The Politics of Belonging: Race, Public Opinion, and Immigration

The United States is once again experiencing a major influx of immigrants. Questions about who should be admitted and what benefits should be afforded to new members of the polity are among the most divisive and controversial contemporary political issues. Using an impressive array of evidence from national surveys, The Politics of Belonging illuminates patterns of public opinion on immigration and explains why Americans hold the attitudes they do. Rather than simply characterizing Americans as either nativist or nonnativist, this book argues that controversies over immigration policy are best understood as questions of political membership and belonging to the nation. The relationships between citizenship, race, and immigration drive the politics of belonging in the United States and represent a dynamic central to understanding patterns of contemporary public opinion on immigration policy. Beginning with a historical analysis, the book documents why this is the case by tracing the development of immigration law and the formation of the American racial hierarchy. Then, through a comparative analysis of public opinion among white, black, Latino, and Asian Americans, it identifies and tests the critical moderating role of racial categorization and group identity on variation in public opinion on immigration.