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Civic Hopes and Political Realities

Immigrants, Community Organizations, and Political Engagement

S. Karthic Ramakrishnan, Irene Bloemraad

Publication Year: 2008

For many Americans, participation in community organizations lays the groundwork for future political engagement. But how does this traditional model of civic life relate to the experiences of today’s immigrants? Do community organizations help immigrants gain political influence in their neighborhoods and cities? In Civic Hopes and Political Realities, experts from a wide range of disciplines explore the way civic groups across the country and around the world are shaping immigrants’ quest for political effectiveness. Civic Hopes and Political Realities shows that while immigrant organizations play an important role in the lives of members, their impact is often compromised by political marginalization and a severe lack of resources.  S. Karthick Ramakrishnan and Irene Bloemraad examine community organizations in six cities in California and find that even in areas with high rates of immigrant organizing, policymakers remain unaware of local ethnic organizations. Looking at new immigrant destinations, Kristi Andersen finds that community organizations often serve as the primary vehicle for political incorporation—a role once played by the major political parties. Floris Vermeulen and Maria Berger show how policies in two European cities lead to very different outcomes for ethnic organizations. Amsterdam’s more welcoming multicultural policies help immigrant community groups attain a level of political clout that similar organizations in Berlin lack. Janelle Wong, Kathy Rim, and Haven Perez report on a study of Latino and Asian American evangelical churches. While the church shapes members’ political views on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, church members may also question the evangelical movement’s position on such issues as civil rights and immigration. Els de Graauw finds that many non-profit organizations without explicitly political agendas nonetheless play a crucial role in advancing the political interests of their immigrant members. Recent cuts in funding for such organizations, she argues, block not only the provision of key social services, but also an important avenue for political voice. Looking at community organizing in a suburban community, Sofya Aptekar finds that even when immigrant organizations have considerable resources and highly educated members, they tend to be excluded from town politics. Some observers worry that America’s increasing diversity is detrimental to civic life and political engagement. Civic Hopes and Political Realities boldly advances an alternative understanding of the ways in which immigrants are enriching America’s civic and political realms—even in the face of often challenging circumstances.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation

Title Page, Copyright

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About the Authors

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

There is perhaps no greater time than the present to be examining the contours of immigrant civic participation. The chapters in this volume bring a variety of disciplinary perspectives to analyze the extent to which the civic hopes of community involvement lead to political benefits for immigrant groups and immigrant- serving organizations...

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Chapter 1. Introduction: Civic and Political Inequalities

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pp. 1-42

In the spring of 2006, the United States experienced some of the largest, most widespread protest marches in its history, from massive demonstrations of a half million people or more in large cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, and Dallas to unprecedented rallies in places like Schuyker, Nebraska, and towns across South Carolina...

Part I. The Importance of Place

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pp. 43-44

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Chapter 2. Making Organizations Count: Immigrant Civic Engagement in California Cities

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pp. 45-76

The past decade has seen a spate of studies on civic volunteerism and its relationship to political participation (Verba, Schlozman, and Brady 1995; Putnam 2000; Skocpol 2003). At the same time, the number of immigrants living in the United States has grown dramatically, from an estimated 24 million in 1995 to 37 million a decade later...

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Chapter 3. Parties, Organizations, and Political Incorporation:Immigrants in Six U.S. Cities

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pp. 77-106

New arrivals to the United States settle in places with varied political and social characteristics. This paper is concerned with how immigrants move toward a situation where they have a place at the table in local politics: where their organizations and their leaders are consulted, where their members are seen as valuable constituents, where their interests are seen as part of the political calculus...

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Chapter 4. Organizing for Immigrant Labor Rights: Latino Immigrants in San Jose and Houston

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pp. 107-133

Federal labor standards, ranging from wage and overtime guarantees to workplace safety, generally are meant to protect all workers in the United States, regardless of immigrant status. States can enact statutes that improve upon these standards, but must at least enforce these basic protections. Such provisions take on an added importance in the context of declining...

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Chapter 5. Inclusion Versus Exclusion: Caribbeans in Britain and France

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pp. 134-159

This chapter examines how national contexts influence migrant political organization dynamics. Its focus is on Caribbeans in Britain and France, who have similar migration histories as well as similar social and economic integration outcomes, but different patterns of national-level political organization. In many ways, some difference in political organization is to be expected, because there are many political, economic, and cultural differences...

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Chapter 6. Civic Networks and Political Behavior:Turks in Amsterdam and Berlin

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pp. 160-192

Immigrant organizations play a central role in the political behavior of immigrants in host societies. Local organizations often serve as a bridge between local authorities and immigrant constituencies, providing authorities with access to the immigrant communities and representing collective interests of immigrants. The organizing process of immigrants is therefore of particular importance...

Part II. Variations Across Ethnic Groups

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pp. 193-194

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Chapter 7. “Communities of Practice” for Civic and Political Engagement: Asian Indian and Vietnamese Immigrant Organizations in a SouthwestMetropolis

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pp. 195 -221

The voluntary immigrant associations that provide the context for the events described in the vignettes that follow are important to processes of political incorporation and good citizenship because it is often through such organizations that immigrants become aware of the problems and possibilities of American civic life and participation...

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Chapter 8. Highly Skilled but Unwelcome in Politics: Asian Indians and Chinese in a New Jersey Suburb

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pp. 222-243

Declining civic participation is decried in academic and popular media alike as endangering American democracy. Meanwhile, like native-born Americans, immigrants start clubs, leagues, and societies. In this chapter, I consider the role of civic organizations in the political incorporation of immigrants in one suburban community in New Jersey...

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Chapter 9. Selective Service: Indians, Poles, and Mexicans in Chicago

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pp. 244-268

Immigration and immigrant participation have been among the hallmark features of civic and political life in Chicago for more than a century, from the era of Irish-dominated machines and central European migration in the early twentieth century to the contemporary period, with a weaker and more diverse political machine and immigrants from Mexico, Poland, India, and several other Asian and Latin American countries...

Part III. Variations by Organization Type

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pp. 269-270

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Chapter 10. Protestant Churches and Conservative Politics:Latinos and Asians in the United States

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pp. 271-299

This chapter is part of a larger project that, focusing on Asian Americans and Latinos, examines the role of growing numbers of evangelical, Pentecostal, and charismatic (EPC) Christian immigrants in American politics and in conservative Christian political movements in particular. The primary question animating the project asks whether growing numbers of evangelical and Pentecostal Asians and Latinos will strengthen or undermine...

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Chapter 11. Immigrants At Work: Labor Unions and Noncitizen Members

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pp. 300-322

Organized labor is an inherently political institution. This is true, not simply in the abstract sense in which worker movements take on political meaning through their very existence, but also in a tangible, day-to-day sense that is intimately connected to their survival. To fulfill their raison d'être- to improve the workplace...

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Chapter 12. Nonprofit Organizations: Agents of Immigrant Political Incorporation in Urban America

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pp. 323-350

Throughout American history, the religious, charitable, and educational organizations that constitute the category of 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations have been important providers of services to the poor and other disadvantaged populations in American society. Three developments in the four decades since the Immigration and Nationality...

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Chapter 13. Civic Engagement Across Borders: Mexicans in Southern California

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pp. 351-381

In the spring of 2006, cities across the United States organized one of the largest public demonstrations in American history to challenge federal immigration legislation proposed by Congressman James Sensenbrenner in December 2005. The content of the Sensenbrenner-King bill, HR 4437, called for- among other things-the criminalization of undocumented immigrants...


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pp. 283-398

E-ISBN-13: 9781610444644
Print-ISBN-13: 9780871547019

Page Count: 408
Publication Year: 2008

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Immigrants -- Social networks -- United States.
  • Immigrants -- Political activity -- United States.
  • Immigrants -- Political activity.
  • Immigrants -- Social networks.
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