UNSETTLING IMMIGRANT GEOGRAPHIES: US IMMIGRATION AND THE POLITICS OF SCALE

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ABSTRACT

Investigations of immigration politics usually focus on national scale debates and policy initiatives. Immigrant settlement, however, is often highly concentrated in select regions and cities and it is in these places that immigration politics is most contentious. This paper examines these subnational politics of immigration in the United States and explores their relation to national immigration politics. The concentrated geography of immigrants in the United States intersects with a federalised system for dispersing welfare and other social costs of immigration. This creates tension between a central government with the responsibility for controlling admission and state/local governments who pay the social costs of immigrant incorporation. This dynamic of conflict has been exacerbated in recent years by the neoliberal governance strategy of downloading. Geographic concentration has other consequences for the ways in which immigration politics develops, specifically the challenges that visible difference in the landscape poses to national identity. In regard to the latter, the paper echoes Vron Ware by suggesting that an important challenge for diverse immigrant societies is to reimagine all of the nation's territory as multiethnic/multicultural, not just the locations where immigrants cluster.

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