Nativism (politics)

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Although opposition to immigration is a feature of all countries with immigration, the term nativism originated in American politics has a specific meaning. Strictly speaking, the term 'nativism' distinguishes between Americans who were born in the United States, and individuals who have immigrated - 'first generation' immigrants. A similar distinction is relevant in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In many other countries, a person with foreign-born parents would also be considered a 'foreigner' or an 'immigrant'. Not all opposition to immigration in the United States is concerned with this distinction, but nativism has become a general term for 'opposition to immigration' based on fears the immigrants do not share American values. It can be misleading to apply the term in other countries, especially in Europe, where opposition to immigration is often founded on national identity. Anti-immigration may be used to describe individuals, groups or movements which oppose significant levels of immigration into their countries. Anti-immigrant may refer to those who are opposed to specific migrant groups, or as a pejorative for those who are anti-immigration. The terms often have negative connotations in a political context, particularly in the West, where politicians generally avoid giving explicit support to anti-immigration platforms or describing their policies as "anti-immigrant".


[edit] Major anti-immigration arguments

Anti-immigration sentiment are typically justified with one or more of the following arguments, claiming that immigrants:

  • Language: Isolate themselves in their own communities and refuse to learn the local language.
  • Employment: Acquire jobs which would have otherwise been available to native citizens.
  • Nationalism: Damage a sense of community and nationality.
  • Consumption: Increase the consumption of scarce resources.
  • Welfare: Make heavy use of social welfare systems.
  • Overpopulation: May sometimes overpopulate countries (Or abandon their native countries)
  • Ethnicity: Can swamp a native population and replace its culture with their own.
  • In some cases deplete their countries of origin of badly needed skills (known as the "brain drain").

The claim that immigrants can "swamp" a local population is noted to be related to birth rate, relative to nationals. Historically this has actually happened, but with immigrants whose societies were more technologically advanced than native populations — English, French, German, and Irish immigration to North America, Han Chinese migration in western China or Bantu migrations in Africa, etc.

Opponents of immigration blame it for such problems as unemployment, crime, harm to the environment, and deteriorating public education.

[edit] Counter arguments

In response, others point out that:

  • the "isolation" and "swamping" arguments have racist undertones as they are typically directed at immigrants from developing countries. However, those immigrants usually have fewer skills than immigrants from developed countries.
  • expatriates from developed countries are just as likely to be isolationist, and refuse or otherwise fail to learn the language of the societies in which they live. In the U.S., there are relatively few current immigrants from developed countries, but a large number from developing countries.
  • the argument that immigrants "steal jobs" always overlooks the fact that the jobs being "taken" are typically menial and/or low paying positions which "natives" generally do not wish to perform, creating a demand for labour which is met by immigrants. However, without a ready supply of low-wage, low-skill labor, those jobs would be done by citizens at a higher rate. Or, inefficient industries would be forced to modernize rather than relying on that low-skilled labor. Some very inefficient industries - such as lettuce production - would be forced to relocate overseas, which may end up being in the best interests of the economy.
  • the argument that immigrants are an economic burden is unproven and the reverse appears to be the case: immigration is correlated with an improvement in economic conditions, because immigrants spend money on products and services just like everybody else. Many immigrants also send a large percentage of their pay back to their home countries via Remittances
  • with regard to the "heavy use" of benefits and services such as publicly-funded health care, welfare and other forms of social security, immigrants are often ineligible to receive such assistance, or their eligibility is otherwise restricted in some way (eg. they may only become eligible after a lengthy period of time); furthermore, the effect of such restrictions is to reduce the economic contribution immigrants can make. In most U.S. states, public agencies are forbidden by law from inquiring about someone's immigration status. Illegal immigrants are also users of emergency care.
  • in countries with a declining, aging, population, immigrants tend to provide additional young residents who will, effectively, later help to support the aging native population. Indeed, population projections show that some countries who consider themselves to have a problem with excessive immigration will in fact face severe difficulties in future decades without immigration.

Commentators also point out that the problems which are purportedly caused by immigrants equally exist amongst native-born populations as well, and that politicians often use immigration as a convenient scapegoat to distract the public from real social, political and economic problems.

[edit] Driving forces behind nativism

Threats involving language, jobs, pay-scales, control of the government, control of borders (and fears of invasion), moral values, and loyalties to racial and ethnic groups, are involved in nativism, with the exact ingredients varying widely.

For example, economic competition and national security are currently (2006) at issue in the United States. However, it has been pointed out that the poor people who are most economically hurt by illegal immigrants are not usually those who are complaining about it.

While the distinguishing feature of nativism is the opposition between established inhabitants and recently arrived immigrants, the specifics of each situation creates different dynamics.

Often, there are economic tensions caused by the fact that the immigrants are often willing to work harder for less pay, or spend less (saving more and sending money to their home country). Often it is alleged the newcomers form violent gangs that seize control of work, or engage in illegal activities like drugs or prostitution. The allegation dates back to the Irish canal gangs (1840s), Chinese gangs (tongs) in 1880s, Italian ("Mafia") (1890- present), and more recently to Russian and Hispanic gangs. The established inhabitants perceive an economic threat caused by lowered wage scales and lower standards of living.

Linguistic, religious, moral, racial/ethnic and cultural differences might be factors. While there was nativist sentiment in the late 19th century against Catholics from Eastern and Southern Europe, much of this sentiment had subsided by the 1950s as these immigrant groups assimilated into American society and culture. The nativism of the 1880s focused on Chinese. In 1890-1920 the focus was on European immigrants.

In some instances, national security concerns can stir up latent nativist tendencies that are not directly associated with economic competition. Examples of this are the sentiment against German-Americans during both World Wars and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Although the internment of Japanese-Americans was not directly motivated by economic factors, many Californians took advantage of the situation to profit financially at the expense of the internees.

Despite the national trauma inflicted by the 9/11 attacks, there has been remarkably little nativist sentiment in the US targeted against immigrants from Islamic countries. This can largely be attributed to a vigorous campaign by governmental and civic leaders to discourage a nativist backlash in response to the attacks. In Europe, however, there has been a considerable growth of anti-Islamic nativism after the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent attacks in London and Madrid.

[edit] Language

Language was a political and an emotional issue as early as the 1750s, when British settlers in Pennsylvania began to fear and resent the fact that a third of their fellow Pennsylvanians were German speakers. Since that time, American nativists have sought to eradicate minority languages and discourage bilingualism wherever it could be found. Complaints about non-English-speakers became all too common in the last quarter of the 19th century, and again during and after World War I, when the fear of immigrants and their languages prompted protective English-only legislation. Many Americans deemed non-Anglophones to be subhuman. In 1904, a railroad president told a Congressional hearing on the mistreatment of immigrant workers, "These workers don't suffer--they don't even speak English."(Shanahan, 1989.) Today, there is still opposition to nonanglophones and bilinguals. The result is the proposed English Language Amendment (ELA), a Constitutional amendment making English the official language of the United States.

[edit] Economics

Canada, the country with the highest per capita immigration rate in the world, has experienced the poor results of the economic impact of immigration to Canada, resulting in questions regarding the high level of immigration to that country.

Another issue concerns free trade; immigrant rights advocates believe it is hypocritical and inhumane to allow goods and money to freely cross borders yet impose numerous requirements on people to do the same thing. It has been argued that this constitutes a form of class warfare against workers, who are not free to move with changing economic conditions in the same manner that businesses can move their capital. (See also capital flight.)

Anti-immigrant rhetoric in the US frequently mentions that foreigners take "American jobs", yet the US Constitution does not guarantee employment for anyone, and free flow of capital means that business owners have no legal obligation to keep jobs in the country. To this end, many immigration opponents/reductionists offer protectionist solutions to economic problems, and there was considerable criticism of NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) among them. Many proponents of these policies do not otherwise tend to support the modern welfare state.

Politicians and commentators have contrasted the developed world's immigration controls with what they see as uncontrolled movement of people throughout the Third World. This is inaccurate; many poor countries indeed have numerous restrictions on immigration, and there has been little apparent economic gain from these policies.

[edit] Nativism in Europe

Regarding the Irish in Great Britain, Lucassen (2005) argues the deep religious divide between the Protestants and Catholics was at the core of the ongoing estrangement of the Irish in British society. In the case of the Poles in the mining districts of western Germany before 1914, it was nationalism (on both the German and the Polish sides), which kept Polish workers, who had established an associational structure approaching institutional completeness (churches, voluntary associations, press, even unions), separate from the host German society. Lucassen find that religiosity and nationalism were more fundamental in generating nativism and inter-group hostility than the labor antagonism. Once Italian workers in France had understood the benefit of unionism and French unions were willing to overcome their fear of Italians as scabs, integration was open for most Italian immigrants. The French state, always more of an immigration state than Prussia/Germany or historical Great Britain, fostered and supported family-based immigration and thus helped Italians on their immigration trajectory with minimal nativism. (Lucassen 2005)

Many observers see the post-1950s wave of immigration in Europe was fundamentally different from the pre-1914 patterns. They debate the role of cultural differences, ghettos, race, Muslim fundamentalism, poor education and poverty play in creating nativism among the hosts and a caste-type underclass, more similar to white-black tensions in the U.S. (Lucassen 2005) Algerian migration to France has generated nativism, characterized by the prominence of Jean-Marie Le Pen and his National Front. (Lucassen 2005)

[edit] History of nativism in the United States

In the United States, anti-immigration views have a long history. U.S. nativism appeared in the late 1790s in reaction to an influx of political refugees from France and Ireland. After passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798 it receded.

Nativism first gained a name and affected politics in mid-19th century United States because of the large inflows of immigrants from cultures that were markedly different from the existing American culture. Thus, nativists objected primarily to Roman Catholics (especially Irish American) because of their loyalty to the Pope and supposed rejection of American ideals.

Nativist movements included the American Party of the mid-19th Century (formed by members of the Know-Nothing movement), the Immigration Restriction League of the early 20th Century, and the anti-Asian movements in the West, resulting in the Chinese Exclusion Act and the so-called "Gentlemen's Agreement" aimed at the Japanese.

[edit] Anti-Catholic nativism in the 19th century

Nativist outbursts occurred in the Northeast from the 1830s to the 1850s, primarily in response to a surge of Irish Catholic immigration. In 1836, Samuel F. B. Morse ran unsuccessfully for Mayor of New York on a Nativist ticket, receiving 1,496 votes. In New York City, an Order of United Americans was founded as a nativist fraternity, following the Philadelphia Nativist Riots of the preceding spring and summer, in December, 1844.

In 1849–50 Charles B. Allen founded a secret nativist society called the Order of the Star Spangled Banner in New York City. In order to join the Order, a man had to be twenty-one, a Protestant, a believer in God, and willing to obey without question the dictates of the order. Members of the Order became known as the Know-Nothings (a label applied to them because if asked they said they "know nothing about" the secret society).

The Nativists went public in 1854 when they formed the 'American Party', which was anti-Irish Catholic and campaigned for laws to require longer wait time between immigration and naturalization. (The laws never passed.) It was at this time that the term "nativist" first appears, opponents denounced them as "bigoted nativists." Former President Millard Fillmore ran on the American Party ticket for the Presidency in 1856. The American Party also included many ex-Whigs who ignored nativism, and included (in the South) a few Catholics whose families had long lived in America. Conversely, much of the opposition to Catholics came from Protestant Irish immigrants and German Lutheran immigrants who can hardly be called "nativists."

This form of nationalism is often identified with xenophobia and anti-Catholic sentiment (anti-Papism). In the 1840s, small scale riots between Catholics and nativists took place in several American cities. In Philadelphia in 1844, for example, a series of nativist assaults on Catholic churches and community centers resulted in the loss of lives and the professionalization of the police force.

Nativist sentiment experienced a revival in the 1880s, led by Protestant Irish immigrants hostile to Catholic immigration. The Orange Order was the center of nativism in Canada from the 1860s to 1950s.[1]

[edit] Anti-German nativism

From the 1840s to 1920 German Americans were distrusted because of their separatist social structure, their opposition to prohibition, their attachment to their native tongue over English, and their neutrality toward the war in World War I.

[edit] Anti-Chinese nativism

In the 1870s Irish American immigrants attacked Chinese immigrants in the western states, driving them out of smaller towns. Denis Kearney led a mass movement in San Francisco in 1877 that threatened to harm railroad owners if they hired any Chinese. [1] [2]. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was the first of many nativist acts of Congress to limit the flow of immigrants into the U.S. The Chinese responded with false claims of American birth, enabling thousands to immigrate to California. [2] Ironically, the exclusion of the Chinese caused the western railroads to begin importing Mexican railroad workers in greater numbers ("traqueros").[3]

[edit] 20th-century USA

Fear of low-skilled immigrants flooding the labor market was an issue in the 1920s (focused on immigrants from Italy and Poland), and in the 2000s (focused on immigrants from Mexico and Central America).

The second Ku Klux Klan, which flourished in the U.S. in the 1920s, used strong nativist rhetoric.

After the fall of South Vietnam in 1975, the resulting influx of Vietnamese refugees caused some racial tension to flare up as host communities struggled to adapt to the cultural differences between the new arrivals and the existing American culture.

When Fidel Castro opened the doors to Cuban emigration, a number of communities in the southeastern U.S. struggled to accommodate the sudden inflow of Cuban immigrants ("Marielitos"), many of whom were mentally ill or criminal elements.

An immigration reductionism movement formed in the 1970s and continues to the present day. Prominent members often press for massive, sometimes total, reductions in immigration levels.

However, as most Americans are themselves descended from immigrants, many feel that it is hypocritical to criticize those who enter the country through legal means, and neither of the two major parties has proposed curtailing the number of visas given out annually.

American nativist sentiment experienced a resurgence in the late 20th century, this time directed at illegal aliens, largely Mexican resulting in the passage of new penalties against illegal immigration in 1996.

Illegal immigration, principally from across the U.S.-Mexico border, is the more pressing concern for most immigration reductionists. Authors such as Samuel Huntington (famous for the "clash of civilizations" thesis) have also seen recent Hispanic immigration as creating a national identity crises and presenting insurmountable problems for US social institutions. In the May 2005 Spanish edition of Foreign Affairs magazine, he lists the size, illegality, cultural roots, and poverty of this recent wave of migration as most problematic.[citation needed]

The political effects of anti-immigration/immigration reductionism movements have been embodied in the US welfare reform bill of 1996 and initiatives such as Protect Arizona Now in 2004. The Minuteman Project, launched in 2005 with several hundred volunteers patrolling the Mexican and Canadian borders to assist authorities in spotting illegal immigrants, have also been influenced by opposition to illegal immigration. Some members also support reductions in legal immigration. VDARE is an editorial collective website which advocates for reduced immigration, including heightened selectivity in legal immigration into the United States.

American Patrol, an organization run by Glenn Spencer, posts news and media articles about crimes that illegal aliens and their alleged sympathisers have committed.

In the wake of H.R. 4437 and the 2006 U.S. immigration reform protests, a large segmented of public opinion vented nativist sentiments in claiming that illegal aliens were flooding the U.S., taking advantage of social welfare programs, and overwhelming state and federal governments. In July 2006 Democrats and Republicans in Colorado agreed on legislation that curtailed state benefits to illegals, penalized employers who hired them, and required citizens to provide proof of citizenship before they could receive benefits--a policy that alarmed relief agencies that dealt with disorganized clients who had no documentation whatever.[citation needed]

[edit] Anti-immigrant hate crimes

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, an increase in Islamophobia was feared by many. Indeed, there were many instances of overt hostility directed towards individuals perceived to be either Arab or otherwise Muslim.

[edit] References

  • Allerfeldt, Kristofer. Race, Radicalism, Religion, and Restriction: Immigration in the Pacific Northwest, 1890-1924. Praeger, 2003. 235 pp.
  • Barkan, Elliott R. "Return of the Nativists? California Public Opinion and Immigration in the 1980s and 1990s." Social Science History 2003 27(2): 229-283. Issn: 0145-5532 Fulltext: in Project Muse, Swetswise and Ebsco
  • Bennett, David H., The Party of Fear; From Nativist Movements to the New Right in American History (1988)
  • Billington, Ray Allen. The Protestant Crusade, 1800— 1860: A Study of the Origins of American Nativism (1938)
  • DeFigueiredo, Rui J. P., Jr. and Elkins, Zachary. "Are Patriots Bigots? An Inquiry into the Vices of In-group Pride." American Journal of Political Science 2003 47(1): 171-188. Issn: 0092-5853 Fulltext: in Swetswise, Ingenta, Jstor and Ebsco.
    • One view in the study of intergroup conflict is that pride implies prejudice. However, an increasing number of scholars have come to view in-group pride more benignly, suggesting that such pride can be accompanied by a full range of feelings toward the out-group. The article focuses on a substantively interesting case of in-group/out-group attitudes from a 1981-97 data set - national pride and hostility toward immigrants. The authors explore the relationship in two fundamental ways: first by examining the prejudice associated with various dimensions of pride, and second by embedding these relationships in a comprehensive model of prejudice. National pride was most validly measured with two dimensions - patriotism and nationalism - two dimensions that have very different relationships with prejudice. While nationalists had a strong predilection for hostility toward immigrants, patriots showed no more prejudice than did the average citizen.
  • Fetzer, Joel S. Public Attitudes toward Immigration in the United States, France, and Germany. Cambridge U. Press, 2000. 253 pp
  • Franchot, Jenny. Roads to Rome: The Antebellum Protestant Encounter with Catholicism (1994),
  • Higham, John, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860-1925 (1955).
  • Hueston, Robert Francis. The Catholic Press and Nativism, 1840-1860 (1976)
  • Houston, Cecil J. and Smyth, William J. The Sash Canada Wore: A Historical Geography of the Orange Order in Canada. U. of Toronto Press, 1980.
  • Lucassen, Leo. The Immigrant Threat: The Integration of Old and New Migrants in Western Europe since 1850. University of Illinois Press, 2005. 280 pp; ISBN 0-252-07294-4. Examines Irish immigrants in Britain, Polish immigrants in Germany, Italian immigrants in France (before 1940), and (since 1950), Caribbeans in Britain, Turks in Germany, and Algerians in France
  • Melton, Tracy Matthew, Hanging Henry Gambrill: The Violent Career of Baltimore's Plug Uglies, 1854-1860 (2005)
  • Mclean, Lorna. "'To Become Part of Us': Ethnicity, Race, Literacy and the Canadian Immigration Act of 1919". Canadian Ethnic Studies 2004 36(2): 1-28. ISSN 0008-3496


  1. ^ Hereward Senior. Orangeism: The Canadian Phase. 1972.
  2. ^ Erika Lee, At America's Gates: Chinese Immigration during the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943 (2003)
  3. ^ Jeffrey Marcos Garcilazo, `Traqueros': Mexican Railroad Workers in the United States, 1870 to 1930. PhD U. of California, Santa Barbara 1995. 374 pp. DAI 1996 56(8): 3277-3278-A. DA9542027 Fulltext: online at ProQuest Dissertations & Theses

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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