Australia and the USA Compared
Monash Studies in Global Movements series
Edited by John Higley, John Nieuwenhuysen and Stine Neerup
Chapter 11: Who Belongs? Assimilation, Integration and Multiculturalism in the United States
Cara Wong1 The myth and truth of the US is that it is a land welcoming of immigrants. In 2000, 11 per cent of the population was foreign born, up from 8 per cent in 1990. The numbers fluctuate over time, as does the salience of immigration in the news, depending on economic and social factors. In 2006 and 2007 immigration was often front-page news as a result of the visible immigrant marches and boycotts organized in response to legislation proposed in Congress, which ultimately failed. During 2008, however, immigration slid under the radar screen as pundits, politicians and the public focused on the presidential election. Throughout a period of intense public debate and even after immigration ceded centre stage to other issues, there were two strands of concern: do immigrants have a positive or negative impact on the country, and are immigrants members of the national community? These questions persist because their answers affect how the US views its responsibilities to its immigrants – present and future – and what it expects in return. More generally, the way immigrant-receiving countries address these questions affects how they manage (and embrace) the growing diversity of their populations. Membership of a society can be defined in many different ways, and in this chapter I present five definitions that pertain to immigrants in the US. The most straightforward and simple definition equates membership with citizenship: the rules that govern citizenship and naturalization make clear the important features of membership in the eyes of the state....
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