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Democracy's Promise

Immigrants and American Civic Institutions

Janelle S. Wong

Publication Year: 2006

The massive demographic changes in the United States during the past few decades have made understanding the place of immigrants in the public sphere more critical than ever. Democracy's Promise examines both the challenges and opportunities posed to American civic institutions by the presence of increasing numbers of immigrants. "As political parties (perhaps) decline in the United States, as civic organizations (perhaps) move away from direct participatory politics, and as the number of immigrants certainly increases--what will link new Americans to the political realm? Janelle Wong answers this important question clearly, with elegance, nuance, rich description, and galvanizing provocativeness. Her evidence is compelling and her sense of urgency about the need for parties to look beyond short-term interests even more so." --Jennifer L. Hochschild, Harvard University "Wong draws on the Latino and Asian immigrant experience, with specific examples from the Chinese and Mexican communities of New York and Los Angeles, to show how the political parties have largely failed to organize these groups and why labor unions and immigrant advocacy organizations have stepped in to take their place. Far from 'disuniting' America, she clearly shows that bringing these groups into the political fray is central to the project of renewing American democracy." --John Mollenkopf, CUNY Graduate Center "A scathing critique of the role of parties in the mobilization of new immigrants and an invaluable analysis of alternative pathways of mobilization through community organizations." --Michael Jones-Correa, Cornell University "By employing multiple empirical methods, including in-depth interviews and sophisticated survey analyses, Janelle Wong provides a compelling account of the political activities and allegiances of America's Asian and Latino immigrants that challenges much conventional wisdom. Often the political parties are failing to reach out to these groups, and often immigrants remain concerned about their home countries; but they are nonetheless increasingly active in American politics, in ways that may do much to shape the course of American political development in the 21st century. Democracy's Promise is a major contribution to our understanding of this crucial dimension of American politics." --Rogers M. Smith, University of Pennsylvania "Democracy's Promise challenges political parties to reexamine their priorities for mobilizing new voters, and identifies the critical role civic institutions play in invigorating participation among immigrant citizens. Wong's analysis is at once precise and expansive; illuminating the contours of Latino and Asian American political incorporation and provoking thoughtful debate on inclusion in democratic theory." --Jane Junn, Rutgers University Janelle S. Wong is Assistant Professor of Political Science and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Politics of Race and Ethnicity, The

List of Tables & Figures

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pp. xi-xii

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1. Immigrants & American Civic Institutions

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pp. 1-16

Each week during the fall of 1999, immigrant Chinese garment and restaurant workers in New York City demonstrated outside the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board. Although most had few economic resources and most lacked English language skills and citizenship, they went with petitions and signs to demand that the board expedite payments ...

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2. Mexican & Chinese Immigrants in Two Cities

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pp. 17-50

The 2000 Census revealed that the foreign-born population in the United States numbered more than 28 million people, about 10 percent of the total population. Although this is less than the 15 percent figure registered during the peak waves of European migration in the early twentieth century, it is significant nonetheless. Today, Asian Americans and ...

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3. Institutional Mobilization in an Era of Local Party Decline

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pp. 51-88

How do U.S. civic institutions shape contemporary immigrants’ political mobilization and participation, especially in the case of the majority of immigrants who are arriving from Asia and Latin America? Said a Mexican American community leader in East Los Angeles, “Stop anybody walking down the block, ask them, ‘Can you please tell me where is the local chap- ...

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4. The Role of Community Organizations in Immigrant Political Mobilization

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pp. 89-118

Organizations that do community-based work—labor organizations, workers’ centers, social service organizations, advocacy organizations, ethnic voluntary associations, and religious institutions—appear to have great potential for politically mobilizing Asian American and Latino immigrant communities. When asked which civic institutions had been important for ...

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5. Multiple Immigrant Identities & Community Organizations

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pp. 119-140

Labor organizations and worker centers, advocacy organizations, social service organizations, ethnic voluntary organizations, and religious institutions are a key component helping to create the conditions under which immigrants will become involved in U.S. politics. These organizations do not necessarily have political mobilization as their primary motive, nor are ...

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6. Mobilization of Latinos & Asian Americans: Evidence from Survey Data

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pp. 141-152

The qualitative evidence gathered in Mexican and Chinese communities in the United States suggests that community organizations play a signi‹cant role in the political mobilization of immigrant minorities. This is in surprising contrast to historic patterns, in which mainstream political parties were key to getting noncitizens to naturalize and vote. This quali- ...

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7. Revitalizing Civic Institutions in Immigrant Communities: Long-Term Strategies

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pp. 153-176

Qualitative and quantitative evidence suggests that community organizations have assumed an important role in mobilizing Asian American and Latino immigrants. Contrary to historical patterns, political parties today are not engaging immigrants through mass-mobilization efforts and have been slow to develop a significant presence in immigrant communities ....

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8. Institutional Mobilization in a Transnational Context

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pp. 177-196

Historically, U.S. immigrant communities have maintained strong connections with their countries of origin (Rosenblum 1973; W. Thomas and Znaniecki 1984; Jacobson 1995; Portes and Rumbaut 1996; Guarnizo and Smith 1998; Foner 2000). Immigration specialists underscore European immigrants’ attachment to their countries of origin by documenting ...

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9. Conclusion: American Civic Institutions & Immigrant Mobilization at the Dawn of the Twenty-first Century

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pp. 197-212

Immigrants arriving in America today encounter an institutional landscape that differs dramatically from that encountered by European immigrants of the past. Political parties no longer have a strong presence at the neighborhood level, nor do they work hand in hand with community institutions to mobilize immigrants. In the absence of intense, consistent, ...

Appendix: Methodology and Data Sources

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pp. 213-226


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pp. 227-238


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pp. 239-268


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pp. 269-289

E-ISBN-13: 9780472021444
E-ISBN-10: 0472021443
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472069132
Print-ISBN-10: 0472069136

Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 21 Tables, 3 Figures
Publication Year: 2006

Series Title: Politics of Race and Ethnicity, The