Nations of Immigrants
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Nations of Immigrants

Australia and the USA Compared

Edited by John Higley, John Nieuwenhuysen and Stine Neerup

This timely book examines the immense surges in immigration since the mid-1990s in Australia and the United States, two of the world’s most important settler-receiving countries.
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Chapter 4: From Disordered Expansion to Disordered Stalemate: Immigration Politics in the United States

Gary P. Freeman


Gary P. Freeman In 1992 when Nations of Immigrants was first published, the US Congress had just passed the 1990 Immigration Act. Very much in the spirit of liberal immigration policy, it increased overall legal admissions for permanent residency by one-third and sought to increase the ethnic diversity of immigrant flows to the US via a new class of visas. These visas were distributed by lottery to nationals of under-represented countries. Katharine Betts and I (Freeman and Betts 1992) drew a portrait of US immigration politics that noted the dominant narrative’s stress on the country’s positive history and identity as an immigrant nation. There was reluctance to employ arguments about economic benefits as a justification for immigration. Instead, proponents of immigration referenced its connections to the civil rights movement and often spoke in terms of individual rights. International issues typically took a back seat, with the exception of refugee policy. National security was all but absent in discussions of immigration. Writing in 1992, we identified Congress as the focal point of policy making, but observed that decision making within that body was decentralized so that committees and subcommittees played the main roles. An incompetent Immigration and Naturalization Service was weak, fragmented and underfunded. Regulation of immigrants, refugees and citizenship was shared by seven separate agencies. The Border Patrol exhibited its traditional pattern of being poorly funded and often neglected. Immigration policy displayed longstanding conflicts between the President and Congress, with the former typically taking the more liberal line for reasons...

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