This essay approaches assimilation as a process whereby the boundary between mainstream and margin blurs, disappears, or paradoxically, is reinforced. To shed light on assimilation’s paradox, it examines the American school’s dual role as guardian of stasis and agent of change, with a focus on two desegregation cases—Alvarez v. Lemon Grove School District (1931) and Mendez v. Westminster School District (1946)—the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, and ethnic studies. It argues that while Alvarez, Mendez, and the DREAM Act have called for the transformation of Mexicans into Americans and the incorporation of Mexican Americans and undocumented immigrants in the American polity, ethnic studies prompts students to trace the mutable boundaries of that polity and to envision new subjects and communities.


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pp. 1057-1069
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