Category: Wk 5: Interest groups and immigrant integration

Immigration Advocates Urge D.C. Government To Increase Legal Funding


Local immigrant advocacy groups are often some of the most important bridges immigrants have with integrating into local US society. As the article shows, these groups are often underfunded and thus limited in their powers. Advocacy groups are asking to increase the Immigrant Justice Legal Services (IJLS) grant in Washington DC, which would result in legal groups being able to respond to a much larger number of requests.

Discussion Questions:


  • Is it the government’s responsibility to partially fund non-profit organizations which could help effectively integrate new immigrant populations? If the government should support these non-profits, is the onus on local, state, or federal governments?
  • To follow up that question, should organizations focused only on defending immigrants in court be funded? Ought there be a difference in funding between these types of organizations, and ones not focused on legal defense since they both result in increased comfort and a feeling of acceptance for immigrants within the community?
  • How can non-political organizations (Such as the Calvary Baptist Church mentioned in the article) become more widely known so immigrants can find places to gather without needing to be focused on a political topic?

Princeton University Challenges Trump Administration Regulations

This week, we heard Professor Fernandez-Kelly and read her article “The Integration Paradox: Coping Strategies among Immigrant Children in the Age of Mass Deportations” (2019), leading us to focus on the ways in which immigrant children/students are able to exhibit positive behaviors despite discriminatory national immigration policy. In addition, Aptekar (2008) speaks to how immigrant groups like Asian Indians and Chinese possess educational and material prosperity, yet have difficulty integrating into the political landscape of their local communities. This article from Princeton University posted in 2018 speaks to these concepts as we try to observe local disagreement with national immigration policy and the effects it has on immigrant communities and their integration into local politics.

Princeton University’s  involvement in the Supreme Court case against President Trump’s proclamation limiting migrants from Muslim-majority countries sparks questions about how Muslim immigrant students will integrate into the University. While Fernandez-Kelly found that immigrant students exhibit more positive behaviors in Trenton over Princeton, religion is now an element of this Supreme Court case. Fernandez-Kelly claims that a factor of Trenton immigrant children’s positive outlook is because of religious narratives crafted to explain overcoming struggles and circumstance. With the Trump administration proclamation isolating immigrants from Muslim-dominated countries, it would be interesting to discuss if/how Princeton’s support of Muslim immigrant students could foster cohesion among these immigrants, which could allow them to use their religious faith for a positive outlook. As the national government isolates groups and thereafter receives opposition from universities, it would be interesting to see how localities around the Universities that are not predominantly African American or Latino can still foster immigrant integration and political involvement using religious tolerance and acceptance.

Interest Groups and Nonprofits: Who is left to institute immigrants into political society?

As discussed in this weeks readings, interest groups and non profit 501c3’s stand as one of the most prominent sources of socioeconomic and political advocacy for immigrant groups (Andersen 2008, De Graauw 2008, McDermott 2013).  They are able to work towards the political education and inclusion of immigrants into local politics, giving them support without singling them out.  However, as we read, their capabilities of providing actual rights into participation of politics are limited to more local matters.  The town/city in which immigrants are located in also plays a huge role in the availability and/or presence of any immigrant nonprofits or interests in the area, and consequently the political inclusion of immigrant groups in said area.  For example, immigrant nonprofits and interest groups in San Francisco (De Graauw 2008) are much more prominent than in Greenville South Carolina (McDermott 2013), and thus immigrants in San Fransisco find themselves in a position of much greater political inclusion and advocacy.

While immigrants in some areas such as San Francisco might find themselves in a better position of political advocacy and socioeconomic support, others might find themselves quite stretched, if they have any immigrant non-profits at all.  This article here talks about how an influx in families crossing the border has stretched both the time and resources of the Border Patrol and an El Paso non-profit called the Annunciation House.  These organizations are in place to promote the interests of immigrants, sometimes socioeconomically and others of course politically as the readings highlight, but how must they handle a situation like this when the demand for their services increases past their capacity?  Are organizations like this obligated to form in areas such as Greenville with little desire for immigrant integration?  These organizations are already acting in a humanitarian fashion to help immigrants, but how should they decide between prioritizing political advocacy versus the basic needs of immigrants if they are stretched financially?

Critics of immigration or anti-immigrant hate groups? Local organizations influence local, national political climate

Andersen (2008) and de Graauw (2018) both discuss the impacts and influence of interest groups on the civic life of immigrants. In her six-city study, Andersen focuses on the ways in which local organizations help connect immigrant groups to local politics and mobilize their constituents to advance certain issues; furthermore, the voluntary sector often fills in the gaps that political parties no longer choose to do. Similarly, de Graauw analyzes how 501(c)(3) nonprofits are increasingly providing a multitude of social services to immigrants and the political representation and incorporation of immigrants into society. Both authors examine local groups working to advance a pro-immigrant agenda, but there lies an interesting point: who opposes them?

In this article from the Washington Post, Goodman tracks the move from the nativist organization Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OFIR) to overturn a sanctuary policy, and identifies the history of explicit anti-immigrant interest groups, which began through the work of John Tanton. Since the late 70s, Tanton has either created or helped create a number of nativist and extremist organizations who have ties to white-supremacy—including the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), U.S. English, and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS)—and has worked at the local and state level to push a racially-charged agenda that appeals to white resentment. Importantly, these groups have now affected efforts for bipartisan compromises on immigration repeatedly. Trump has taken former staffers into positions of power too.

Is it fair for anti-immigrant groups to act deceptively to push their agendas?


Racism or Political Incorporation? What’s behind a lack of Latino political agency?

In her article, Suzanne Gamboa advances that racism and not assimilation is the problem plaguing Latinos. Although many levels of the government contest that Latinos have failed to assimilate in America, evidence of Latino socioeconomic mobility debunks this notion. Although many Latinos have family histories that stretch back centuries, many Latinos feel like “foreigners in their own land” as a result of current political dialogue which takes aim at their ethnicity, questions their citizenship status, among others. Moreover, a lack of assimilation is unfairly used to deny political rights to Latinos. In reality, many governments actively work against Latino assimilation through stricter voting laws and electoral redistricting. Gamboa accounts this incredulous irony to inherent racism against Latinos in some physical and ideological pockets of this country. The falsified narrative that Latinos are avoiding assimilation ultimately undermines their ability to contribute to the political narrative of the United States.

The charge that racism is the root problem, not assimilation, is in contrast to Andersen and other readings which maintain that political parties and support organizations are key to incorporation of immigrants into America. Through an analysis of six cities, Andersen forms a thesis around the fact that the lack of immigrant stake in politics is due to being left out by local politicians and not supported by local voting organizations. Failed assimilation into politics is a result of extenuating factors. The contrasting ideas beg the question: What is responsible for a lack of immigrant political agency? Failed political incorporation or racism?


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