Immigration Policy

Eleven reviews on immigration rights, laws, and multiculturalism.

Amstutz, Mark R. Just immigration: American policy in Christian perspective. Eerdmans, 2017. 258p bibl index ISBN 9780802874849 pbk, $25.00.
Reviewed in CHOICE December 2017

Religion and politics in the US have always been a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand we have a proclaimed separation of church and state, and on the other hand we don’t always agree with what that means. In Just ImmigrationAmstutz (Wheaton College) adds his voice to this debate, arguing that churches are not meant to tell politicians what to do, but rather to focus on the ethical framework by which all peoples can evaluate policies. He further argues that churches and advocates also need to acknowledge the world we live in—a world made up of countries, with borders, where governments have the authority to decide who is allowed to cross those borders or remain within them. Amstutz’s text offers a valuable resource on American immigration policy, but perhaps its greatest contribution is in showing how influential Christian groups, including Catholics and Evangelicals, have approached the immigration debate in the US. For courses that explore the intersection of faith and politics, the differences and similarities in modern Christian groups, or the complications of American immigration policy, this book is a good choice. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty. —M. Lecea, Glenville State College

Caminero-Santangelo, Marta. Documenting the undocumented: Latino/a narratives and social justice in the era of Operation Gatekeeper. University Press of Florida, 2016. 296p bibl index afp ISBN 9780813062594, $79.95; ISBN 9780813055824 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Reviewed in CHOICE December 2016

Demonstrating a solid command of literary theory and history, Caminero-Santangelo (English, Univ. of Kansas) provides a comprehensive analysis of fictional and testimonial Latino/a immigrant narratives of recent decades. Three specific notions reappear throughout the study: trauma, testimony, and ethics. Although numerous literary analyses have focused on trauma and its effects on individuals, Caminero-Santangelo views undocumented immigration as a communal trauma affecting the larger community—not just the deported or deceased and their families—and looks at representation of this communal trauma. The first two chapters focus on narratives of undocumented immigration written by Chicano/a authors, and chapter 3 concentrates on Latino-Caribbean writers. Though not marked by undocumented immigration in the same manner, Caribbean authors seek to unite documented and undocumented Latino/as of different backgrounds into an imaginary family and construct what the author calls “an ethics of solidarity across difference.” The remaining three chapters explore life narratives by undocumented Latino/as, including so-called dreamers. This unique study is vital for its analysis of contemporary fiction on immigration and its inclusion of testimonios by those who have experienced the difficulties of living undocumented in the US. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above; general readers. —Y. Fuentes, Nova Southeastern University

Chang, Jeff. Who we be: the colorization of America. St. Martin’s, 2014. 403p index ISBN 9780312571290, $32.99; ISBN 9781466854659 ebook, $16.99.
Reviewed in CHOICE April 2015

Historically, the US has been defined by whiteness. Stephen Douglas (1858) was famously paraphrased as saying, “this government of ours was founded on the white basis. It was founded by the white man for the benefit of the white man.” This was popularized and simplified as “This is a white man’s country.” Yet massive demographic shifts since the 1960s and the rise of multiculturalism and the culture wars have given people of color new prominence. Chang (Stanford) calls the massive shifts that began taking place as the civil rights movement ebbed “colorization.” Weaving together art history, politics, cartoons, and media, he suggests that American visual culture has been “colorized.” Never in US history have so many nonwhite people been so visible in commercials, advertising, politics, or the media. But what good has it done? What difference has it made? Race continues to haunt the nation like a painful wound, a blind spot, marked by silence, denial, evasion, and amnesia. Whether one discusses Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, or the deportation of “illegal” immigrants, the agony of race persists. The war between the ethnocentric nation and the ideal of a universal nation continues. Great photos. A masterpiece. Required reading. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries. —W. Glasker, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Camden

Chavez, Leo R. Anchor babies and the challenge of birthright citizenship. Stanford Briefs, 2017. 112 pages ISBN 9781503605091 pbk, $12.99.
Reviewed in CHOICE March 2018

The history of immigration to the US is a long and complicated story in which changing laws and their implementation largely reflect national racial attitudes. Chavez (UC Irvine) offers a compelling account of shifting US immigration policies through the lens of birthright citizenship. This slim volume, part of the “Stanford Briefs” series, reviews how citizenship based on birth has remained a constitutional right but has been threatened and modified in effect by race-based politics. An antipathy toward immigration, seemingly running counter to the historical significance of immigrants to the national economy, has led to multiple legislative and judicial efforts to limit birthright citizenship and thus remove an incentive for migration to the US. Consequently birthright citizenship has become suspect and “undeserving.” The impact has been especially severe for “mixed families,” in which young citizens living with undocumented parents and siblings experience the same fears of deportation and limitations on their access to social goods and resources as undocumented family members. This book will be useful to advanced undergraduates and graduate students in social science courses as a way to explore both birthright citizenship and US immigration policy. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —M. Morrissey, University of Toledo

Gonzales, Roberto G. Lives in limbo: undocumented and coming of age in America. California, 2016. 287p bibl index afp ISBN 9780520287259, $65.00; ISBN 9780520287266 pbk, $29.95; ISBN 9780520962415 ebook, $29.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE September 2016

Gonzales (education, Harvard) traces 150 undocumented youth over 12 years in the five-county Los Angeles basin, following their transition to illegality, a master status that rules every aspect of their lives in the US. He employs snowballing interviews, participant observation, and field notes to create a personal vision of undocumented youths’ trajectories. Students go from mandated inclusion under the law to mandated exclusion under the law and must develop strategies to maintain personal agency and physical and mental health. The representation of undocumented youth as innocent victims changes; they become undeserving, scorned threats upon their maturation to adulthood. The author compares those students who do not graduate from high school with those who graduate from college, often to find they both end up in the same place with the same set of circumscribed choices regarding transportation, employment, and social mobility. Gonzales details the grieving process that youth experience in finding out their legal status, the unequal immigration laws across time and states, best practices for schools working with undocumented youth, and policy recommendations for the future in an age of increasing concern and vitriol over immigration. Summing Up: Essential. All public and academic levels/libraries. —S. M. Green, California State University—Chico

Immigration & immigrant communities (1650–2016), ed. James S. Pula. Salem Press/Grey House, 2017. 270p bibl index ISBN 9781682172858, $175.00; ISBN 9781682172865 ebook, $175.00.
Reviewed in CHOICE January 2018

Immigration matters—and in particular immigrant children’s rights under “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” or DACA—are very much in the news in 2017. Although this new guide in the “Defining Documents in American History” series provides only basic information on that specific action, it does cover more substantially the contours of immigration and immigrant culture in the US, from the arrival of the Dutch in the 17th century to the 2016 Supreme Court decision in State of Texas v. United States, which removed Obama-era barriers to the deportation of undocumented immigrants. This collection of 31 primary-source documents (each supported by a critical essay written by a contributing scholar) is edited by historian Pula (Purdue Univ. North Central), a prolific scholar whose own work adds credibility to the compilation. Although the documents are important, the principal value of the volume is in the essays, which offer contextual information to help students understand the importance of the documents. The volume also includes a glossary, a list of web resources, and a bibliography of useful readings. The intent of the work is to encourage the use of primary sources by high school and college students, and it succeeds admirably in that goal. Summing Up: Highly recommended. High school through upper-level undergraduate students; general readers. —T. G. Walch, Hoover Presidential Library

Mohamed, Heather Silber. The new Americans?: immigration, protest, and the politics of Latino identity. University Press of Kansas, 2017. 242p bibl indexes ISBN 9780700623853, $45.00; ISBN 9780700623860 pbk, $22.95; ISBN 9780700623877 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Reviewed in CHOICE July 2017

Hispanic identity and Latino politics are increasing relevant to national politics and attract considerable scholarly attention. Silber Mohamed (Clark Univ.) swims against the academic stream somewhat, drawing a causal line from policy developments and the resulting mobilization to the type of identity that Latinos formed in their aftermath. Relying on public opinion data, the author seeks to explain the trend of Latinos framing themselves as Americans rather than occupying a separate identity. Focusing on the period surrounding the 2006 immigrant rights protests, the book illustrates how those events transformed Latino identity and fueled greater political engagement. Despite this tendency, separate Latino groups’ perceptions of the salience of the immigration issue still produces divergence such that their political views exhibit differences depending on gender and whether a national group is more English-speaking or enjoys greater perspectives to migrate legally. This accessible, well-contextualized book is firmly situated within the academic literature and convincingly argued, though individual interviews remain an untapped further source of evidence of the causal mechanisms of identity formation that are simply inferred from polling data. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty. —A. A. Caviedes, State University of New York at Fredonia

Motomura, Hiroshi. Immigration outside the law. Oxford, 2014. 338p index afp ISBN 9780199768431, $29.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE April 2015

What is interesting about Motomura’s Immigration Outside the Law is that it’s about immigration, immigrant incorporation, and managing illegal immigration. Where this volume differs from the plethora of others on the topic is that at its core, it’s not really about any of those topics. Rather, Motomura (law, Univ. of California, Los Angeles) uses the issue of illegal immigration policy and practices as a lens through which to view policy in general. He begins from a legal perspective, specifically Plyer v Doe, a 1972 case requiring equal protection and the right to state-funded education for all children regardless of immigration status, thus shifting to the states’ obligations for the results of federal border control. He poses a number of critical policy questions about immigration directly: What does it mean to be in the US illegally? What roles do states and localities play in immigration, illegal immigration, and immigrant incorporation? Are illegal immigrants “Americans in waiting”? In posing these questions, he is actually inquiring into what it means to be an American, what role federalism plays in the US today, and whether it is possible to become an American (or is that some relic of the past?). The book is brilliant. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduate, graduate, and research collections. —Robin A. Harper, York College

Perry, Leah. The cultural politics of U.S. immigration: gender, race, and media. New York University, 2016. 288p index afp ISBN 9781479828777, $89.00; ISBN 9781479823864 pbk, $30.00; ISBN 9781479833108 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Reviewed in CHOICE April 2017

In this engaging and well-researched book, Perry (SUNY-Empire State) provides a provocative analysis of how the 1980s political and popular discourses on immigration shaped a neoliberal agenda on immigration policy. Drawing on a wide variety of sources, the author synthesizes the media representations and the legal approaches to the immigrant experience at the end of the 20th century. Grounded in theoretical approaches to cultural studies of the media as well as intersectionality of race, ethnicity, and gender, Perry provides a novel way for humanists to contemplate tough questions facing policy makers and society. In the first chapter, the author shows how the media’s representation of immigrants shaped federal policy responses. In the following chapter, Perry provides a rich narrative about how the lives of families, especially mothers, are impacted by the cultural framing of their immigrant experiences. The next chapter engages a discussion on the criminalization of immigrants, and the final chapter considers the impact of neoliberalism on popular culture more broadly. Scholars will appreciate Perry’s comprehensive approach to integrating the study of public policy and cultural studies. The Cultural Politics of U.S. Immigration is a welcome contribution to the literature on immigration in the US. Summing Up:Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. —T. J. Vicino, Northeastern University

Terrio, Susan J. Whose child am I?: unaccompanied, undocumented children in U. S. immigration custody. California, 2015. 261p bibl index afp ISBN 9780520281486, $65.00; ISBN 9780520281493 pbk, $29.95; ISBN 9780520961449 ebook, $29.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE January 2016

“How did the US government get into the business of detaining thousands of unaccompanied children.…” This statement from the cover only begins to describe the focus of this powerfully written, well-researched volume, which will become a seminal work from which other scholars, clinicians, and child advocates will learn about this timely social justice issue. Anthropologist Terrio (Georgetown) blends deeply personal narratives from interviews with undocumented “alien” young people with a thorough review of archival research, interviews, and observation of immigration law, judicial decisions, and social and cultural politics, along with reports about the US Customs and Border Protection program and the facilities where undocumented children are detained. This volume is neither conservative nor liberal. It is a balanced presentation of the system, pro and con, for handling undocumented children who come to this country on their own or because they are brought here. The author tells the story with all of its multifaceted complexities in a way that is incredibly readable and insightful. An exceptional book that does real justice to an enormously important topic. Especially for college programs in social work, social policy, or justice. Detailed chapter notes; substantial bibliography and index. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All academic levels/libraries. —K. E. Murphy, Northwestern University

Zhou, Min. The rise of the new second generation, by Min Zhou and Carl L. Bankston III. Polity, 2016. 248p bibl index afp ISBN 9780745684680, $64.95; ISBN 9780745684697 pbk, $22.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE November 2016

The authors are established sociologists with long-standing professional interests in immigration and ethnic integration, so they come to the subject with empirical knowledge that is well-documented in this volume. They explore the multiple layers of assimilation for “new” second-generation immigrants (1970 and forward) in the context of country of origin, culture, education, and economics interconnected with social mobility and identity formation. Zhou (Nanyang Technological Univ., Singapore) and Bankston (Tulane) focus on the “new” second generation with implicit comparisons to the “old” second generation from the early 20th century. The changes in immigration numbers, experiences, and attitudes by country of origin from European (old) to Latin American and Asian (new) are striking. The same construct of assimilation—the shift from ethnic to American—remains constant, but the experiences of the process are widely different now. The authors posit a model of segmented assimilation for the new second generation of non-European, non-Protestant, and non-white immigrants, which is compelling. There is discussion of the children of undocumented migrants as a newer phenomenon. The volume is comprehensive, though dense. It could have benefited from case examples or personal stories to illustrate key points. Thorough references, substantive index. Summing Up:Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. —K. E. Murphy, Northwestern University