growing economy." American businesses complained that "antiquated immigration laws severely hamper the ability of U.S. firms to compete in an increasingly global economy."25

The Immigration Act of 1990 increased the number of immigrants and their families permitted to enter under the employment-preference category to 140,000 from 54,000 under previous legislation. Most of this increase consists of family members; the number of "employment-preference" workers rose from about 18,000 to 47,000. Currently, 20 percent of immigrants to the United States (excluding refugees) are admitted on the basis of their skills.26

The new immigration legislation in the 1980s did not represent an incremental policy change, but rather a genuine change of policy paradigm. The change was possible, as Peter H. Schuck observes, because of a "new cultural consensus favoring expanded immigration."27 The idea of universal humanitarian principles, the principles of the American Constitution, and the prevailing economic liberalism helped to form coalitions of otherwise very different interests and political outlooks. That is not to say that there were no voices against immigration. On the contrary, in the late 1970s anti-immigration groups sprang up consisting of environmentalists and some labor interests, such as the Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR). Haitian and Cuban migration in the early 1980s produced considerable anti-immigrant sentiment,28 but public debate never became dominated by it. In the congressional and presidential election debates the issue of immigration was notably absent. That changed only when Patrick Buchanan entered the race for the Republican presidential nomination in 1992. At the 1992 Republican National Convention Buchanan announced that the time had come to "take back our culture."

Rita Simon and Susan H. Alexander who reviewed editorials of the New York Times found that the vast majority of them were pro-immigrant.29 In the 1980s there was not yet a market for academics and journalists to make a case against immigration. The zeitgeist didn’t make room for enterprises like this. In general, the issue of immigration did not stir much interest. Remarkably, in 1989—the year of immigration reform—U.S. News and World Report carried just two stories on immigration.30 Therefore, when the new immigration law was enacted by Congress in 1990 most observers believed that a long-term political consensus had been reached on a relatively open-door policy.31 But they were all wrong.


Soon after the new immigration law of 1990 went into force, a new debate about first illegal immigration and later immigration in general evolved.32 The starting point for this political development was, as in so many other cases of new legislation to restrict immigration, the state of California. The historical analogies are striking. Before the Chinese Exclusion Act was signed in 1882, the "Chinese issue" had almost solely been a concern in the state of California. In the 1870s, anti-Chinese legislation and ordinances were enacted in California at the state and municipal levels.33 In 1913 the California legislature passed the Alien Land Act designed to bar "aliens ineligible to citizenship" from land ownership. This phrase referred to the naturalization statute passed in 1870 (eligible for naturalization were "white persons and persons of African decent"), which in fact barred all Asians from citizenship. The Immigration Act of 1924 made use of this formula—"ineligible to citizenship"—to exclude all Japanese.34

Voter referenda not only with regard to immigration but also in other policy fields in California have set the agenda for national policy changes. Proposition 13 in 1978 was in many respects a predecessor of Proposition 187. Proposition 13 targeted at lowering property taxes and set the stage for Reagan’s fiscal policy in the early 1980s. In 1986 California approved Proposition 63, which called for the preservation of English as the state’s "common language."

In California the network organizing for Proposition 187 took its organizational resources from the movement to reduce government and the long-established movement to reduce immigration. The Proposition 187 initiative, which triggered the national debate about immigration, targets public assistance for illegal immigrants. Proposition 187 primarily creates a state-mandated screening system for persons seeking tax-supported benefits. In the language of Proposition 187, no person—citizen, legal immigrant, or illegal immigrant—"shall receive any public social services to which he or she may otherwise be entitled until the legal status of that person has been verified."35 Proposition 187 has five major sections: First, it bars illegal aliens from the state’s public education system from the kindergarten through university levels and requires public educational institutions to begin verifying the legal status of both students and their parents. California educational institutions today verify residence but not the legal status of students and school pupils. Second, Proposition 187 requires all providers of publicly paid, non-emergency health care services to verify the legal status of persons seeking services in order to be reimbursed by the State of California. Third, Proposition 187 requires that all persons seeking cash assistance and other benefits verify their legal status before receiving such benefits. Fourth, all service providers are required to report suspected illegal aliens to California’s Attorney General and to the INS. Fifth, the making, distribution, and use of false documents to obtain public benefits or employment by concealing one’s legal status is now a state felony, punishable by fines and prison terms. Because many teenagers use false documents to buy alcohol, they are exempted from this law.

In 1994, Governor Pete Wilson made support for Proposition 187, the "save our state" initiative, a cornerstone of his reelection campaign. This politically savvy move saved his faltering campaign, given that up to this point he lagged 17 points behind his challenger Kathleen Brown. Very characteristic of the hypocrisy of the whole debate were the closing days of the 1994 campaign season. They were marked by charges between U.S. Senate candidates Feinstein and Huffington. Both took tough stands against illegal immigration, and both charged that the other employed an illegal alien housemaid. Indeed, much of the comfortable Californian way of life enjoyed by the middle class depends on cheap and frequently "undocumented" workers.

Wilson was reelected with 55 percent of the vote. Proposition 187 was approved by California voters, 59 to 41 percent. Brown and President Clinton had taken positions against Proposition 187. In making Proposition 187 an election campaign issue Wilson helped to propel the debate into the national arena.

A majority of voters in 50 of California’s 58 counties supported Proposition 187—the exceptions were eight San Francisco Bay Area counties. According to exit polls, 64 percent of whites, 57 percent of Asian Americans, 56 percent of African Americans, and 31 percent of Latinos voted in favor of Proposition 187. California’s population in 1990 was 57 percent white, 25 percent Latino, 9 percent Asian American, and 7 percent African American. However, voters on November 8, 1994 were 75 to 80 percent white, 8 to 10 percent Latino, 4 to 5 percent Asian American, and 10 percent African American. The vote therefore represents foremost a protest of the white population, even if the approval of Latinos was quite high. The vote was certainly not a straightforward racist vote. Even though there is a growing nativism, it was mainly a message voters wanted to send to politicians: illegal migration is a problem, do something about it.

The implementation of Proposition 187, however, will be decided by the courts. In November 1995, a federal judge declared most of Proposition 187 unconstitutional, a decision that the state of California vowed to appeal. One official called the judge’s decision the first round in a ten-round fight.36

In the meantime, the well-organized movement that organized Proposition 187 had not been idle. The next hated institution of the liberal era that has been declared war on is affirmative action. In the 1996 presidential election, the California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI), Proposition 209 was on the ballot. Its provisions would prohibit the state or any of its political subdivisions from using race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin as a criterion for either discriminating against, or granting preferential treatment to, any individual or group in the operation of the state’s system of public employment, public education, or public contracting.37

This time 54 percent of the voters approved the Proposition 209. This time 63 percent of white voters, 26 percent of African American voters, 10 percent of Latino voters, and 39 percent of the Asian American voters supported Proposition 209.

In the future, as the process of qualifying for the ballot requires, immigrants might again become a target in the 1998 elections. A new proposition in preparation—called the California Lawful Employment and Residency (CLEAR) initiative—would make it a crime to rent or sell property to illegal immigrants, a tactic its proponents say would force illegals out of the United States. It would also allow California businesses to sue competitors who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.38 The continuing occurrence of anti-liberal and anti-immigrant initiatives means that this issue will continue to stay in the public eye in California and, as in the past, also decisively determine the national debate. This initiative also reflects the anti-liberal zeitgeist of the 1990s. Immigration represents only one of several issues that has been targeted to reverse the liberal policy of the past two decades.

Following the election of November 1994 the new Republican majority was swift to introduce bills for a new immigration law. Senator Alan Simpson (Republican, Wyoming), chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, said that an overall reduction of quotas was necessary to give Americans a "breathing space" from the current historically high level of immigration. Furthermore, he stated that it was very important to respond to the public concern by making it as clear as possible that illegal aliens would not be able to access the welfare system and also by ensuring that immigrants who do need assistance will obtain it from the relative who sponsored them, as they promised to do at the time of entry.

That Congress took action in 1995 is also due to the fact that the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, which was created under the 1990 immigration law and chaired by former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, submitted its interim report.39 The report represents current mainstream thinking about immigration reform very well. In particular, it recommends reductions in the overall number of immigrant visas by one third: 400,000 visas for nuclear family admission, elimination of certain family-based admission categories, and 100,000 visas for skill-based admission, whereby offers of employment to foreign workers would usually be conditioned on an appropriate test of the domestic labor market to ensure that qualified American workers would not be displaced. There is an exception for this requirement with regard to aliens with extraordinary abilities. 50,000 visas—that is half of the current number—would be provided for refugee resettlement.40 The Clinton administration endorsed the Jordan Commission recommendation that legal immigration be reduced.

As it turned out, reducing the amount of legal immigration was not the priority of Congress. In March 1996 the House voted to split the bill into separate legal and illegal components as the Senate Judiciary Committee had done before. The Clinton administration, while on record supporting some reductions in legal immigration, joined the effort to separate the legislation on legal and illegal immigration. An unusual coalition of liberals and ethnic advocates, high-tech businesses, Libertarians, and religious groups made this legislative move possible, which makes any changes in the legal immigration system in the near future very unlikely.41

The original proposal of the Commission and Senator Simpson to reduce the number of visas found no majority. However, the social rights of legal immigrants are severely affected by the welfare reform legislation.42 For the first time the new welfare legislation will draw a sharp difference between citizens and immigrants. Immigrants who have not worked for ten years or served in the military cannot get food stamps or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and will now be denied health benefits under Medicaid, while legal immigrants with children would lose benefits from the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program (AFDC). All social service programs will have to verify the immigration status of applicants for benefits. New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani called the "reporting provision" inhumane and indecent. He intends to sue the federal government to block this provision of the welfare bill. The new immigration law holds sponsoring relatives accountable for keeping family immigrants from becoming burdens on the American taxpayers. For the first time, this responsibility will become enforceable. One consequence of the new laws restricting the rights of immigrants is a dramatic surge in naturalization. More than one million new citizens will be sworn-in in 1996.

That legal immigrants end up with reduced social rights compared to citizens, even though they pay their regular taxes, is highly problematic for a liberal democracy. But this distinction is in many ways characteristic of the new immigration policy paradigm. The liberal principles no longer find many advocates. The discussion in Congress never focused on the question of rights. The main concern was rather whether immigrants place a burden on the social and economic system. In general the debate in Congress was driven by two questions: do immigrants displace Americans in the job market, and do immigrants receive more in public assistance than American citizens? Both sides could marshal well-known academics and plenty of statistics to prove their positions.43

The debate had started with mounting concern about the public costs of illegal immigration but it led to a battle over the social and economic effects of immigration in general. Those who advocate less immigration maintain: 1) that immigration adds to U.S. population growth and congestion, reducing the quality of life and aggravating environmental problems; 2) that readily available immigrant workers impede improvements in wages and working conditions in some labor markets; 3) that immigration slows the modernization of the U.S. economy because immigrants will work for such low wages that the industries that employ them have little incentive to adopt more efficient methods and technology; 4) that a growing division between U.S. ethnic groups will develop because many recent Hispanic and Asian immigrants are not quickly joining mainstream American society; and 5) that the low educational level of some newcomers—Mexican farm workers and Indo-Chinese hill people, for example—makes them more likely than the native-born to depend upon public assistance.

Another focus of restrictionists’ distress is the fact that many Asian and Hispanic immigrants—who came here voluntarily—qualify for affirmative action preferences under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This law, these restrictionists point out, was originally designed to help African Americans by eliminating discrimination and segregation in public accommodation, education, and employment—discrimination African Americans suffered because their forebears were slaves brought to the United States involuntarily. Many of these points can be dismissed by studying the history of U.S. immigration. Sidney Weintraub is right when he writes that every immigrant wave "was accompanied by dire predictions of the economic, political, and social consequences on the United States, only to be contradicted in practice."44 Let me just mention one famous example. Benjamin Franklin was horrified by the German immigrants arriving in eighteenth-century Pennsylvania. In 1751, in a pamphlet with the title "Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind," he asked:

Why should the Palatine Boors be suffered to swarm into our Settlements, and by herding together establish their Language and Manners to the Exclusion of ours? Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion.45


Complexion has indeed always played an important role in the immigration debate, in a very openly racist way until the 1920s and a more subliminal way in the most recent debate.


The question posed in the final part of my paper is how does one explain this policy change from the 1980s to the 1990s? In the 1980s a liberal immigration policy was enacted without much public debate. In the 1990s, however, immigration became one of the most discussed political issues, and an anti- immigration mood developed.

The usual explanation by political scientists or economists is an economic one. In economically good times immigration is unproblematic and welcome. However, in hard times restrictionist policies flourish. But in the case of the U.S. this economic explanation does not make sense this time and probably makes no sense for previous anti-immigration movements. My hypothesis is this: Immigration policy is of course reacting to external and internal economic needs, the global economy, and the national labor market. But to explain restrictionist movements one always has to search in the realm of the ideological. The current immigration debate as well as previous ones always centered around the question of American identity. The real question was and is, "Who are we?" or sometimes even very openly nativist, "Whose country is this anyway?"

In the 1920s the U.S. experienced a strong movement in favor of immigration restriction. In 1924 the Johnson-Reed Act was enacted, based on national quotas and a racist theory about the inferiority of southern and eastern Europeans. John Higham coined the phrase "tribal twenties" to describe the ethnocultural struggles of those years, prohibition, fundamentalism, and the rise of the second Ku Klux Klan.46 But the United States was a relatively prosperous nation by contemporary standards before the big crash. As Roger Daniels writes in his immigration history:

Successful nativist movements have almost always been linked to more general fears or uneasiness in American society. When most Americans are generally united and feel confident about their future, they seem to be more willing to share that future with foreigners; conversely, when they are divided and lack confidence in the future, nativism is more likely to triumph.47


The economic prospect is of course part of the confidence in the future, but it seems not to be the only cause.

The call for restricting immigration always appeared in times of crisis in the wake of a new nationalism. The intellectual elite—or at least those who consider themselves part of it—have always been the upholders and promoters of nationalism. It is instructive to just mention two popular book titles of the "tribal twenties." Lothrop Stoddard, a lawyer in Brookline, Massachusetts, with a Ph.D. in history, wrote a book on the menace of the Under Man—the racially impoverished opponent of all elites. His title: The Revolt against Civilization. Madison Grant wrote a book with the title, The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy and got sympathetic comments in the editorials of such influential publications as the New York Times and the Saturday Evening Post.48

The restrictionist movement of today is also the expression of a new nationalism. The character of this new nationalism can be demonstrated by the writings of two authors: Peter Brimelow and his book Alien Nation and Michael Lind, who wrote The Next American Nation: The New Nationalism and the Fourth American Revolution. These authors were not picked at random; both books were well received, and both authors are important talking heads in the ongoing discussion. They are present in many talk shows on immigration and write op-ed pieces for the major newspapers. They are treated by the media as people of expertise. Peter Brimelow is the senior editor of Forbes and National Review. Michael Lind has been a senior editor of Harper’s and executive editor of The National Interest. He is currently a senior editor of The New Republic.

The intellectual caliber of Peter Brimelow becomes apparent with the first sentences of the preface of his book:

There is a sense in which current immigration policy is Adolf Hitler’s posthumous revenge on America. The U.S. political elite emerged from the war passionately concerned to cleanse itself from all taints of racism or xenophobia. Eventually, it enacted the epochal Immigration Act of 1965. And this, quite accidentally, triggered a renewed mass immigration, so huge and so systematically different from anything that had gone before as to transform—and ultimately, perhaps, even to destroy—the one unquestioned victor of World War II: the American nation, as it had evolved by the middle of the twentieth century. Today, U.S. government policy is literally dissolving the people and electing a new one.49


The dreadful tone of his opening is characteristic of the entire book. But because he is treated by the media as an expert on immigration and represents a pretty honest version of a new nativism I will present a few more samples. What is really driving Brimelow’s arguments is chromophobia. To persuade us to enlist in his camp, Brimelow repeatedly parades his "little son Alexander" as a victim of a coming multiculturalism. Brimelow writes that the American nation has always had a specific ethnic core. And that core has been white.50 The author calls for repealing all the legislation enacted in the past 30 years, sealing the border by instituting national identity cards as well as imprisoning and deporting all unauthorized immigrants, and eliminating humanitarian categories (refugees and asylees) altogether. His model for the United States is Switzerland, which has a large foreign population of guest workers without rights to stay.51

His understanding of a nation is very close to the traditional German understanding of it. That becomes clear when he complains about the ignorance of the New York Times in recommending that the political establishment in Bonn would do better to set a quota on immigrants and nurture a more pluralist society by adopting a formula for citizenship based on residence rather than blood ties. Certainly a very reasonable recommendation. Peter Brimelow disagrees: "What we have here is a total absence of any understanding of the nation as a family, to which outsiders may be admitted indeed, but only under very special circumstances and with great care."52

After all that, what the New York Times had to say about Peter Brimelow’s book is surprising. Richard Bernstein characterizes the book in a rather long review as "a highly cogent presentation of what is going to be the benchmark case against immigration" and proclaims that "those who think that the system needs no fixing cannot responsibly hold that position any longer."53 Moreover, he praises Brimelow, the revisionist historian: "Mr. Brimelow also shows that America is not so much a country of immigration as it is one of ‘intermittent immigration.’ The periods where there was almost no immigration are more characteristic of our history than the briefer periods when the door was open." Bernstein’s review reveals to what extent the book was able to hit a raw nerve—the feeling of alienation in the United States. In the 1980s, a similar review of Brimelow’s book would have been simply inconceivable.

Michael Lind is of a different intellectual weight class. He is praised as one of the most brilliant young American intellectuals. And indeed modesty is not one of his virtues. He writes in his introduction:

This book is the first manifesto of American liberal nationalism. Liberal nationalism is not the only way beyond the present stalemate of a discredited multicultural liberalism and a plutocratic conservatism. It is the only path, however, that can lead to an America in which you and your descendants would want to live.54


That does not only sound very demanding but also a bit sophomoric.

The cultural nation he is constructing is the fourth republic after the "Anglo-America," which lasted until the Civil War, the "Euro-America," which lasted until 1957, and the "Multicultural America," which lasted from 1972 to the present. Each of these three republics has put the basic building blocks of the nation-state, that is according to Michael Lind, race, culture, and citizenship together in a different way.

Lind advocates liberal nationalism as a political movement with the goal of dismantling multicultural America and replacing it with a Fourth Republic of the United States, which he calls "Trans-America." Trans-America has nothing in common with Randolph Bournes’s "Trans-national America." Randolph Bournes and Horace Kallen represent for Lind old-fashioned cultural pluralists who deny the existence of an American nation-state.55 In Lind’s Trans-America a color-blind, gender-neutral regime of individual rights would be combined with government activism promoting a high degree of substantive social and economic equality. So far we find nothing less then a classic version of New-Deal Liberalism. He probably sees himself as a new Herbert Croly, who writes the Promise of American Life for the twenty-first century. He demands the replacement of plutocratic politics and free-market capitalism that define the politics of multicultural America by a nation-uniting synthesis of color-blind individualism in civil rights, equal voting power, and social market capitalism. He considers not "the Balkanization but the Brazilianization of America, not fragmentation along racial lines but fissioning along class lines" as the real threat for the country.56

How does Lind combine liberalism and nationalism? He rejects all universalistic notions of national identity as well as any nativist national concept. The very notion of a country based on an idea, he writes, is absurd:57

The multiculturalists and the democratic universalists are both wrong. The United States is not, and never has been, either a multinational democracy or a nonnational democracy. The United States has been, is, and should continue to be a liberal and democratic nation-state.58


Lind sees himself in the tradition of Johann Gottfried Herder. He dismisses without much effort, and also without much reading I believe, those who blame Herder for the illiberal tendencies of German nationalism. On the contrary, he praises Herder for championing the value of German culture against the false universalism of the then hegemonic French culture.59

How does the fact of immigration now match with the concept of the American Kulturnation? Immigration is not only, as could be expected, very problematic but it never happened as most people probably think. In fact, he writes, the United States is not a nation of immigrants, and never has been: "At no point in American history have people born abroad constituted more than a minority of the U.S. population."60 This observation is of course true, however, but does not permit the conclusion that all immigrants immediately identify themselves with an "American culture," however defined. The definition of a country of immigration as one in which the foreign-born population has the majority is nonsense, because it has never existed.

In Trans-America, Lind’s liberal-nationalistic construct, immigration should be reduced in order to create a tight labor market, boost American wages, and increase opportunities for upward mobility. The best policy might be one of "zero net immigration"—limiting the number of legal immigrants to the number of people who voluntarily emigrate from the United States each year.61 Lind concedes that a ban on cheap labor import would result in a movement of production abroad. He suggests that the flight of U.S. manufacturing abroad should be prevented by a social tariff. I am not going into more detail, since it is obvious that these economic problems, which are at least recognized, do not find satisfactory answers.

In the context of my argument about the new immigration policy paradigm of the 1990s I intended only to show that Lind, who pretends to have nothing in common with Brimelow, argues for zero immigration in his imagined Trans-America, this strange blend of Liberalism and Kulturnation. I have tried to present some of the features of the new nationalism with the help of these two influential authors. This is not the place to argue with them about facts.62 The next question is rather what is the cause of this new nationalism that suddenly sheds such a critical light on immigration? Here I can only give some brief preliminary answers.

The most important reason is the end of the East-West confrontation. The disappearance of America’s ideological enemy has led to great confusion about its own identity. Without an enemy American liberalism seems to be without a power supply.63 A liberal immigration policy contrasted particular well with the closed borders of the communist regimes during the East-West confrontation. Back in 1953, Oscar Handlin, the author of The Uprooted, wrote in the Atlantic Monthly that he was pro-immigrant because immigrants have always helped to raise the standards of native labor and because a liberal and fair policy on immigration helped the image of the United States in the world. "It strengthens our struggle against communism ... it is human and decent for people who live in fear of Communism ... it is human and decent for people who live in fear of poverty and want to emigrate," he asserted.64 With the disappearance of the communist challenge a liberal immigration policy has lost an important source for its legitimization.

The mobilization of the ideology of nationhood is also a result of the destructive forces of globalization. L’horreur économique, the economic horror as the French call it, leads to a search for a strengthening of the nation’s cultural identity. A new, internal bipolarity surfaces, as Theodore Lowi has observed, "wherein each country is struggling to make its own hard policy choices of how to maintain a balance between the cultural particularities of nationhood (sometimes called community) and the economic universalism of the market."65 In an era where the traditional orientations (us and them, good and bad) have vanished, not only the United States is experiencing a rekindling of nationhood as ideology. This ideology is irreconcilable with a liberal immigration policy that makes no differentiation with regard to the origin of the newcomers (is culturally and ethnically neutral) and aims at integration of these newcomers.

On the individual level, anti-immigrant feelings can be explained by the high numbers of immigrants who came in the last decade, resulting in a rapid change of urban lives and economies. Predominantly black or white neighborhoods developed within a few years into neighborhoods where Asians or Latinos dominate. This is an ongoing process and part of the original population feels alienated and under siege. The downsizing of corporate America and status anxieties of the middle class are making the search for security in a closed community and the wish of exclusion of the alien even stronger. One should not overrate the results of public opinion. If people are asked about the issue of immigration in the context of other issues, it becomes evident that issues like crime, the budget, and unemployment are much more salient and immigration becomes statistically even insignificant.66 The analysis of the socioeconomic profile of those people who want to restrict immigration produces no surprises. Those who say that immigration should be decreased tend to have a lower education and a lower income, consider them selves conservatives and tend to be older.67 Restricting immigration is a traditional conservative "indignation issue" resonating particularly well with a certain socioeconomic segment of the society.

The public immigration debate however is carried by the elite, and the liberal segment of it seems to be very defensive. The coalition of civil liberties and business groups, who oppose the restriction of immigration and were instrumental in bringing about the liberal legislation in the 1980s, seems to be defensive and reacting late. And this is also true for President Bill Clinton who considers himself to be a "New Democrat" gaining back the middle ground, but I guess still considers himself a liberal. But he certainly is no Harry Truman fighting for a liberal cause or convictions. He has been flip-flopping on immigration and has mostly been playing politics with the issue.68 This gives the anti-immigrationist a lot of room to play with the immigration issue even if for the same political motives.69

It is also revealing to consider the regional differences in the current debate. The Governor of California is propelling his political cause by backing all available initiatives targeted against illegal and legal immigrants and driving his party to adopt these initiatives on the national level. The Governor of Texas however, George W. Bush, takes the opposite track in publicly denouncing all these measures as wrong. How does one explain the difference? The Economist recently observed very accurately that not only the histories of the relations of these states with Mexico differ—that Texas has a much more powerful Hispanic vote than California and that Texas has important trade relations with Mexico—but that both states represent as well "two states of mind."70 The very economic-minded Texan elites understand that you cannot have a sociocultural cold war and expect to prosper.

That the slogan "we must regain control of our borders" has resonated so well with the public in the 1990s but did not in the 1980s indicates that the country has lost the optimism of the 1980s. President Clinton sensing the spirit of the country said, "I’m also trying to get people to get out of their funk." And he explained further: "What makes people insecure is when they feel like they’re lost in the funhouse. They’re in a room where something can hit them from any direction any time." Even though the metaphors were well taken to explain the feeling that people and their government have lost the control over their destiny, he had to put an end to the "Funk Monster," as David Broder called it. With a more Reagan-esque outlook he explained, "I feel very optimistic about the country."71 An observation by Michael Walzer in Spheres of Justice explains the relation between one’s own feeling of security and closed borders very well."The same fence that keeps most people out," writes Walzer, "is necessary to enable those within to feel safe, to think of themselves as co-ventures, and to flourish as a social, moral, and political community."72

The new nationalism incorporates exactly this mechanism of gaining community and security by exclusion. The diagnosis of loss of community is omnipresent in the writings of social scientists these days. The Communitarians castigate liberalism (Sandel calls it depreciatively a procedural liberalism) for undermining the very moral resources necessary for self-government and to inspire the sense of community and civic engagement.73 Bob Putnam finds indications for a loss of social capital leading to the disappearance of "civic America."74 One finds despair and longing for community wherever one looks. The East-West confrontation has for forty years absorbed much of the political attention. Now with its end attention has become directed at the inner life of the country, and the result is despair about the condition of American society and pessimism with regard to its future. Given this state of public and academic spirit, it is no wonder that trust in the ability to integrate many more new immigrants is low and that the dark forces of nativism flourish.75 Where the new nationalism will lead is not clear yet, but the horses have left the barn and it will certainly be difficult to bring them back.


Immigration policy is, as with all distributive policy, an outcome of coalition-building. Immigration reform in the 1980s was only possible by the joint action of "strange bedfellows," very unlikely partners or even opponents on other issues. In the 1980s a coalition of employers, human rights groups, and ethnic groups found common ground to formulate a liberal immigration policy. This coalition of interests, however, is not sufficient to explain why this policy change was possible. Neither the economy nor public opinion were particular favorable for the change in migration policy. It can only explained by the ideas, the ideology of the decade of the 1980s, that was characterized by optimism and a liberal economic philosophy that gave priority to economic competitiveness.

In the same way the sudden surge of the immigration debate in the early 1990s and the emergence of a strong anti-immigration movement cannot be explained solely by pointing to the economic recession. In my interpretation, one has to put this debate in a broader perspective. The new anti-immigration mood is the result of a loss of trust in the future and an overwhelming feeling of insecurity with respect to the social problems America is facing. As in the second decade of this century, the fear prevails that immigration aggravates social ills. The rapid change of society by a new type of immigration, combined with pressures from a global economy, has led to a longing for homogeneity. A new nationalism is carrying the day, challenging the old liberalism. Immigration policy is debated and will eventually lead to far-reaching changes based on a new policy paradigm.

Let me conclude by quoting Carl Schurz, who in 1859 delivered a speech in Boston’s Faneuil Hall on True Americanism aimed at the Americanism of the "Know-Nothings" and, more precisely, against an amendment to the constitution of the State of Massachusetts, under which foreigners would not be permitted to vote until two years after they had become citizens of the United States. This amendment, generally known as the "two years’ amendment," was soon to be voted upon by the people. Carl Schurz said in his tribute to true Americanism that Anglo-Saxon and other national elements "are to be blended together by the all-assimilating power of freedom. This is the origin of the American nationality ... in the colony of free humanity, whose mother-country is the world.... The people ... establish the Republic of equal rights."76

True Americanism has been a rare exception in the history of public debates on immigration. Almost without exception, debates about immigration have led to new restrictive policies. But it is too early to make a final judgment about whether the current debate will permanently reverse the liberal era of immigration policy.

Table 1: Immigration under Previous Law and the Immigration Act of 1990

Family Immigration under Previous Law and the Immigration Act of 1990

Immigration Act of 1990

Fiscal 1989

Fiscal 1992-94

Fiscal 1995 and Later


Total Immigration




Total Family Immigration




Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizens




(Spouses, Children & Parents of Adults)




Preference System




1. Unmarried Adult Children of U.S. Citizens




2. Immediate Family of Permanent Residents




3. Married Children of U.S. Citizens




4. Brothers & Sisters of U.S. citizens




IRCA Legalization Relatives


* Indicates that cap is pierceable.


Independent Immigration under Previous Law and the Immigration Act of 1990

Immigration Act of 1990


Fiscal 1989

Fiscal 1992-94

Fiscal 1995 and Later

Total Immigration




Total Independent Immigration




Employment-based Immigration





(24,250) 1



Priority Workers 2


Professionals with Advanced Degrees 3

(included above)



Skilled Workers & Professionals




Unskilled Workers (included above)

Special Immigrants 4




Investors of $1 Million



Who Employ 10 or More People

Diversity Immigrants



Irish (already in the U.S.)


1. Shows the number of workers in the category, others are family members of workers.

2. Workers of extraordinary ability, professors, researchers, executives and managers.

3. Professionals whose services are sought by a particular employer.

4. Includes ministers and employers of international organizations.

Source: Immigration and Naturalization Service, Statistical Yearbooks

Table 2: Categories and Admission Numbers of Current Law and of Commission on Immigration Reform Recommendations

Skill-Based Immigration: Categories and Admission Numbers

Current Law


Usage (FY 1994)

Unlimited Spouses/Minor Children of USCs


Unlimited Parents of USCs


First Preference
Adult Unmarried Sons/Daughters of USCs


Second Preference
2A-Spouses/Children ofLPRs (88,673)
2B-Adult Unmarried Sons/Daughters of LPRs (26,327)


Third Preference
Adult Married Sons/
Daughters of USCs


Fourth Preference
Brothers/Sisters of USCs





CIR Recommendations






First priority Spouses/Minor Children of USCs

up to 400,000
(Current Usage about 200,000)


Second priority
Parents of USCs

less number admitted under first priority
(Current usage about 55,000)

less number admitted under first priority

Third priority
Spouses/Minor Children of LPRs

less number admitted under first priority plus 150,000 for backlog clearance

less number admitted under first and second priorities





Skill-Based Immigration: Categories and Admission Numbers


Current Law


(FY 1994)

First Preference Aliens with Extraordinary Ability/Outstanding Professors/Researchers/ Multinational Executives and Managers


Second Preference Professionals with Advanced Degrees


Third Preference
Skilled Workers
(2 years training/experience) Professionals with Baccalaureate Degrees


Fourth Preference
Ministers and Religious Workers


Fifth Preference
Investors (Entrepreneurs)





CIR Recommendations


Admission (proposed)

Labor Market Test-Exempt Aliens with Extraordinary Ability/Multinational Executives and Managers/ Entrepreneurs/ Ministers and Religious Workers (Limited to current usage, about 8000)

Up to 100,000
(current usage
about 30,000)

Labor Market Tested Professionals with Advanced Degrees(Including professors and researchers who do not meet the definition of` Extraordinary) /Professionals with Baccalaureate Degrees/ Skilled Workers (5 years specialized experience)

less number
admitted in exempt category (current usage about 60,000)



bottom4.gif (3812 bytes)


1 Earlier versions of this article have been presented at the "Migration Research Seminar" at the Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, in January 1996; at the annual meeting of historians of the German Association for American Studies, Tutzing, in February 1996; and at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, San Francisco, in August 1996. I wish to thank Roger Daniels and Wayne A. Cornelius for their helpful comments. The research for this article was made possible by the generous financial support of the Fitz Thyssen Stiftung and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.

2 New Republic VI (1916): 254.

3 For a comprehensive analysis of the "migration crisis" and a comparison of migration systems and policies of "controlling immigration," see Yann Moulier Boutang and Demetrios Papademetriou, "Typology, Evolution and Performance of Main Migration Systems," Migration and Development. New Partnerships for Co-operation (Paris: OECD, 1994); Wayne A. Cornelius, Philip L. Martin, and James A. Hollifield, eds., Controlling Immigration. A Global Perspective (Stanford: Stanford UP, 1995); Mark J. Miller, ed., Strategies for Immigration Control: An International Comparison. The Annals (1994) 534; and Myron Weiner, The Global Migration Crisis. Challenge to States and to Human Rights (New York: HarperCollins, 1995).

4 Mary Kritz, Lin Lean Lim, and Hania Zlotnik, eds., International Migration Systems. A Global Approach (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992).

5 Peter A. Hall, "Policy Paradigms, Social Learning, and the State. The Case of Economic Policymaking in Britain," Comparative Politics (1993): 275-96 and Peter H. Schuck, "The Politics of Rapid Legal Change: Immigration Policy in the 1980s," Studies in American Political Development 6 (1992): 37-92.

6 Hall 279.

7 The theme of "The American Impasse" after the Cold War is more comprehensively explored in Michael Minkenberg and Herbert Dittgen, eds., The American Impasse. U.S. Domestic and Foreign Policy after the Cold War (Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 1996).

8 I am referring here to the title of Arthur Schlesinger’s book, "The Disuniting of America." Even though it was meant to be a critique of multiculturalism in university curricula, at least in Europe it was received as a general statement about the "balkanization of the United States." Arthur M. Schlesinger, The Disuniting of America. Reflections on a Multicultural Society (Knoxville: Whittle Direct Books, 1991). See also Herbert Dittgen, ed., "Einwanderung and Ethnizität in den Vereinigten Staaten," Amerikastudien/American Studies 40 (München: Fink Verlag, 1995).

9 Scripps Howard News Service/Ohio University Poll, 24 Feb. 1995.

10 Business Week/Harris Poll, 13 Jul. 1992. Made available by Roper Center.

11 See Wayne A. Cornelius, "Appearances and Realities: Controlling Illegal Immigration in the United States," Japanese and U.S. Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Policies, eds. Myron Weiner and Tadaski Hanami (forthcoming) and Wayne A. Cornelius, "Playing Politics Over People," Los Angeles Times 5 Aug. 1996: B5.

12 See Table 3. See also Schuck, Politics of Rapid Legal Change 41 and Leah Haus, "Opening in the wall: transnational migrants, labor unions, and U.S. immigration policy," International Organization 49 (1995): 285-313.

13 The following is a very sketchy history of the immigration legislation from 1965 to 1990. For a more detailed account, see Roger Daniels, Coming to America. A History of Immigration and Ethnicity in American Life (New York: HarperCollins, 1991); Aristide R. Zolberg, "Reforming the Back Door: The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 in Historical Perspective," Immigration Reconsidered: History, Sociology, and Politics, ed. Virginia Yans-McLaughlin (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1990); Kitty Calavita, "U.S. Immigration and Policy Responses: The Limits of Legislation," Controlling Immigration. A Global Perspective, eds. Cornelius, Martin, and Hollifield (Stanford: Stanford UP, 1995); and Herbert Dittgen, "Die Reformen in der Einwanderungs—und Flüchtlingspolitik in den achtziger Jahren," Amerikastudien/American Studies 40 (München: Fink Verlag, 1995): 345-66.

14 John Higham, Strangers in the Land. Patterns of American Nativism 1860-1925 (New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1955) has written the classical analysis of American nativism.

15 Daniels, Coming to America 329.

16 Lawrence H. Fuchs, The American Kaleidoscope. Race, Ethnicity, and the Civic Culture (Hanover: Wesleyan UP, 1990) 233.

17 Quoted in Thomas Alexander Aleinikoff and David A. Martin, Immigration: Process and Policy, 2nd ed. (St. Paul: West Publishing, 1991) 57.

18 In May 1965 it was asked: "President (Lyndon) Johnson has proposed that the immigration laws of this country be changed to allow more people into the United States as immigrants. From what you know or have heard, do you favor or oppose letting more people come to the United States as immigrants?" "Favor" 24 percent, "Oppose" 58 percent, and "Not sure" 18 percent. Louis Harris and Associates 31 May 1965. Made available by Roper Center.

19 Daniels, Coming to America 338.

20 See Figure 1.

21 Fuchs, American Kaleidoscope 250-52.

22 Zolberg, Reforming the Back Door and Schuck, Politics of Rapid Legal Change.

23 Peter H. Schuck, "The Message of 187," American Prospect 21 (1995): 92.

24 Philip L. Martin, "Good Intentions Gone Awry: IRCA and U.S. Agriculture," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 534 (1994): 44-57.

25 Demetrios G. Papademetriou, "U.S. Immigration Policy after the Cold War," The American Impasse. U.S. Domestic and Foreign Policy after the Cold War, eds. Michael Minkenberg and Herbert Dittgen (Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 1996).

26 See Table 1.

27 Schuck, Politics of Rapid Legal Change 61.

28 See Table 4.

29 Rita J. Simon and Susan H. Alexander, The Ambivalent Welcome. Print Media, Public Opinion and Immigration (Westport: Praeger, 1993) 221-29.

30 Simon and Alexander 194.

31 Peter H. Schuck, "The Emerging Political Consensus on Immigration Law," Georgetown Immigration Law Journal 5 (1991): 1-33.

32 For a good collection of opinions characterizing the immigration debate of the 1990s, see Nicolaus Mills, ed., Arguing Immigration. The Debate over the Changing Face of America (New York: Touchstone, 1994).

33 Roger Daniels, Asian America. Chinese and Japanese in the United States since 1850. (Seattle/London: U of Washington P, 1988) 38.

34 Daniels, Asian America 151.

35 My comments on Proposition 187 are based on Martin 1995. For a more thorough analysis see Bruce E. Cain, Karin MacDonald, Kenneth F. McCue, "Nativism, Partisanship and Immigration: An Analysis of Prop 187" (Paper prepared for delivery at the 1996 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, San Francisco, 29 Aug. 1996-1 Sep. 1996.).

36 Immigration News 3.1 (Jan. 1996).

37 Philip Martin, "Proposition 187 in California," International Migration Review 29 (1995): 262.

38 "Initiative Targets Renting, Selling to Illegal Immigrants," Los Angeles Times 22 Jul. 1996: A3, A20.

39 U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform, U.S. Immigration Policy: Restoring Credibility (Washington, D.C.: 1994).

40 See Table 2.

41 "An Unusual Immigration Alliance," Congressional Quarterly 16 Mar. 1996: 700 and "Senate Rejects Two Attempts to Cut Legal Immigration," Congressional Quarterly 27 Apr. 1996: 1173-74.

42 Austin T. Fragomen, "Welfare Bill Severely Curtails Public Assistance to Noncitizens," International Migration Review 30 (1996): 1087-95.

43 There is a vast literature on this issue. See Barry Edmonston and Jeffrey S. Passel, eds., Immigration and Ethnicity. The Integration of America’s Newest Arrival (Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute Press, 1994); George J. Borjas, "The Economics of Immigration," Journal of Economic Literature 32 (1994): 1167-1717; and Julian L. Simon, "Public Expenditures on Immigrants to the United States, Past and Present," Population and Development Review 22 (1996): 99-109.

44 Quoted in Philip Martin and Elizabeth Midgley, "Immigration to the United States: Journey to an Uncertain Destination," Population Bulletin 49.2 (1994) 10.

45 Quoted in Daniels, Coming to America 109-10.

46 Higham, chapter 10.

47 Daniels, Coming to America 265-66.

48 Higham 271.

49 Peter Brimelow, Alien Nation. Common Sense About America’s Immigration Disaster (New York: Random House, 1995) xv.

50 Brimelow 10.

51 Brimelow 266.

52 Brimelow 225.

53 Richard Bernstein, "The Immigration Wave: A Plea to Hold it Back," New York Times 4 Apr. 1995: C17.

54 Michael Lind, The Next American Nation. The New Nationalism and the Fourth American Revolution (New York: The Free Press, 1995) 15.

55 Lind 80-81.

56 Lind 14.

57 Lind 4-5. See also Brimelow who refutes in the same brisk manner the republican tradition of the Founding Fathers and explicitly says that the nation-state is based on a particular ethnicity. Brimelow 208, 225.

58 Lind 4.

59 Lind 262.

60 Lind 286.

61 Lind 321-22.

62 For an informed and detailed discussion of Brimelow’s arguments see the book reviews by Aristide R. Zolberg, rev. of Alien Nation, by Peter Brimelow, Population and Development Review 21 (1995): 659-64 and Lawrence H. Fuchs, "Four False Alarms and Two Beams of Light," International Migration Review 30 (1996): 591-600.

63 For a comprehensive discussion of what impact the end of the cold war has on the American polity, politics and policy, see Minkenberg and Dittgen.

64 Oscar Handlin, "We Need More Immigrants," Atlantic Monthly (May 1953).

65 Theodore J. Lowi, "American Impasse. The Ideological Dimension at Era’s End," The American Impasse. U.S. Domestic and Foreign Policy after the Cold War, eds. Michael Minkenberg and Herbert Dittgen (Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 1996).

66 See Table 6.

67 See Table 5. For a detailed analysis see Thomas J. Espenshade and Katherine Hempstead, "Contemporary American Attitudes Toward Immigration," International Migration Review 30 (1996): 535-70.

68 James H. Walsh, "Immigration as an Election Ploy," Migration World 24 (1996): 14-15.

69 Cornelius, Playing Politics.

70 "Two states of mind about those southern neighbors," Economist 13 Jul. 1996: 25-27.

71 William Safire, "Funkmanship," New York Times Magazine 22 Oct. 1995: 30-32.

72 Michael Walzer, Spheres of Justice. a Defense of Pluralism and Equality (New York: Basic Books, 1983) 35.

73 The most recent example of this communitarian critique of liberalism is Michael J. Sandel, Democracy’s Discontent. America in Search of a Public Philosophy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1996).

74 Robert D. Putnam, "The Strange Disappearance of Civic America," American Prospect 24 (1996): 34-48. See also Herbert Dittgen, "Vaterlandslose Gesellschaft. Die zunehmende Bindungsschwäche der Gesellschaft der Vereinigten Staaten," Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 12 Jun. 1996: N6.

75 However, there is strong evidence that immigrants are assimilating as fast as ever. See Cornelius, Playing Politics.

76 Carl Schurz, "True Americanism," Speeches, Correspondence and Political Papers of Carl Schurz, ed. Frederic Bancroft, vol. 1 (New York/London: Putnam, 1913) 54, 57.

bottom4.gif (3812 bytes)