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To Be An American

Cultural Pluralism and the Rhetoric of Assimilation

Bill Hing

Publication Year: 1997

The impetus behind California's Proposition 187 clearly reflects the growing anti-immigrant sentiment in this country. Many Americans regard today's new immigrants as not truly American, as somehow less committed to the ideals on which the country was founded. In clear, precise terms, Bill Ong Hing considers immigration in the context of the global economy, a sluggish national economy, and the hard facts about downsizing. Importantly, he also confronts the emphatic claims of immigrant supporters that immigrants do assimilate, take jobs that native workers don't want, and contribute more to the tax coffers than they take out of the system.

A major contribution of Hing's book is its emphasis on such often-overlooked issues as the competition between immigrants and African Americans, inter-group tension, and ethnic separatism, issues constantly brushed aside both by immigrant rights groups and the anti-immigrant right. Drawing on Hing's work as a lawyer deeply involved in the day-to-day life of his immigrant clients, To Be An American is a unique blend of substantive analysis, policy, and personal experience.

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-xi

The countless immigrant clients and families with whom I have worked over the past 25 years provided the primary impetus for the writing of this book. They are inspirational people who have taught me volumes about life. Most have been hard-working, decent, and law-abiding. Relatively few were criminals. I appreciate...

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pp. 1-5

Proposition 187, an initiative to exclude undocumented children from public schools and bar their families from medical care, passes overwhelmingly in California. Congressional proposals that would reduce legal immigration by a third and preclude legal immigrants from receiving public assistance receive strong...

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Chapter 1. A Superior Multicultural Experience

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pp. 6-12

Our experiences, from childhood through adolescence, young adulthood, and beyond, inevitably shape our views of race, assimilation, and a multiracial society. I grew up in Superior, Arizona, a copper-mining town of about five thousand people in the east-central part of the state. The youngest of ten...

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Chapter 2. A Nation of Immigrants, a History of Nativism

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pp. 13-31

We are a nation of immigrants." How many times do we hear this phrase? Most of us encounter it in positive terms beginning in elementary school. Take my daughter's Fifth Grade social studies textbook America Will Be.1 Chapter 1 is entitled "A Nation of Many Peoples," and the first paragraph contains this...

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Chapter 3. Mi Cliente y Amigo Rodolfo Martinez Padilla

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pp. 32-43

I am often asked by students and friends, especially those who work with community-based organizations, why I decided to specialize in immigration law. My sense is that they are seeking a romanticized answer about how I was moved by my parents' struggles with the immigration process, or that I was

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Chapter 4. Searching for the Truth about Immigrants and Jobs

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pp. 44-75

Negative images of immigrants and their purported impact on the U.S. economy have permeated the airwaves and print media headlines of late. These images largely revolve around two anti-immigrant arguments, broadly conceived of as "economic" in nature. The first argument posits that immigrants have a...

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Chapter 5. How Much Do Immigrants Cost? The Methodology Wars

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pp. 76-106

Two competing ways of looking at the question of immigrants and the public fisc are apparent. One is the popular image of immigrants as culprits, fueled by a handful of studies and advanced by those calling for restrictions on immigration. The other is a commonsense perception of immigrants as net contributors, promoted...

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Chapter 6. Contextualizing Immigration

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pp. 107-128

Whether intentionally or not, many who subscribe to restrictionist views today ignore the largely positive economic data about immigrants. Laying the blame for unemployment levels and the fiscal crises in our local governments and schools on immigrants is hard to resist. To restrictionists, the source of these problems...

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Chapter 7. Low-Wage Immigrants and African Americans

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pp. 129-145

During the fall of 1994, I opposed Proposition 187 and participated in many 187 debates on radio, television, and public forums. Time and time again, one of the bases for passage urged by proponents of the initiative was that excluding immigrants—in this case the undocumented—would be beneficial to African...

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Chapter 8. Beyond the Economic Debate: The Cultural Complaint

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pp. 146-159

Advocates calling for greater restrictions on immigration in this country do not limit their arguments to economic themes. For some, the millions of newcomers to this country in recent decades represent a challenge to their conception of America itself. For these...

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Chapter 9. The Challenge to Cultural Pluralists: Interethnic Group Conflict and Separatism

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pp. 160-173

In addition to fearing that current levels of immigration threaten to alter our Western cultural heritage, Euro-immigrationists and cultural assimilationists share two beliefs that are not as easily dismissed by cultural pluralists: first, that racial and ethnic conflicts have resulted from changes in the racial and ethnic character of the

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Chapter 10. A New Way of Looking at America

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pp. 174-181

p Cultural pluralism is alive in the United States. Its advocates have tired of the assimilationist stridency which envisions a narrow, anachronistic, and European American notion of what it means to be an American. At the moment, a modified pluralism controls an immigration policy which, except for certain restrictive refugee policies, is more open than ever.1 Asians and Latinos dominate...

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Chapter 11. Back to Superior

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pp. 182-191

Modern-day advocates of immigration restrictions often advance popular, but negative, images of immigrants and the economy. But people like my client Rodolfo Martinez Padilla do not hurt— and most likely help—the U.S. economy. While...


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pp. 192-236


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pp. 237-243

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780814744840
E-ISBN-10: 0814744842
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814735237
Print-ISBN-10: 0814735231

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 1997