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1 Chapter One Introduction [Approximately] 34 million foreign-born people lived in the United States in 2002 . . . with the size of the U.S.-born second generation numbering around 32 million, so that immigrants and their children together totaled almost 66 million people, or about 23 percent of the U.S. population. —Bean, Lee, Batalova, and Leach (2004) Overall, respondents are more likely to be against immigration than in favor of it. When forced to choose between two positions, a majority of respondents said that we should “strictly limit” immigration (58.1 percent) rather than “keep our doors open” (41.9 percent). —Mizrahi (2005) I would like to speak as American people do. It’s my dream. Sometimes I’m thinking, when am I going to think like American people? —Shalamova (2004) FROM EACH OF these voices of immigration—the dispassionate statistical accounts of aggregated movement of people from one country to another, the distilled summaries of attitude surveyors, and the often fervent statements from immigrants themselves—we learn something about the phenomenon of integration, but from none do we grasp a full picture. The story of immigration is one of tremendous scope, spanning centuries, continents , and diverse ethnic origins. In its magnitude, immigration raises questions that run the gamut from individual motives to international policies . Over the years many social scientists have devoted their energies to understanding parts of the picture, from the Chicago sociologists in the early twentieth century (perhaps most notably depicted in The Polish Peasant in Europe and America) to the rapidly developing coterie of immigration researchers at the beginning of the twenty-first century (Hirschman, Kasinitz, and DeWind 1999). Hundreds of books and thousands of articles have reported on some aspect of the immigration story. Given this plenty, one might wonder what remains to be explored. From my perspective, despite the considerable work that has been done, unanswered—and indeed, in many cases, unasked—questions about the experience of immigration remain. At the risk of oversimplification, our current understandings of immigration can be said to be most thoroughly analyzed from two quite different perspectives. On the one side, demographers and other social scientists have extensively charted the large-scale movements of people from one country to another, and in some cases within a single country—in contemporary China, for example, where the massive movement of people from rural areas to major cities are being observed. Using the categorical tools of their trade, they have compared generational, ethnic, and (less frequently) gender groups on outcomes such as employment and education. From these accounts, we learn much about broad-gauge patterns and trends, about differences between groups from different countries and different areas of the world, and about generational differences in the achievements of immigrant populations. Yet, as Suzanne Model has said, “census analysis cannot uncover human motives” (2001, 79). The perspective that emerges from autobiographies, journalistic accounts, and some ethnographies speaks more directly to these motivational issues. In this ever-increasing stock of stories, with their mixture of pain and humor and challenge, we gain a more vivid sense of the individual experience—of the choices, the obstacles, the opportunities, and the accomplishments. In these accounts we have a much greater sense of the immigration experience as a dynamic process rather than an easily tabulated change of location . So too do we begin to appreciate the importance of the context into which an immigrant comes and the ways in which the features of that context—the social networks, the opportunity structures, the confrontations with hostile or supportive members of resident host communities— play an important role in the overall experience. Yet here as well there are some limitations. Focusing exclusively on the individual case does not allow us to assess the generality of that experience or to explore the ways in which that experience could be altered by changed circumstances. My goal in this book is to take both of these broad perspectives into account and at the same time offer a new framework for understanding what it is to be an immigrant, a framework that is more individual than the demographer ’s and more general than the autobiographer’s. 2 To Be an Immigrant “Ask a different question and you may get the answer you want.” —Chinese fortune cookie Different paradigms and different intellectual traditions bring to an area of investigation their unique lenses, which shape both the questions and the answers that emerge (Morawska 2003). To a demographer, for example, the categories of census...


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