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  • Becoming a Citizen: Incorporating Immigrants and Refugees in the United States and Canada
  • Diana Trebing
Irene Bloemraad . Becoming a Citizen: Incorporating Immigrants and Refugees in the United States and Canada. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006. 369 pp. Notes. Bibliography. Index. $60.00 hc; $23.95 sc.

In Becoming a Citizen: Incorporating Immigrants and Refugees in the United States and Canada, Irene Bloemraad focuses on the roles governments have in encouraging immigrants to achieve full citizenship. Through an in-depth cross-national comparison of immigration policies and ideologies in the United States and Canada, Bloemraad carefully illustrates that political incorporation of immigrants is not based only on the immigrants' characteristics themselves, but also on the reception their newly adopted countries give them. Based on historical data and statistical surveys on immigration and detailed interviews with Portuguese and Vietnamese immigrants and refugees in Toronto and Boston, Bloemraad concludes that the Canadian interventionist stance with a focus on immigrant integration, public assistance, and an official policy of multiculturalism leads to better political incorporation and higher levels of citizenship acquisition compared to the laissez-faire attitude in the United States (5).

In her introduction to Becoming a Citizen, Bloemraad provides an overview of the basic differences between U.S. and Canadian policies and ideologies on incorporating immigrants into the respective countries. The author further shows that with an increased number of immigrants in today's world it is crucial to theorize the concept of immigrants' political incorporation which is defined as "acquisition of citizenship, community advocacy, […] and immigrants' success in getting elected to political office" (5). Moreover, Bloemraad draws important parallels between the situation in the U.S. and Canada and more recent migrant countries such as those in Europe.

In chapter 1, "Diverging Trajectories of Political Incorporation," Bloemraad describes immigration to the U.S. and Canada in its historical context. Along with the different waves of migrant and refugee populations, she analyzes why more immigrants become naturalized and elected to national legislatures in Canada compared to the U.S., and carefully compares and contrasts how the differences in migrants' personal characteristics and in policies on immigration and citizenship affect political incorporation in these two countries.

Chapter 2, "The Social Nature of Citizenship," starts with a detailed discussion of the specific situation for Vietnamese and Portuguese refugees and migrants in Toronto and Boston, and argues that a social approach to political incorporation facilitates immigrants' political involvement. In other words, using data from the in-depth interviews, Bloemraad explains how immigrants in both the U.S. and Canada learn about naturalization processes and politics through three different groups: (1) interpersonal networks such as family and friends, (2) immigrant organizations which can provide [End Page 193] access to ethnic media and legal and financial assistance, and (3) community leaders who can shed light on immigrant concerns through political activism.

In the next chapter, "Structured Mobilization," Bloemraad argues that "the dynamics of political mobilization are nested in a larger context of reception shaped by government policy toward newcomers" (102). She specifically examines how the U.S. and Canada differ in administering citizenship acquisition (i.e., enforcement or promotion), in creating policies of newcomer settlement (i.e., support for refugees only or settlement programs for all immigrants), and in managing diversity (i.e., race-based multiculturalism or official multiculturalism). In chapters 4-6, Bloemraad analyzes the consequences of these official policies.

Using personal narratives from the in-depth interviews, chapter 4, "The Meaning of Citizenship," explores the immigrants' knowledge of and feelings about citizenship. Bloemraad shows that, although diversity is accepted in both countries, the Canadian government's policy of multiculturalism "favorably influences immigrants' understanding of citizenship and their place in society" (153). Chapter 5, "Community Organizations and Political Mobilization," illustrates that increased financial government support is positively correlated with a higher number of community organizations and a more diverse citizenry. Furthermore, financial and material support also increases leadership opportunities for community advocates and, along with party and union endorsements, often leads to more foreign-born elected representatives, which is the focus of chapter 6, "Learning to Lead and Winning Political Office."

In the conclusion, Bloemraad re-examines the notion of multicultural citizenship in a...


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