Despite America’s history and reputation as a “melting pot,” immigration continues to polarize policy-makers. The Summer 2013 issue of Dædalus examines the origins and characteristics of new immigrants and considers their reception in the United States, with regard to both public policies and private behavior. The issue is guest edited by Academy Fellow Douglas S. Massey (Princeton University), a leading expert in the sociology of immigration.
Whereas immigration to the United States during the half-century from 1915 to 1965 was small by historical standards, the four decades from 1970 to 2010 witnessed a remarkable revival of population flows from abroad. By 2010, the percentage of foreigners in the United States had rebounded to nearly 13 percent, much closer to its historical peak of 14.7 percent in 1910. Most of the new entrants hailed from Asia and Latin America.
Unlike past immigrants, many foreigners living in the United States today are present without authorization. According to estimates, roughly one-third of these individuals are undocumented, and although Hispanics and Asians now account for around 20 percent of the total population, they make up nearly a third of all births. Thus, the future of the United States is very much tied to the status and welfare of immigrants and their children.
Guest editor Douglas Massey notes in his essay, America’s Immigration Policy Fiasco, that mass illegality is now the greatest barrier to the successful integration of Latinos; a pathway to legalization represents a critical policy challenge. If U.S. policy-makers wish to avoid the failures of the past, he argues, they must shift from a goal of immigration suppression to one of immigration management within an increasingly integrated North American market.
“Immigration policies implemented in 1965 and thereafter were not founded on any rational, evidence-based understanding of international migration. Instead, they were enacted for domestic political purposes and reveal more about America’s hopes and aspirations–and its fears and apprehensions–than anything having to do with immigrants or immigration per se.”
Summer 2013 Dædalus