Immigration: Settlement, Integration and Membership

2010-2013 Theme Project

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Initial Proposal

Immigration is both a central component of the American experience, and a cause for questions and anxieties about the integration of newcomers, the terms of their inclusion, and national identity. Contemporary migration is no different in this respect. However, today’s immigrants do share three distinctive characteristics: first, immigrants today hail predominantly from Latin America and Asia rather than Europe; second, there is a significant proportion of the undocumented among the foreign born; and third, there has been a shift in settlement patterns away from traditional gateway areas to non-traditional destinations. These changes have rekindled political and policy debates about the costs and benefits of immigration, raising a myriad of theoretical, substantive, and practical questions about the settlement of recent arrivals, particularly those who settle in nontraditional destinations and their integration and inclusion as fully participating members of society, issues that the U.S. Congress will consider as it takes up immigration reform once again.

Scholars working on questions of settlement and integration and those working on issues of membership and inclusion approach these issues from very different disciplinary starting points. The former are rooted in the disciplinary approaches of demography, sociology and political science, while the starting point for the latter is often history and the law. These research traditions would benefit from interaction with other approaches to related questions. These interactions serve to highlight disciplinary blind spots, which in turn can point to research frontiers in immigration research: areas in which interactions across disciplines may lead to fruitful collaborative research.

The core activities of this theme project will knit together the expertise of immigration researchers across campus and to build on this expertise to foster collaborative, interdisciplinary research outcomes, expanding the theoretical frontier of immigration studies, while building on and strengthening the institutional resources for immigration studies available at Cornell.